Memo to everyone: Great job handling the pandemic and doing without. No movies, no sit-down restaurant dinners, no in-person worship services, no trips to the beach, no sports, no concerts, no picnics, no hugs for Grandma, no normalcy of life. But you did it. And did it well. So, a hearty congratulations goes out to all.

And now here’s your reward: Prices of everything are skyrocketing. Looking to tackle that home repair, put on an addition, or even move to a bigger place? (Hey, home seemed plenty big enough before the whole family had to share every inch of space 24/7 for a year, right?) Have you been down to the local lumber yard lately? The only boards left look like bad shepherds’ crooks. Big box hardware stores are seeing record profits, and it’s not just due to volume. One report I saw said that lumber prices had gone up 250% in the last year. I don’t know about you, but my income didn’t go up a fraction of that much during the same period.

If you headed to the surf and sand this Memorial Day weekend, I hope you bumped up your credit limit on that Visa card. The price of petrol in much of the U.S. is now over $3.00 a gallon (and nearly $4.50 in California). Last year at this time, the national average was about $1.96.

When the Colonial pipeline fiasco occurred earlier this month, the lack of supply saw gas stations raise prices dramatically. In a shocking development, even with a return to normal distribution and an ever-increasing supply of fossil fuel, the pump tab has not returned to pre-ransom ranges. (As an aside, does anybody know if actions have been taken to prevent a repeat of that scenario? One wonders if another pipeline or two might be helpful.) But the pipeline only exacerbated an existing problem. Gas station signs had been moving steadily upward well before the hacking.

Almost everywhere you go you’ll find a bit of sticker shock. Lowly chickens (you know they outnumber we mere humans something like three or four to one right?) may soon become a delicacy if their price per pound climbs any higher. Meats, fish and eggs prices are rising dramatically too. Even vegetarians are feeling the pinch in the pocketbook. Canned veggies and things such as citrus fruit have seen the biggest rises.

And those are just some of the basics. Of course, for the most part, the cost hikes are all put down to the usual supply and demand scenario that economists have hung their hats on for centuries. Add to that the slowdown of deliveries of things we missed out on for the past twelve months while we all clamor for more and you’ve got a proper inflation mess. Are we back to the only people wearing masks being the ones taking our money?

Given the fact that there’s a shortage of everything else, though, why can’t there also be a shortage of incendiary words and actions? Those don’t seem to have slackened off one little bit as we emerge from our caves and welcome the sunshine of the new norm.

Whether it’s bloviating and blathering Congressional representatives, “peaceful” protesters in the streets, sports figures giving us their always-informed opinion on issues of the day, “journalists” on network and cable outlets, or even family members fighting family members, the rancid rhetoric that filled airwaves and newspaper stock throughout the bitter 2020 election cycle has seemingly only gotten worse.

I think we need a set of rules going forward. Free speech needs to remain, no doubt about that. But maybe we could try putting limits on words and actions.

For example, We the People need to be able to say to agitators across the spectrum of bad actors something such as, “I’m sorry, you’ve used up your allotment of diatribes against _____ today. If you want to say nasty things about _____, you’ll just have to wait until next Thursday. That’s the first opening we have available for you to continue trashing _____.”

If destruction of private property is the modus operandi of choice for peaceful protestors, we need to say very calmly, “Hey, put down that rock. You’ve already broken your earmarked number of windows this evening.”

Penalties for violating the limitations might include being forced to revert to Covid home restrictions, only this time WITHOUT access to Netflix. Or picking up by hand every shard from the department store plate glass that put the perpetrator over his/her limit. As for politicians who violate the regulations, well, I’m thinking a week with duct tape across their mouths would be a good start. Sometimes silence IS golden.

Bill Lewis is a freelance writer in Marietta. See more of his work at www.wordsmith-at-large.com.

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