- After a good night’s sleep . . .
Every morning I get up, make coffee, and go through the newspapers. On occasion, I seriously read them. This extra attention is usually driven by circumstance: on Wednesday morning, for instance, I took my car to the garage because the maintenance required light was on, giving me two hours to kill with the Tribune at the coffee shop around the corner.
The place was empty aside from me, the server, and Gregory Alan Isakov at his most mournful. Between you and me, what a lousy world we live in. Everything is just so damn sad!
Here, on page one of the Tribune, is the latest variation on the unending story of violent death on the south and west sides of Chicago. The police have such a clear picture of who’s going to kill and who’s going to die (the same pool of people), that they’ve taken to calling on them ahead of time to give them a head’s up. Talk about appointments in Samarra!
Meanwhile, at the corner of Wilson and Sheridan, where the gangbangers raised havoc a couple of nights ago, a local man tells Mary Schmich that “he loves the neighborhood and has come to believe that if violence is going to get you, it can get you in any neighborhood.” Which may be so, but I’m glad my daughter moved out of that one a few months ago.
From Metra—fresh revelations of deceit, dissembling, and incompetence. And back on the violent crime front, an accused woman beater is sprung from jail by mistake, Robbins police blow off more than 200 rape cases, and a kid, 15, already wearing a monitoring device, is charged with shooting a seven-year-old.
Deerfield and Highland Park squabble over which jurisdiction should have acted more promptly when fecal coliform was detected in the water supply. Our mayor explains why it would have been wrong to knock down a Pilsen field house three years ago but it was OK to sneak in and level it—with no prior notice—last Friday night. And in national and world news, there’s the latest from Egypt, where hundreds have died as the army ruthlessly saves the country for democracy, and Kabul, about a hospital trying to deal with the swelling number of maimed children; while in Oklahoma an Australian college student is shot dead by teens apparently for the hell of it; and the prosecution rests in the trial of Major Nidal Hasan for the Fort Hood massacre. Lethally radioactive water continues to leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan; and in San Francisco class warfare looms between ordinary people trying to get by in tough times and the young Silicon Valley elitists who are driving them out of their neighborhoods.
Why do I get so bothered by smart people too stupid to know they’re jerks?
Back in Chicago, the mayor’s comptroller was just indicted in Ohio, and the mayor wants to get to the bottom of it but as John Kass contends, maybe just sort of near the bottom, just deep enough to stir up a little silt. And wealthy suburbanite Bruce Rauner has come up with a nifty way to legally pour unlimited amounts of his own money into his race for governor, and how did Rauner come to be the guy our mayor thinks has the answers to the problems of public education in Chicago? Or is it just the strange need of even the brightest and most cosmopolitan cynics to believe there is someone out there—some Maharaj Ji perfect master—who knows the Way?
On to the Chicagoland section, which I never open unless the mechanic spots something a little worrisome and calls my cell asking for another half hour. I spot headlines that warn “Experts fear jump in trampoline use” and “Kids’ soda drinking linked to increased aggression.” Well, the kids grew up unscathed by the trampoline in the backyard and they didn’t burn the house down, so I decide not to feel as irresponsible as I should. And here’s another Chicagoland headline that gets me to the point I want to make: “Alternative medicine attracts adherents—for good or ill.” (Some of these headlines differ online.)
Alternative anything attracts adherents, if it’s an alternative to the slough of despond that reality oversees and the daily papers faithfully describe. The Wednesday Tribune was relatively uneventful as far as fresh vexations go, and if I’d rifled through it in the usual way—scanning headlines, reading a few paragraphs deep into selected stories, and reaching the end of only the occasional exercise in virtuosic writing—I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But dwelling on the edition’s contents was really a downer. It always is.
No wonder most people who buy newspapers don’t actually read them, and make their browsing selections from the newspaper whose editorial perspective comes closest to their personal point of view. No wonder some TV viewers never stray from Fox, others from MSNBC. No wonder, in our digital age, we learn where our friends are and stick to the sites where they congregate. This isn’t simply running from reality; it’s trying to live in the world and not let it make us more miserable than we can bear to be.
Of course, in addition to that, it is also running from reality. And as we try to hold up our end of the civic contract—explained in junior high—to maintain government of, by, and for the people, it’s disappointing to recognize everyone involved in the hallowed process is, to one degree or another, delusional.
Oh yeah, in the Tribune‘s A+E section, Elmore Leonard died.