My wife and daughter are becoming Wing Nuts - Beside the Point


This holiday was a short one. It seems like it came and went very fast.

People I see out and about ask me how my holidays were and I've said repeatedly this year that it was nice and easy.

We went back to my family's for Christmas after taking last year off. It would have been too hard to be part of something Kelsey loved so much.

We fought through it this year. We gave our niece a collection of books that were Kelsey's favorites and Lee started to weep. It was one of my favorite, and least favorite, moments of day.

The funny part of that whole thing is that Lee gave this child homework for Christmas. She has to write a book report for each book she reads. Each book report triggers a $5 donation to an American Girls doll. She gave her our niece Amelia homework for Christmas.

My other favorite part of the holiday is my daughter Taylor is an avid West Wing fan. Aaron Sorkin is the creator of the show and in tighter Sorkin circles, we're called Wing Nuts.

That's funny, too.

So for the past two weeks we've been slowly working our way back through the seven-season series. The series was actually created to feature the role of Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, but Martin Sheen was so endearing as President Josiah Bartlet, that the whole track of the show changed.

I'm a Wing Nut.

The show brings me back to my Democratic roots, and that's a bit of a problem right now in Lee County. The Republicans in the county are buttoned down and rolling, and a candidate with an R next to their name on a ballot is in a good position right now.

But here's the thing. This show talks about, among other things, public education being the silver bullet to societal problems. The writing talks about government being a place where people come together "and no one gets left behind".

It heralds the value of socioeconomic stratification, while at the same time being just a bit giddy about tax-and-spend. I believe that in times of economic struggle tax-and-spend makes sense. Not only does it put people to work, it also establishes infrastructure than can be capitalized as the economy inevitably turns around.

Like building marinas and rehabbing roads, building trails, improving schools and health facilities. It does make sense in Econ 101 to consider those as rational approaches to digging out of recession... or, and this is one of my most frequently read phrases now, "the negative economic impact of the pandemic."

This cast won many, many, many awards for the show over its run. It actually made me want to run for office at some point. My journalism interactions with professional politicians over the past 25 years has given me a different view of that now.

I do dream at night sometimes that I'm on the staff, but for some reason in those dreams, I'm never involved in decisions, just - in the room - like a reporter.

It does make me long for a day when true leadership was in the oval office. For sure, there was partisanship and bickering, but it was part of a smoother, less emotional process. The wins were wins, and the losses were losses and people moved on with their lives.

We carry things so deeply and personal now. The anniversary of the insurrection on Capitol Hill was three days ago. Just Google that mess and you get an up close look at deep and personal. Also a bit of fanaticism.

My point is this, wouldn't it be great to go back to the age of politics where we elect a president without the visceral contention that exists now. We grumble about it for four years and do it all over again. But in the interim we went about our lives as a citizenry.

We live in a world where finance is a bigger piece of the global economy than production. I think that's part of why people don't value work so much. It's not what moves the world - lending and borrowing does.

Hy-Vee has started their own financial services division, including checking and savings accounts, after its market reaction to the pandemic. They did very well, they just expanded into four other states. Not cities - states; Indiana, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky.

Sure, Sorkin romanticizes the Oval Office. I don't think he dramatizes it - I don't think that's possible. But if nothing else, if my wife, daughter, and I can sit in the living room and put the show on and just enjoy each other's company while daydreaming about a Sam Seaborn presidency or "four more years." I can deal with the romanticism.

Speaking of enjoying a quiet evening at home with the family, Jim Lemberger taught about 12 residents at the Newberry Center in Fort Madison about wine-making on Friday. I sampled some cranberry wine and needed a Metformin afterward. It was an enlightening presentation put on by The Madison - But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at

beside the point, Chuck Vandenberg, editorial, family, opinion, Pen City Current, television, West Wing, Wing Nuts


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