America is scared. I’m scared, too. I’m scared for my children and grandchildren. I’m scared for the children and grandchildren in malls and schools in the suburbs and the inner cities of America – including neighborhoods in Chicago like Englewood, Roseland, Austin, South Shore, Humboldt Park, and Lawndale. I’m scared for the men and women in blue putting their lives on the line to protect us, whether in El Paso, Dayton, Dallas, Philadelphia or our beloved Chicago.
Everyone must speak up. Not speaking up is unacceptable. We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division. Every citizen should speak up and speak loud: Athlete. Actor. Artist. Musician. Teacher. Student. Trucker. Plumber. Doctor. Lawyer. Writer. Grocer. Butcher. Builder. Welder. Everyone. To the extent my observations here differ from those of the reader, allow me to refer to Abraham Lincoln:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
So, my thoughts:
It may be tiring to hear every day about race in America, but our country’s history, the Trump presidency, and Republican cowardice and enabling only highlight the importance to us all of speaking out and acting on this issue.
My grandfather and grandmother came here as poor and tired children from Ireland in the late 1800s in the context of 700+ years of British oppression. Telling people of color to “go back” where they came from is a foundational white nationalist insult in American history. When nine black teenagers integrated a school in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957, a mob of a thousand white people heckled them with screams of, “Go back to Africa.” In the late 60s, when I was at Brother Rice high school on the South Side, “Go Back” was a popular theme from segregationist George Wallace’s presidential supporters in Marquette Park and other areas, with Martin Luther King later in the mix in that neighborhood.
President Trump has sadly repeated these themes, both before and after becoming president:
2013: Trump doubles down on his earlier support for the death penalty for the “Central Park Five.” Pure evil. Watch Netflix’s Central Park Five miniseries, “When They See Us.” There was no DNA evidence against the young men when Trump was encouraging the death penalty, and eventual DNA evidence of the confessed rapist cleared them. President Trump still to this day touts support for the imprisonment of these innocent men. Is that the type of justice you want administered in a Social Security Disability claim?
2014: Promotes birther lies.
2015: Mexicans are “rapists.”
2016: Muslim ban.
2017: Touts how at the Charlottesville march of neo-Nazis, tiki torchers, white supremacists and white nationalists, there were, “very fine people on both sides.” No, Trump did not mouth the phrase, “neo-Nazis are fine people.” But in a current effort by apologists to explain away what they call the “Charlottesville lie,” my Irish ancestors would say they are being economical with the truth. Contrary to their suggestion, that rally was clearly not one for your average supporter of Confederate monuments.
2018: Refers to African “shithole countries.”
2019: Tweets racism. He is the president of the entire country. He can purport to disagree with policies associated with the urban areas of America, but not single them out as “rat infested” where “no human being would want to live.” It is not an accident that he does not talk like this about Appalachians ridden with opioid addiction. They are not only human beings, they are great patriots.
To the extent there are some who are offended at the notion they are charged as “racist” for supporting the president, take the explanation of his former communications director. Anthony Scaramucci: “Trump isn’t racist. He’s worse. He’s so narcissistic he doesn’t see people as people. It’s why he doesn’t have any real friends. It’s why he gives a thumbs up next to an orphaned baby after a mass shooting. Everybody is an obstacle or a stepping stone.”
“America, love it or leave it” was a popular refrain during my 1960s high school days. Many of us loved it then, we love it now and we’re not leaving! To my many Republican friends, seriously? Will it never be too much for you and the Rs in Congress? President Trump is indeed our elected president but his words and actions are revolting and un-American. He’s implicating all of you, by your silence, in his utter indecency and the damage it’s doing to our society. Speak up, or take those flag pins off your lapels. Cowering to Trump is not patriotic.
Donald Trump clearly believes in the merits of his divisive stuff. But it should not add up for the American people of any stripe. The rancor and chaos the GOP embrace, and its support of the president’s daily dose of nastiness, creates a barrier to actually getting things done on tangible concerns we all have, such as violence in society, education, family life, and income inequality. Every single day, he subjects the country he was elected to lead to a stream of ugly, divisive bombast. It’s exhausting. It’s destructive. It’s unworthy of a president. Comparisons like “Obama lied when he said you’ll be able to keep your own insurance” are not remotely similar.
Take it from former Tea Party Republican congressman Joe Walsh: “We’ve had enough of your lies, your bullying, your cruelty, enough of your insults, your daily drama, your incitement, enough of the danger you place this country in every single day. We don’t want any of this anymore, and the country certainly can’t stand four more years of it.” But as he explains, it’s clear the Republicans deeply fear opposing the president; they’ll lose a primary and their power and we’ll be stuck with Trump enablers, sycophants. They need to have greater fear that we will work, donate and volunteer in the Chicago suburbs, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio to throw these GOP rascals out – than the NRA lobby money and Trump fear from which they now cower.
Not impeaching Trump should not mean no investigations. One can argue that impeachment, morally and constitutionally, is the right thing to do. But one also has to recognize that, historically and politically, it is not the right thing to do because it will lead to disaster. However, good faith citizens do not then get a pass on taking a position on the Republican Party. Nobody made the party embrace hook, line and sinker the Trump evil staring down our country.
Martin Luther King undoubtedly skipped many positions which were “obviously justified” to avoid taking an ineffective tack. But he did not suggest burying our heads in the sand and being silent when there was a duty to take a stand. When our children ask us what we did when the president fomented racism, when immigrants were caged and cast as sub-human, and when the Republican Senate Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell refused to even allow votes about our election security and assault weapons, what will we tell them? “That’s when I switched, much to my amazement, from being a long-time Republican to being a Democrat. That’s when I started to volunteer and work for the Democratic candidates.” Each of us owns our individual response. And our collective response answers who we are as a country.
The time is now for Republicans and all Americans to be honest with what is happening in the country. We are better than this and I implore my Republican friends to stand up and do the right thing.
There are already countless statistics about gun violence in our country, even though the Republicans refuse further meaningful research. For example, how do we accept the notion that women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries around the world? Because we have to have our militia ready? This is unacceptable, and the success of other developed countries in protecting their citizens demonstrates that such high levels of gun violence need not be tolerated.
Japan has the highest video game revenue per capita out of any country.
US: 40,000 gun deaths/year.
Japan: Less than 10 gun deaths/year.
It isn’t video games. It’s the GOP, terrified of the NRA. It’s us, tolerating B.S. arguments from the Republicans.
The Republican Party from top to bottom has made clear: as long as they control any branch of government, they won’t give an inch on even modest and straightforward gun control. They’re saying progress requires they be completely driven out of government. We should oblige them.
When the history books are written, refuse to be someone who said nothing and did nothing. We can’t solve any of our challenges—from gun violence to health care to election security – until we fix our democracy. Consider switching your political party and/or donating or volunteering in neighboring red states or suburban swing districts.
25 years ago, Democratic support for an assault weapons ban was a major reason the party lost control of the House. Now top Democrats want to revive the fight even in the face of the NRA gun lobby money, and they deserve your help. This is not a time to grouse about our elected officials not doing what’s right to protect the American people. It’s a time for the people to get directly involved and demand change. It can happen. The Republicans are not going to get this job done for us, our children, and our grandchildren. In your heart you must know that.
For all the president’s attacks on journalism, Fox News has been poisoning our national discourse for years. Fox News presidential adviser Sean Hannity, after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders, said, “I’d like to see the perimeter of every school in America surrounded, secured by retired police … have one armed guard on every floor of every school, all over every mall, the perimeter and inside every hall of every mall.” What’s next, Dairy Queens? Piano recitals? The Dayton shooting shows that even six “good guys with guns” are no match for a high-capacity magazine. Trained police in Dayton did their jobs very well, but nine people still died in just those first 30 seconds before police killed the shooter.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said, “You have to blame the people here who pulled the trigger. Those are the ones who are evil. Those are the ones who are sick and mentally ill and those are the ones that have to be dealt with.” No, the Republican party, its cherished gun lobby money, and the state media propaganda arm Fox News have to be soundly rejected. They have quite proudly and steadfastly refused any common sense gun violence prevention efforts. Do not let the political party and its propaganda arm, which has cut and seeks to further cut Medicaid and mental health treatment access, scapegoat the mentally ill. For over 40 years, I’ve represented people with all types of mental illness, seen all the records and interviewed people when they had very substantial treatment access issues. Gun lobby apologists think they’ll go out on a limb about a “red flag” minor half-measure technique to help solve our problems. How many home runs would Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, or Sammy Sosa have hit without a bat? It’s impossible to predict who will be a mass murderer. It is completely predictable that having military weapons in civilian hands makes us a culture of mass murder, while our children are impacted by this news every night on television. Every country has angry losers, but only the USA arms them to the teeth.
Having represented people in the entire Chicago metro area, I am quite familiar with the argument, also touted by Fox News, that Chicago has tough gun laws but what about the gun violence there, the gangs, the release of criminals and so on. I support the so-called “Dashboard” efforts of Mayor Lightfoot and Superintendent Eddie Johnson to shed more light on the wrong people being too easily released on bond. But one of the saddest things about the president’s verbal attack on the inner cities is his complete ignorance about the widespread and noble efforts of so many citizen patriots, healthcare workers, community organizers, and nonprofit organizations. They are at the heart of the social fabric of what makes America great and they deserve our alliance – not gun lobby money scapegoating.
I have a super good idea for the President and every Republican and Fox News influencer who have become interested today in making our mental health system better, hoping for an impact on gun violence: Stop the lawsuit to overturn the ACA, which would end mental health coverage for 20 million people! That would be a nice start.
Russia’s meddling in the United States’ elections never was and is not now a hoax. It’s the culmination of Moscow’s decades-long campaign to tear the West apart. We need politicians, and should renew our respect for the right ones, because we need election security, healthcare, common sense gun control, education policy and solutions to address income inequality. We can disagree about the solutions, but not in the context of one party firmly stuck embracing President Trump. One young politician, a war veteran currently running for president, suggests, “We’ve got to ask ourselves how you get a President like this one in the first place. Because somebody like Donald Trump should not be able to get within cheating distance of the Oval Office.” The President of the United States thinks you’re a sucker. He thinks he can get you to believe that the biggest problem in your life is the threat of socialism or political correctness, or immigration reform about which he will only divide. Yet he refuses to lead when we need progress on infrastructure, healthcare, education, genuine immigration reform, common sense gun reform, and so many other issues.
Given my recollections from the 60s, I could not help but notice George Wallace’s own daughter believes that what we are seeing with Trump is the same pattern that occurred during her father’s campaigns now repeating itself 50 years later. She also worries that the violent consequences she saw in the ‘60s will be the same, if not worse. Peggy Wallace Kennedy is Wallace’s daughter. Now 69, she attended his political rallies as a young teenager and experienced the hatred bubbling around her, bewildering as it was. “Unfortunately it does look like the ‘60s now,” Wallace Kennedy said. “Each of us individually need to act with compassion and pray for our democracy. I hope we don’t go back. But it looks like where we are slipping…that seems to be where the top is taking us” (emphasis supplied). Wallace Kennedy never said Donald Trump’s name out loud, but she likened his politics to that of her father’s tactics, only worse. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “I saw daddy a lot in 2016.”
If you’re already taking action, pat yourself on the back and take joy and pride in the notion that you’re doing something important. If you haven’t yet, thoughts and prayers aren’t enough. Consider getting involved in whatever way is possible for you – volunteer, donate, or gently share your concerns with your friends.
If you have a concern about my opinions expressed or a question about your case, my direct line is 312-605-9111. Thank you for reading this far!
While I obviously don’t speak for these organizations, I believe the President is needlessly ignorant of the noble and daily accomplishments of organizations like these:
Cathedral Counseling Center
The Boulevard (formerly Interfaith House)
St. Martin De Porres
Chicago Family Health Center
Community Counseling Centers of Chicago
Voices for IL Kids
Grand Prairie Services
Association for Individual Development
Give Dekalb County
Legal Council for Health Justice
Youth Advocate Programs
Children’s Home & Aid
Ben Gordon Center
Lutheran Social Services of IL
Metropolitan Family Services
Greater Elgin Family Care Center
Human Resource Development Institute
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Kenneth Young Center
Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.)
Mothers Against Senseless Killings, Tamar Manasseh, President
Covenant House Illinois
Seventh District Englewood C.A.P.S
Father Manuel Dorantes, St. Mary of the Lake Church in Chicago
Esperanza Health Centers
Hope’s Front Door
Streamwood Behavioral Health
Erie Family Health Center
My Block My Hood My City
Good in Englewood
Photo #1: By Marc Nozell from Merrimack, New Hampshire, USA – Gun control now, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79412347
Photo #2: By Tom Nash taken during March 2018 Washington D.C. March for Our Lives