The most atrocious political atrocities this year were crimes against language. Consider, for example, the spectacle of George Bush last August, during the Soviet coup, railing against evil “rightwingers” and praising the “liberals.”
Or take the local front. Please:
The Committee on Decent Unbiased Campaign Tactics (CONDUCT), organized after the 1983 mayoral campaign to deal with the untoward racial rhetoric of that race, quickly became the organizational equivalent of those rusting tanks that many police departments bought in 1969 to cope with the urban riots of ’66, ’67, and ’68. Things changed.
But the Keystone Kops of CONDUCT, our very own language police, carry on, with Orwellian twists and turns.
During this year’s aldermanic campaign, for example, Bill Singer, while endorsing Alderman Edwin Eisendrath in the 90-percent-white 43rd Ward, raised a racial specter by pointing out that challenger Mary Baim was endorsed by an organization that also endorsed a black mayoral candidate. Baim’s campaign chastised Singer. But CONDUCT censured Baim for raising the issue about Singer’s raising the issue.
In an even more horrendous tactic, 46th Ward Alderman Helen Shiller’s opponent idiotically accused her, in this heavily Jewish community, of working against Israel. Shiller’s folk naturally complained to CONDUCT, which dismissed the religiously inflammatory charge as mere “politics,” which is exactly the way Ed Vrdolyak used to defend himself. Tanks a lot, language cops.
Police chief LeRoy Martin came back from a trip to China with a few language thoughts of his own, like rewriting the Constitution because it hampers law enforcement officials and gives criminals too many rights.
Quoth Martin: ” . . . maybe from time to time we should curtail some of those rights.”
He noted with admiration that the butchers of Tiananmen Square execute drug dealers and that in their prisons “the sanitary facilities are a bucket. The prisoners are given a bowl of rice and a thermos bottle of tea. And then they’re locked down.”
He added, “I know we’re a democracy, but you know, I don’t think everything the communists do can’t be copied.”
Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign against Fourth Ward Alderman Timothy Evans was highlighted by the appearance of a leaflet raising coded antiwhite and antiSemitic slurs against her. She said the leaflet came from the Evans camp but couldn’t document the charge. Because the downtown papers, among others, were suspicious that the language might have come from the Preckwinkle camp itself, they did not play up the story.
So Committeeman Alan Dobry of the neighboring Fifth Ward took the matter into his own hands and posted copies of the leaflet on lampposts–giving the impression that the Evans camp had done so. This is called reverse psychology.
Preckwinkle, you see, was endorsed by the Independent Voters of Illinois, which had endorsed Evans for mayor a year earlier, thus suggesting that Evans would make a great mayor but a terrible alderman. That’s independent psychology.
But the reverse psychology and the independent psychology worked and Preckwinkle defeated Evans, who had a perfect independent record, and Preckwinkle went into the City Council, where she began voting with the Daley administration against the independents. That’s called reverse independence or being independent of the independents or maybe a Declaration of Psychology.
Ann Stepan, the dilettante committeeman of the 43rd Ward, sounded more like a Californian than a member of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee when she told a reporter she needed to be appointed to the General Assembly for her own “personal growth.” She was, but she didn’t. After a few months she announced she would not run again either for state rep or committeeman.
Her language cited a busy personal and family schedule. She said nothing about hubby Paul Stepan’s immersion into hot water over clout loans from municipal pension boards (the issue that turned Miriam Santos into Helen of Troy).
Copping Duke’s Sheets
Southwest-side congressman William Lipinski, thrown into a new district with fellow Democrat Martin Russo, quickly donned David Duke’s old white sheets and sent a mailing to all the folk in his new, virtually all-white district “explaining his vote against civil rights legislation.”
Quoth the Lipper in a federally franked mailing: “The social experiment that began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 . . . has been an abysmal failure.”
The 1964 act outlawed discrimination in public places, at the workplace, and so forth. What now, Congressman: separate toilets and segregated lunch counters in the southwest suburbs?
Copping a Long Dong
I thought our most Republican of Democrats, Senator Alan Dixon, had given up on becoming the Jesse Helms of the midwest. The political winds are blowing away from George Bush of late, and no one blows more with the winds than our senior senator. But when push came to shove, Al the Pal said a president deserves the Supreme Court nominee of his choice–a total reversal of past position–and voted for Clarence “Long Dong” Thomas. Apparently Al felt a Long Dong in the hand would be worth two in the Bush.
Fortunately, Dixon will have opposition in the upcoming primary. Unfortunately, it is Recorder of Deeds Carol Moseley Braun, once the brightest light of black independents, now a money-grubbing dim bulb whose principles are only slightly less elastic than Dixon’s.
But then, against Dixon I would even vote for Eva Braun.
Cop-ulating the Language
We have reached the point where Richard the Son, in a bizarre oedipal turn, screws the mother tongue more than his father did.
It began last year when he declared his position on capital punishment by exclaiming “I’m for death!”
Perhaps by way of explanation, this year he elucidated, “The more killing and homicides you have, the more it prevents havoc.”
Thus it was probably civic boosterism when he told the press, “They killed a CHA guard. It didn’t matter. It’s becoming much more violent. It’s becoming more like Colombia. That’s what it is.” Thank heaven–no more Beirut analogies.
In crime-riddled Englewood he revealed that the answer to drugs and drive-by shootings is a third airport in the Tenth Ward. Simple.
His linguistic homicide, however, is not limited to discussions of crime. He promised, for example, that the new Commonwealth Edison franchise would include rate relief. A lie? Of course not: he meant exclude or preclude.
After his attempt to put political favorites and cronies on the city’s pension boards was vetoed by Governor Edgar, Daley was quick to explain his own political philosophy: “The pension funds are not for political favoritism or cronyism.” Take that, Ann and Paul Stepan! But don’t take back your campaign contributions.
A clinical glimpse into mayoral language was presented by Ray Long and Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times, who did us the service of transcribing verbatim a news conference on the subject of casino gambling.
To set the scene: Daley’s close adviser, John Schmidt, who heads the Navy Pier authority, came out in favor of a floating casino to be docked at the pier. Daley was asked:
“Do you agree with him [Schmidt]?”
Daley: “No, with a, you know, I’m just, everybody’s going to come up with different ideas. So.”
Question: Schmidt is saying you’ve got to have a steady stream of people at Navy Pier.
Daley: “That’s why you have to market basically what it’s going to be used for.”
Question: Do you think casinos would help in that effort?
Daley: “I don’t know.”
Question: Are you in favor of gambling on Lake Michigan?
Daley: “I don’t know, you know. You have your ups and downs. You have your yesses and nos, sometimes.”
Question: Isn’t it ultimately going to happen?
Daley: “Well, you don’t know ultimately, I would, you know, you want to bet anything on that. Well you can’t, you don’t know.”
Question: Would you support [the proposed legislation to launch casino boats on Lake Michigan]?
Daley: “Well, I don’t know yet. I would have to. I don’t know yet. You’d have to look at all of the legislation.”
Question: What are your thoughts on it, negative and positive?
Daley: “Well, it is negative and positive. Sometimes you’re negative. Sometimes you’re positive about it.”
Question: Will riverboat gambling draw people to Chicago?
Daley: “Well, it’s hard to tell, you know. It’s just, a, you know, anything can draw . . . ”
Question: Can you outline what you see as the positives and negatives of riverboat gambling?
Daley: “Not yet.”
Well, a few weeks ago Daley came right out and said maybe we should have a riverboat casino at the pier to raise revenues.
But who knows what it really means when Daley commits language?