Category Archives: Current Events

Father Knows Best

20151101-freedom-from-wantIn wake of the presidential election, lots of think-piece articles are flowing around social media saying that “elite” coastal liberals  should empathize with and respect the opinions of rural white Trump voters. Having grown up in a very conservative area smack where the Midwest meets the South, I find such articles more than a bit patronizing. In response, this recent article in Roll Call articulates my feelings much better than I could. Change a few details and I could’ve written it myself.

I grew up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, a small bedroom suburb of Cincinnati that — like many Cincinnati suburbs — is almost entirely white, Roman Catholic, insular, and rapidly conservative. I never met a black person my age until my family moved to Asheville, North Carolina when I was ten, and I still remember my third grade music teacher at Woodfill School explaining to us that a Jewish kid had enrolled in the school as if it were something controversial. Sunday school at our mainline Protestant church included regular exhortations about the evils of communism. Cincinnati itself, just across the river, was largely considered a no-man’s-land. My dad was a big volunteer for Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning on their early runs for public office, and has a hand-written letter from President Gerald Ford thanking him for his work for the Republican Party.

After we moved to North Carolina, I spent the rest of my childhood and teenage years in very conservative parts of the South, usually on or near military bases. I come from a long line of authoritarian military men who thought of violence as the first and last solution to any problem. Discipline in our home was meted out at the end of a leather belt, especially when I was struggling in school due to an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder and related issues of anxiety and depression. I was bullied nonstop at school because I was perceived to be gay or asexual, and it’s taken me years to finally admit to myself that I grew up in an abusive home environment. I’ve been suicidal at various points of my life, and came very close to ending it all during a particularly dark spell in 2003.

Despite all that, I still bought into the Republican worldview hook, line, and sinker. I listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio all the time and believed every word he said, I owned two of his books, and spent most of my time convinced that my world was under attack by liberals and minorities who I had never actually met. My friends from high school may even remember me giving a speech in favor of re-electing George H. W. Bush during the 1992 election.

My views never really began to change until I had moved out on my own in Chicago, and found myself in a diverse urban neighborhood with a lot of people who weren’t like me. (Chicago’s hyper-gentrified Lincoln Park neighborhood wasn’t exactly a model of urban diversity in the late 1990s and is even less so now, but it was still a million times more diverse than anywhere I had lived previously.) It wasn’t until I was well into my 20’s, spending a summer in Boston during the 2000 election season, that I finally reached the point where I explicitly rejected the values of my upbringing.

I had never met anybody who I knew to be gay until that summer, and I don’t recall meeting anybody who identified as Native American until I moved to Seattle earlier this year. It’s taken me a long time to remove myself from the insular bubble I grew up in, and I no doubt still have a few steps left to go.

Most of my family, however, has never lived anywhere but Campbell County, Kentucky, and my parents still see the world through the lens of people who came of age in 1950s white suburbia. My dad only listens to recorded radio shows of that era, rarely watches any movies that don’t star John Wayne shooting a bunch of nonwhite people, and still thinks Ted Kennedy wrecking a car in 1969 is an indictment of the entire Democratic Party of today. He’s proud of the fact that now-retired Jim Bunning is his neighbor.

For me, as much as I love my hometown, being back there still brings up a lot of personal baggage and trauma. I tried to give Cincinnati a fair shot during grad school and for a while afterwards, but I ultimately made the decision to move to Seattle this past year. I haven’t regretted that decision for a second. I have nothing but incredible respect for those who stay in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and pour their lives into making it a better place, but my path lies elsewhere.

So, with all that in mind, it’s a bit patronizing to suggest that the onus is on urban liberals to step out of our bubbles, as if the parochial, lily-white “heartland” I grew up in is America’s default condition and that diverse, liberal coastal cities are the outliers. Cities like New York and Seattle are filled with people who have spent their lives trying to escape insular bubbles, and are every bit as much the “real America” as Midwestern factories and cornfields. On an issue-by-issue basis, America’s values are strongly in line with those of urban liberals; it is the rural and exurban conservatives who are living in an insular bubble, by choice or not.

Unfortunately, we’re stuck with a Constitution that was largely written to appease Southern slaveholders of the 1700s, which is a big reason why our representative republic is anything but representative. Anti-urban bias is practically hard-baked into America’s DNA, and is why Trump got elected despite getting fewer votes.

I’ll close by quoting the Facebook status of a friend of a friend that was shared anonymously:

I come from a small rural town much like the ones discussed in that Cracked article everyone has been resharing in the wake of the election. I get the sentiment expressed. I understand that people in those areas feel like their way of living is being wiped out. I comprehend the need for compassion.

But at the same time, many of us who grew up in those places left precisely because of the unshakable social underpinnings their culture wrought: Biblical literalism, fundamentalism and evangelism. Racism. Hatred for gays and lesbians. Lack of education.

A few of us have tried to return and work in those communities (whether as entrepreneurs or as volunteers) to improve situations we felt were suboptimal. In many cases, our efforts were rebuffed by individuals so enthralled by a stagnant mindset about urban planning and politics that they could not make room to try anything new that might improve their situation. […]

I’m not saying ether side is right or wrong, necessarily—but I’m having a really hard time understanding how this is the fault of me and people like me who have fled these communities and cloistered families because we couldn’t endure the ignorance we saw play out there. It’s difficult to comprehend what, if anything, I *owe* them. Because right now, I FEEL as if I owe them nothing.

This doesn’t mean that people in liberal cities can smugly sit on our laurels; we have a ton of work to do. Without any support from the federal government, we’ll be largely on our own. And I fear that we’ll soon find out that many of our own neighbors and public officials aren’t as liberal and compassionate as we had hoped; we won’t be spared the shitstorm that’s coming. In fact, we’ll be the target for much of it.

My focus for the immediate future is to help make sure my new home city remains a safe sanctuary for all, to ensure that people who come here are given the same warm welcome that has been graciously afforded to me, and I will do whatever I can to support those who are oppressed, hurting, and trying to make the world a better place, wherever they are.

Eric Deters: “Send White Women and Pot”

Those of you who live outside of the Cincinnati area may be fortunate enough to have never heard of Eric “Bulldog” Deters, a lifelong Democrat who conveniently turned into a Teabagger the minute he got a radio spot on “The Big One” 700-AM WLW. (WLW is also home to our own local Rush Limbaugh wannabe Bill “Homeless people should be beaten” Cunningham and other assorted right-wing nutjobs.)

Deters also happens to be a contributor and legal consultant for the Dr. Drew Show. Deters never misses an opportunity to promote himself, and according to his Facebook page, is excited about his new gig on CNN:

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Deters is well-known for making outlandish comments in public, particularly in regards to any ideology that falls to the political left of Attila the Hun. Like most right-wing blowhards, he’s usually smart enough to couch his racist bile in the typical dog-whistle language that affords him some measure of plausible deniability, but yesterday afternoon he put to rest any doubts about his feelings about the African-Americans whose money supports his legal practice:

(via local blog cinawesome.com):

I have many black friends, and I have many black clients. Why? Because cops are usually tazing naked black men, so I got cases against cops. I represent black men and I have black friends. But let me tell you something about this. On my flag football team, every black guy on the team–this is just calling it straight right here, no political preference here–almost every, AW THE HELL WITH THAT, EVERY BLACK GUY ON MY FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM, went out with, lived with, and was married to a white woman, and smoked pot. I just want you to know that I understand black culture. If you want to conquer, If you want to conquer an African nation, SEND WHITE WOMEN AND POT. This is the bulldog. Every dog has their day. I hope tomorrow is yours.

As Maoglone points out in the blog, this is about the most racist thing to come out of the mouth of a Cincinnati public figure since the days of Marge Schott. Unfortunately, our local media has been silent on the matter. But that doesn’t mean we have to remain silent.

11:08 AM PT: Update: Just got a response from CNN via Twitter:

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12:07 PM PT: Update: CNN has apparently looked into the matter…

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And there you have it, folks. It’s okay to appear on CNN if you’re a racist blowhard, as long as you’re not a racist blowhard on CNN.

12:34 PM PT: Update: Maoglone at CinAwesome.com has dug up additional videos of Deters being a class act.

Fuel, Meet Fire

10:56 PM PT: Posted without comment: Eric Deters has responded to the controversey on his Facebook page:

I recently shot a videoblog that told a joke about young black men I know liking pot and white women…I immediately thought it went too far. I told my video guy not to use it. When he sent videos to my computer guy, he forgot to take it out. As soon as I heard about it, I removed it. I apologize for my bad joke. As my black friends, clients and fans will tell you, I’m not now…nor have ever been prejudiced.

Bill Cunningham is Beneath Contempt

According to 700 WLW radio host and Rush Limbaugh-wannabe Bill Cunningham, we should “beat the hell out of” homeless people, with “a big old cane, Singapore-style.”

From Media Matters

:

Does that include homeless veterans, of which there are many? So much for supporting the troops.

People like Cunningham, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, et al are very wealthy white men who have built up their entire careers by whipping up hatred and resentment against people who are less wealthy, less fortunate, and less white than them. They give voice and justification for the most morally reprehensible impulses of humanity, and they seek to deny others the same basic privileges of civil society that they themselves have greatly benefitted from. If the scriptures they supposedly believe in are to be taken at face value, then they’ll have a lot to answer for someday.

According to Cunningham, “Pain is a great motivator to refrain from certain forms of behavior.”

Fine. I propose that somebody beat the hell out of Bill Cunningham with a big old cane, Singapore-style, whenever he opens his bigoted, racist mouth in front of a microphone.

“Uncle Al” Lewis, 1926 – 2009

This morning I read that Al “Uncle Al” Lewis passed away Saturday at the age of 84. I vaguely remember watching his show when I was a kid while growing up in Fort Thomas, especially in the days before cable TV and Nickelodeon came into my life. He wasn’t well-known outside of the Cincinnati area, but he was a beloved local institution, and his show was on the air longer than either Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers. In reading his obituary, it seems like he spent his entire career doing what he truly loved. We should all be so fortunate.

The Uncle Al Show goes back to an age when local television stations produced much more of their own programming, rather than simply passing along whatever crap that comes through the feed from New York or Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it seems like the idea of truly local programming (aside from the yapping heads on the local news) has pretty much died along with Al’s show.

Rest in peace, Uncle Al.

Good Morning, Mr. President

You know that immense feeling of relief you feel when you take a huge dump right after waking up in the morning? You’re less bloated, your pants seem to fit better, you feel about ten pounds lighter, and there’s a bit more spring in your step. Your smelly turd has been removed from the house with a quick flush of the toilet.

That’s sort of what it feels like in America today.

On Edge, Feeling Helpless

Today was very quiet out at O’Hare, literally. I make my living from airport noise, and O’Hare was completely silent. It was spooky.

After work, I headed downtown to try to donate blood at Northwestern Hospital. However, so many people were standing in line, also to donate blood, that people were being turned away due to lack of capacity. Chicagoans are stunned, and Chicagoans want to help.

So I drove around downtown a little bit just to see what’s up. It was busier than yesterday, but still more quiet than normal. In some ways it was business as usual, but there were differences. There was a massive police presence, with at least 2-3 cops on most downtown intersections. Illegally parked cars were being aggressively towed.

And the flags. American flags are appearing all over the city, thousands of them. Large and small. Sometime yesterday, two young Hispanic men quietly walked to an overpass above the Kennedy Expressway, and hung a giant Stars and Stripes from the guardrail. This is America at its finest.

Driving down Michigan Avenue in front of the Tribune Tower, there is a construction barricade in the median. A large hand-written sign was taped to the barricade: “STILL UNITED!”

I had always been fascinated with World War II, and have tried to imagine what it must have been like on that day we found out that we had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. From what I know, it was a cold and snowy day in my hometown of Cincinnati when it happened. Cold, gray and snowy seemed appropriate for the occasion.

Today, however, was a beautiful day in Chicago. Not a cloud in the sky, and perfect temperatures. It feels very weird. I came around a bend on the Kennedy Expressway, and our beautiful skyline opened up in front of me, blazing bright gold in the setting sun. I looked at the Sears Tower and Hancock Center and thought: It could have been us. I still get a shiver everytime I hear a police siren of fire truck. I want to break down and cry, but right now I can’t seem to get it out. Right now I feel more numb than anything else. I’m sure the numbness will pass. I want to be there in New York helping out, doing something, but I can’t. I feel helpless.

I have a large collection of old newspapers in a drawer in my closet. It includes papers from Lincoln’s assassination, World War I, the Pearl Harbor attack, World War II, V-E Day, V-J Day, JFK’s assassination, the Moon Landing, Nixon’s resignation, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

I added a couple more papers to the drawer today, the Tribune, Sun-Times, and NY Times. The Sun-Times front page screamed “OUTRAGE”.

I hope to add another Sun-Times to that drawer soon, one that screams “VICTORY!”

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)

The View from Chicago

I first found about the attack this morning while driving to work down Lawrence Avenue towards O’Hare. I came around a corner and saw a large black cloud of smoke over the general direction of O’Hare, and immediately thought that a plane had crashed. “Oh my God,” I said to myself.

I had been listening to a CD up until then, but immediately turned the radio to NewsRadio 780 AM to find out what the story was. They were frantically talking about a plane wreck and large fire, so for a few seconds I assumed they were talking about O’Hare. I then gasped in horror when I realized they were talking about the World Trade Center towers.

I never did find out what had caused that smoke cloud over O’Hare, so I assume it wasn’t anything major. By the time I got to the office, everybody was already gathered around a small TV set in our director’s office. 30 years from now, I’m sure we’ll all remember where we were when we found out about this attack.

We soon had a briefing at our O’Hare field office, where they told us we were free to head home, or to stick around in case help was needed over at the terminals. We hung around and watched the TV coverage, and then finally headed home around 3:00 when we were told that the situation over at the terminals was under control.

I got home and watched the news some more, and then headed down to my church, Fourth Presbyterian in Streeterville, for an evening prayer service. At this point Fourth Church seemed like the only safe place I could go. The prayer service was very moving, and I said a prayer for New York City and our nation.

Downtown Chicago was eerily quiet in what should have been the height of evening rush hour. There were still people around, but very few compared to normal. The Hancock Center and most of the other high-rises were still shut down, there was a heavy police presence, and cars were being towed away left and right. My ride home on the CTA Red Line was uneventful.

Chicago, along with the rest of the nation, is in total shock over what happened in NYC and Washington. Because we also have a number of tall landmark skyscrapers, and because we’ve traditionally had a very close relationship with New York City, I think we feel particularly shocked and vulnerable. In some ways New York is like a big brother to us, and our brother has been badly hurt.

But make no mistake: New York will rise again. Early Chicago was built in large part by former New Yorkers seeking fortune in the country’s heartland, and when Chicago burned in the Great Fire of 1871, New York helped more than any other city to rebuild the devastated Chicago. I think I can safely speak for all Chicagoans in hoping that we’re able to return the favor in kind.

God bless all of you, and God bless America.

(originally posted on the SubTalk forum on nycsubway.org)