We have to fight through the haze


Is it just me or is life just hazy right now?

I had to put a new taillight assembly in my truck and paid close to $200 for it.

I asked what the markup was and they told me it was one of the cheaper light replacements. Some new LED lights with directional technology are running $1,400. Whaaat? I don’t need directional headlights thank you.

It’s not the cost of the light that bothers me, it’s the why. Screw the why, it’s just the way it is.

Profits soaring, inflation soaring. People seem all too frequently to forget that profit margins can have a direct impact on inflation. It’s the “if you didn’t take more, we wouldn’t have to pay more” mentality.

I own a business, but I try to win on volume, not on cost. It’s tough enough out there for a lot of people. In a microcosm of economics, we have to balance profits with capacity, otherwise customers tend to turn and go the other way, or to your competition. Then they choose based on other factors because everyone in the same business locally charges about the same price. See a gas station for example.

I paid $5 for a pack of gum the other day. Five bucks.

I looked at the lady across the counter for about five seconds. It’s not her fault. It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just the way things are going.

And the haze is literal and palpable. Canadian wildfires in the physical sense, politics in the abstract. It makes me wonder how much longer it will take us to realize that it’s just haze.

We’ve all heard it before because people say it all the time – we’re better together than we are as individuals. There’s one thing that has always drawn me to small towns and that is that you can wave at people as you drive or walk or jog by. They almost always would wave back. Now, maybe 25% of the time people wave back.

Maybe it all starts there. Have we forgotten what it’s like to be members of the social experiment? Have our emotions moved us so far from each other that we look for acrimony before we look for common denominators? We can’t blame COVID, it started before then.

Education, commerce, socialization, the things that naturally bring us together have become such an emotional gameboard that we forget it takes all of us to define each of us.

I chose to go to Davenport this Friday because it’s my commitment to Friday night football. I only played football in high school for one year, but it was the best time I’ve ever had. I made a lifetime mistake by not playing all four years. Maybe I lost a chance at some college money, too. We’ll never know.

But that choice pulled me away from an event Friday night that really is geared toward putting “us” back in the mix.

We’ve written about PorchStock on several occasions, but I have a real interest in how this things turns out. Sure, it’s music and food and drink, but it may be something of a sea change. Inviting people to our homes - some strangers, some neighbors, some out-of-towners to be sure, is something different to our town.

Keokuk does something similar and has been and I hear it’s a success of sorts.

I’m not sure this is an idea stolen, or just something that was cobbled together. But I think it’s cool, and promising, and I hear there were good groups of people at many of the locations around town. But in a weird twist, it appears that people chose to stay on sidewalks and not intrude on people’s lawns. I think that’s telling. We didn’t want to go in their yards. It’s a sign of respect of property, but also energy against energy. Didn’t we want you to come up to the porch? Get up close and celebrate each other on a gorgeous night?

It was the first of what should be many Porchstocks, and we’ll grow into it.

But it paints a picture of where some of us are at in the social experiment. We’re a bit squeamish anymore. It shows we’ve lost our way in so many aspects of life, but we’re not abandoned, we’re just lost. Most people lost are found.

Personally, I blame poor leadership on a global scale. Attitude reflects leadership. Locally, our leadership is strong. Look at improvements around the city and additional events and efforts that are underway. We’re taking steps forward and, although some don’t like the way it’s done, or  see the bigger picture, they are steps.

But nationally and internationally leadership is weak, and on all sides of the political spectrum. People are more concerned with individual legacies than they are with doing the job they were elected to do. When you put your name on a ballot, you commit to doing what’s best for the whole, and not just the few. That’s twisted right now and lends to the haze.

To burn it off we need to stop finding the little things that divide us and focus on that which unites us. A good burger, rallying around a dog park or a pickle ball group, a rodeo, a football game, a walk-about in a community of people who want to hang out together.

From that the kindling catches and the flame burns brighter. We just, well, have to start the fire – But that’s Beside the Point.

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

society, leadership, community, editorial, opinion, sunday, Beside the Point, Chuck Vandenberg, haze, politics,


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