Thursday, October 20, 2016

An open letter to some of my Trump supporting friends...

I love you and value your friendship and nothing, not even your choice of presidential candidate will change that. You may interpret what I have to say as an attempt to deny your right to voice your opinion. Trust me, it is not. You have every right to your opinion about the Democratic candidate for president as well as to express it. For what it's worth, my opinion about her opponent, the guy with the goofy hair is just that, an opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

The other day I heard a woman on the radio asked this question: "As a woman, how can you possibly justify supporting Donald Trump, given the recent airing of comments he made about making unwelcome advances toward women?" Her answer was this: "Well I'd rather be groped by Donald Trump than killed by Hillary Clinton." The sad thing was, her answer did not surprise me one bit, as I've been hearing the same kinds of things for months from you.

From your comments, it is clear that like that woman, your opinions about Hillary Clinton are based upon hearsay, innuendo, right wing spin factories, stories of non-existent damning videos made up by some guy named Anonymous, selectively edited YouTube clips, juvenile internet memes, and Trump's own half truths and outright lies. All this is fueled by your own unbridled hatred (wherever that comes from) of President Obama and the Clintons. As an article of faith you believe, and more troubling, you pass on every negative story you hear about Hillary Clinton, regardless of the credibility of the source.

Hillary Clinton is far from a perfect candidate. She has not always been transparent, she has changed her stances on issues over the years (something I have no problem with), sometimes out of political expediency (something I do have a problem with), she has accepted money from unsavory groups, and she has at times acted carelessly and irresponsibly. She has also been far and away the most scrutinized candidate in our nation's history. Holding any other candidate to the same standards we hold Hillary Clinton to would expose the same or perhaps far more grievous faults. On the other hand, holding Donald Trump to ANY standard of competence, ethics, honesty, respectability, and decency, exposes what most certainly has to be the least qualified major party candidate for the presidency in anybody's memory.

My opinion of Donald Trump is based upon what he has to say, nothing else. Every word that comes out of his mouth proves to me in no uncertain terms that he is entirely unqualified for any position of public trust, let alone president, and that he is a reprehensible human being to boot. He is arrogant, spiteful, incapable of even the slightest hint of self-reflection, and shamefully ignorant of the US constitution, especially those parts of it concerning the duties of the office of President of the United States. Trump, who had every opportunity to serve his country in the military but chose not to, publicly attacked a Gold Star family for their un-patriotism, then had the absolute gall the next day to accept a Purple Heart from a veteran saying: "I always wanted one of these." He mocked a handicapped reporter and threatened if elected, to put his opponent in jail. Presidents do not put their opponents in jail, dictators do that. No, he is not currently under scrutiny for making lewd, politically incorrect comments, but for openly bragging about criminally assaulting women. Trump’s propensity for turning criticisms leveled against him back on his opponent, (she's a racist-misogynist, she must be on drugs, she’s a liar, she’s crooked, she has a bad temperament, she started the birther movement, her husband is a cad, etc) is childish and laughable. Unfortunately, you willingly buy into his retorts, repeating them as if they were facts.

Whether we like it or not, Clinton and Trump are our only realistic choices for president. Few people actually like Trump but see voting for him as the lesser of two evils. But the idea that Hillary Clinton is just as bad or worse than Donald Trump is ludicrous. Through his own words and deeds, Donald Trump has proven himself to be a clear and present danger to this country if he is elected president. He has openly questioned his advisers about our government's policy of restraint regarding the use of nuclear weapons. Combined with his legendary thin skin, one can only wonder when, not if, he would employ nukes should he gain access to the Oval Office. He has shown dangerous judgement by expressing admiration for brutal world leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein. He is a divisive figure who has taken advantage of and has exacerbated the tremendous ideological rift in this country, making reasonable public discourse between folks of differing opinions, all but impossible.

Even if he is not elected, Trump poses a threat. Perhaps his single most egregious and dangerous stance, is the completely unfounded notion that if he does not win the general election in November, the election will had to have been rigged. By itself, that notion is laughable. Donald Trump by his own doing has alienated himself from every single American who is not an angry white male. Since we no longer have a plurality of angry white males in this country, and a only trickle of equally angry white females, a Donald Trump victory is highly unlikely. Contrary to what Republican officials in their attempts to disenfranchise certain groups of voters have been claiming for years, voter fraud is not a serious problem in this country, if it is a problem at all.

However you my friend, yourself an angry white person, buy into the nonsense that the election is rigged in Hillary Clinton's favor. This is not only preposterous, it is dangerous. Saying the election is rigged against your candidate with absolutely no evidence to back it up, is tantamount to saying that the results of the election (if your candidate loses) are null and void, therefore you feel no obligation to recognize the winner as the legitimate president. Our fragile democracy is based upon the idea that the minority accepts the will of the majority in elections and in return, the majority accepts the rights of the minority, as defined in our constitution. Please don't tell me that under the Obama administration, and a potential Clinton administration, your Second Amendment rights are and will be violated. As guns become ever more efficient and deadly, never in our history have so many guns been available to so many people for so little effort. That is unlikely to change no matter who becomes president, My point is this, if enough angry white people decide the election is null and void, there are unfortunately enough of them in this country to cause some real trouble, perhaps even to the point of destabilizing our democratic republic, something we claim to value and treasure, to its core.

This may not be a problem for you. You have said what this country needs is change and as an outsider, Donald Trump is the man who will no longer do business as usual. But think about it, if you're having health issues and are unhappy with the team of medical professionals working for you, to whom would you turn for a change in your health care, a real estate developer turned reality TV star? Ah you say but Donald Trump can turn the country around because he is a very successful businessman who understands how the economy and politics work. His leadership skills would make him fit right in with the demands of head of state and commander-in-chief. That rhetoric plays well in a campaign. But candidates talk, presidents govern. It's foolish to assume that someone who is completely green when it comes to the machinations of government can walk into the Oval Office and run a country. And let's face it, Donald Trump's success as a businessman is highly suspect; true he's done very well for himself, but as another successful businessman said about him, "you don't fly away from four bankruptcies in your own private jet."

As I said, my opinions of Trump stated here are nothing but opinions based solely upon my observations of the man during the campaign. You can take them or leave them. Like you I have been exposed to spin from the other side, juvenile anti-Trump memes, highly biased pro-Clinton websites and vitriolic anti-Trump comments from friends on social media. Even though as you know, I have a very strong negative opinion about Trump, I try to put my personal feelings and the feelings of like-minded individuals in their proper context. As I pride myself on being fair and open minded, I'd love to hear from you if you think I'm misguided about Trump, or missing something important.

In return I'd like to ask a favor. I'd like to ask that you as well put all the extraneous stuff aside, including your own personal feelings about the Clintons and President Obama, We're voting for president, not our drinking buddies. If you do feel compelled to post opinions on Hillary Clinton, please try to stick to rational facts based on personal observation, not opinions of others whose ideology happens to jibe with yours.  On occasion, read as I do, publications you wouldn't normally read, and try to see where those writers are coming from, rather than automatically dismissing them because they have a different ideology from you. On the same token I'd like to ask all my Clinton supporting friends to do the same. You may be surprised that people on the other side aren't as different from you as you'd like to think.

Or you might not. But whatever you do, please vote with your head and not your heart. I agree with Donald Trump on one point, this election is probably the most important one you'll ever face in your life. No matter whom you vote for, please base that vote on intelligence, rationality and insight, not on fear, anger and hatred.

Thank you for your attention.

your friend,


Monday, October 17, 2016


So far the Major League playoffs have lived up to everybody's expectations as far as compelling baseball has been concerned. That of course is unless your team has been eliminated. It's especially true for Washington Nationals fans who have yet to see their team, on paper one of the better teams for the past several years, win a playoff series, ever. My hometown Chicago Cubs keep rolling along as millions and millions of Americans are rooting for them to end their 71 year World Series and 108 year Championship droughts.

Yesterday I had a little Facebook exchange with a friend extolling our mutual admiration for the Cubs' young infielder, Javier Baez. Another friend chimed in: "It's amazing how you White Sox fans have gotten on the Cubs bandwagon." My response was that I am a baseball fan first and a White Sox fan second, which is true. Many of my fellow Sox fans don't feel the same way, as they take pains to profess their abject hatred for the Cubs. Watering holes in the traditional Sox bastions on the far south side of the city get nationwide attention for posting "Go (whatever team is currently playing the Cubs)" signs outside their establishments whenever the Cubs get into the playoffs.

That animosity is understandable as the South Side of Chicago where the Sox play, always gets the short shrift when it comes to getting attention in this city, unless that attention has to do with murder and mayhem. The Sox as well are the poor stepchild to the Cubs when it comes to media coverage. I think that's what attracted me to the team in the first place, more years ago than I care to admit.

Without any reservation, I'm rooting for the Cubs to win it all this year. That said, I'm still not a Cubs fan, at least not in the strictest sense of the term. It's been said that the term "fan" short for fanatic, was coined by Chris von der Ahe, the colorful owner of the old St. Louis Browns, the team that would later become the Cardinals. In the 19th Century, the term for a devoted follower of a particular baseball team was "crank", an appropriate word, especially describing a fan's state of being when his or her team loses. But fan(atic) is even more appropriate as it describes the emotional response to the success or failure of an organization comprised of mercenary strangers who are hired to play a game, for a huge compensation I might add.

In other words, it's completely irrational to be a fan of a professional sports team. The same can be said about falling in love. As anyone who has ever experienced unrequited love knows, it can plunge the victim into the deepest depths of pain and depression. The experience of the pain of loving someone who does not love you back can be so profound, so crippling, it makes you wonder why anyone would allow him or herself to become attached to another human being in such a way. On the other hand, as anyone who has ever fallen in love can tell you, it can be the most thrilling, exhilarating, magnificent feeling in the world. The two feelings intrinsically correspond, the more you are in love with someone, the greater the potential of heartbreak as well as ecstasy.

Rooting for a sports team is much the same. I think back to when the White Sox won the World Series eleven years ago. Until the Houston Astros made the last out in the last game of the 2005 Series, I was miserable. Even though the Sox won all but one game of the playoffs and the World Series, every game was close and nerve racking. My pulse was racing, my nerves were shot, my heart was palpitating for two weeks. Year after year of disappointment as a Chicago sports fan convinced me that somehow, someway, my team would blow it. That feeling continued until Game Four of the World Series with the tying run on second and two outs in the bottom of the ninth when Astro Orlando Palmeiro grounded out to Juan Uribe, winning the championship for the White Sox.

I know Cub fans all over the world including my son, are going through that same misery right now. Frankly, I have enough to worry about in my life, I don't want to go through all that myself. At this writing, the Cubs just lost game two of the NLCS to the LA Dodgers, and I'm perfectly fine with that. If the Cubs lose two nights from now I'll be OK and if somehow the Dodgers manage to win the series, I'll feel bad, truly bad, especially for the folks who are a part of the Cubs diaspora who have waited all their lives to see their team actually win something. But I won't be depressed.

Rooting for a team you're not a fan of is much like being a grandparent, you can enjoy your grandkid (or team) until it becomes tired, cranky, and not much fun to be around, then give it back to its parents, (or fans).

By the same token, if the Chicago Cubs  manage to win the National League Championship and possibly the World Series this year, I'll be extremely happy for my Cub fan friends and family who have suffered with the team their entire lives. I'll be happy for my city which desperately needs something to celebrate at this moment. I'll be happy for baseball, as I believe that the Cubs are the best team in the game right now and will have deserved to win. And I'll be happy for the Cubs organization as I respect the players and the people who have put this team together. Heck I even like the owner as I've done some work for him.  But I won't be able to share the ecstacy with them because I am not truly a Cubs fan(atic). It's not by choice, it just is. In other words, I root for the Cubs in my head, but not in my heart. Doing so would be irrational.

As far as baseball is concerned, I'm saving my heart for the White Sox, the true unrequited love of my life.

Go Cubs.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Photographs of the Month

September 4- Skycube, 2015, by David Wallace Haskins,
Elmhurst Art Museum

September 4- Skycube, 2015, by David Wallace Haskins, 
Elmhurst Art Museum, Elmhurst, Illinois

September 4 - The Praying Mantis that ate Elmhurst

September 4 - McCormick House, Elmhurt Art Museum

September 6 - Bill Foster, Art Institute of Chicago

September 7 - CTA Purple Line
September 17 - Evanston, Illinois

September 19 - State Street

September 19- Belmont Avenue, CTA Red Line

September 30- CTA Red Line

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Homer in the Gloamin

The Chicago Cubs are possibly on the verge of making history. They've already won 100 games this season which in itself is a milestone, and as the best team in baseball at the moment, are poised to be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming playoffs. Most anybody who cares about such things knows the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 and haven't appeared in the Fall Classic since 1945. But most forget that the Cubs were one of the best teams in the major leagues in the first half of the twentieth century, making it to the Big Dance ten times and winning it twice. The team they put on the field in the first decade of the twentieth century is considered by many to have been one of the best baseball teams ever assembled and the 1906 team won more games in one season, 116, than any other team until the Seattle Mariners did it in 2001, having eight more chances to do it.

It must be pointed out that the 1906 Cubs lost the World Series to the White Sox (sorry Cubs fans, I just had to get that dig in), and the 2001 Mariners  didn't even make it to the World Series, losing the American League Championship Series to the Yankees. Such is baseball.

My point is this, the Cubs have a long, storied history, it's just that not too many people are around to remember it. One of the greatest moments in Chicago baseball history took place 78 years ago today.

In the middle of the 1938 season, Charlie “Jolly Cholly” Grim was fired as the Cub's manager and replaced by their long time catcher Gabby Hartnett.

The Cubs were in fourth place, seven games behind the Pirates at the beginning of September. Under their new manager, the team went 17-3 that month when the Pirates came to town for the final series of the year, ahead by only one and one half games.

Hartnett had several sore arms to contend with on his pitching staff. Perhaps the sorest arm of them all was Dizzy Dean's, who's owner had been struggling with pain all season. Still Hartnett had little choice but to put Dean in to pitch the first game of the series. Diz did OK, pitching eight scoreless innings, but lost his stuff in the ninth. In came reliever Bill Lee who Harnett would later recall: “cut loose with as wild a pitch as I ever saw”, allowing the potential tying run to advance to third. But Lee got out of the jam striking out the last batter, getting the save for Dizzy Dean and the Cubs; the final score: 2-1.

September 28, Wrigley Field- The following day, Clay Bryant started for the Cubs, Bob Klinger for the Bucs. In a seesaw battle, Pittsburgh scored two runs in the eighth to take a 5-3 lead, but the Cubs came back with two of their own in the bottom of the frame leaving the game tied going into the ninth.

By that time it was almost 6PM and twilight had set in on the north side of Chicago. The umpires came close to calling the game on account of darkness. They were anxious to get the game in however as they would otherwise have start from scratch the following day as part of a double header as league rules required back in those days.

The Pirates did not score in their half of the ninth. In the bottom of the inning, The Cubs' Phil Cavarretta hit a deep drive to center field that was hauled in by Lloyd Waner. Then Carl Reynolds grounded out. Next up was manager/catcher Hartnett. By this time it was dangerously dark and the game certainly would be called if Harnett didn't get aboard. Now pitching for the Bucs was their stud reliever, Mace Brown. Brown threw Harnett a couple of curves. The Cubs' manager wiffed on the first and managed to foul off the second, just barely. As Brown described it years later:

When he was swinging at one of (the pitches), he just looked like a schoolboy, and I said to myself, I'll just throw him a better one and strike him out.

Unfortunately for Brown, the thrid pitch was not a better one. Here's how Harnett described it:

I swung with everything I had, and then I got that feeling... you get when the blood rushes out of your head and you get dizzy.

Gabby Hartnett crosses home plate followed by appreciative fans 
in Wrigley Field after hitting the most famous
home run in Chicago baseball history,
Scott Podsednik's 2005 heroics notwithstanding.
He didn't mention how he managed to see the ball let alone make contact, but make contact he did and the ball ended up in the left center bleachers. It was so dark at the time, the only players on the field who realized what had happened at that instant were Mace Brown and Gabby Harnett.

Soon everyone in the park realized what happened and half of them it seemed accompanied Harnett as he circled the bases.

That home run which has gone down in history as “The Homer in the Gloamin'” vaulted the Cubs over the Pirates by one half a game. They would win 10-1 the next day, taking the series and the pennant away from the Pirates.

The Cubs would go on to be swept by the Yankees in the World Series, but the 1938 season would forever be remembered for that pennant race and Hartnett's home run, perhaps the single greatest moment in Chicago baseball history.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Summer, where have you gone?

Photographers are more attuned to the changing seasons than average folks. Those of us who depend on where the sun is in the sky are particularly aware of two particular times of the year when everything changes. The change that takes place on the two solstices, winter and summer are subtle, barely perceptible for a least a few weeks when it becomes apparent that the daylight is either waxing or waning. It is the two equinoxes, spring and fall, as the sun crosses the equator, when the real change happens. In spring, anything that faces north will see it's first rays of sunshine for six months. Conversely in autumn, those northern exposures say goodbye to the sun for a long winter's nap,  It's especially apparent in a city like Chicago where streets run parallel to the lines of latitude and longitude. Here buildings on these perpendicular streets have a facade facing due north. If you want to photograph a north facade illuminated by sunlight, you have to shoot it roughly between March 22 and September 22nd, interestingly enough, my mother and wife's respective birthdays.

It's those streets running due east and due west that witness sunrise and sunset directly at their vanishing points. Case in point:

This picture was made yesterday, approximately 14 hours before the sun crossed the equator this morning, marking the inexorable march toward winter in the northern hemisphere, and summer in the southern hemisphere.

These milestones of every year, like birthdays, anniversaries, and the New Year, signify the inexorable march of time, or rather, in the words of the poet Henry Austin Dobson:

Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go.

Alas such is life. 
If only we wouldn't go so fast.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Some memories and a prayer for peace

This summer, my son and I visited the National September 11 Memorial, the magnificent tribute to the victims of the terror attacks built on the site of Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood in lower Manhattan. In case you missed it, here is my post about that visit.

Exactly ten years ago, New York Times Op Ed columnist Frank Rich wrote an article describing what in his opinion was America "letting go" of the events of September 11, 2001. To illustrate his point, he used a photograph made by Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker of five young adults sitting on the banks of the East River, engaged in what appeared to be casual conversation while behind them, smoke billowed from the site where the World Trade Center stood just hours before. Rich's point was that not only had the country moved on from the tragedy after five years, but the folks in the photograph had already moved on that very day. Here's his assessment of the American character based upon that one photograph:
Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker’s photo aren’t necessarily callous. They’re just American.
Rich turned out to be dead wrong about the picture. Ten years after his article, one would be hard pressed to support his assumption that this country as a whole has gotten over 9/11. Yes there are exceptions, you can read about some of them in my post written five years ago on the tenth anniversary

Hard to believe, but today is the fifteenth anniversary of that terrible day. We continue to remember the victims, the places where they perished, Shanksville, PA.Washington D.C. and New York City, their loved ones, and the people who suffered and died in the wars that followed. In doing so we pray for peace in the world, an end to suffering and violence, and a time of understanding between nations and peoples. We most certainly will not see this come to pass in our lifetime, most likely not in our children's lifetimes, and possibly not ever, but it is our duty as citizens of the world to try.

How can we not?

In memory of that day, please indulge my quoting words that come from faith, but words I believe speak to all men and women of good will, regardless of their creed or lack of one, words that define what it means to be a human being.

The prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Guilty as charged

In a Washington Post article titled It's time to stop talking about racism with white people, the author Zack Linly makes the point that most whites either cannot or refuse to comprehend the injustices facing black people in this country, especially in light of the recent focus on African American people being killed by the police. He cites many examples of white people being "dismissive" of the problem and as the title to the piece indicates, he's willing to throw in the towel as far as trying to convince them otherwise.

Here's a list of things white people say that proves, according to the author. they just don't get it:
  • “There must be more to the story.”
  • “If you people would just do what you’re told.”
  • “Cops have a hard job.”
  • “White people get shot too.”
  • “He was just another thug. Good riddance!”
  • “Why do you people make everything about race?”
  • “What about black on black crime?”
  • All lives matter.”
Turns out I'm one of those white people he's talking about. I've expressed at least four out of those eight sentiments right here in this space. And while in the context of this issue I understand the sentiment behind Black Lives Matter movement, I also believe deep in my heart that all lives (including blue ones) matter, although I don't state that publicly. Oops guess I just did, sorry, that makes five. 

So far this year, six people have been shot and killed by the police in the City of Chicago and eleven have been shot and wounded, which is roughly on the same pace as last year. I don't have the data on the race of the victims, the cops in those shootings, or the circumstances behind those deaths and injuries. I can only assume some may have been the result of power obsessed, racist cops abusing their authority. Others may have been tragic cases of mistaken motives or identity of the victims. And still others may have been the result of a police officer confronting an armed person both willing and able to take the life of that officer, and perhaps others. Most of the circumstances probably fall somewhere in between, as no two police shootings are the same.

Six instances of police killing civilians are indeed six too many but yes, there is more to the story.

On the flip side, there have been 500 homicides in Chicago so far this year, surpassing the total number of murders from last year, and it's barely September. The vast majority, 78.2 percent of those murdered in Chicago this year were black people. We can't know exactly because most of those crimes will never be solved, but I think it's fairly safe to assume that the racial breakdown of people doing the killing is a comparable number. Using those statistics and assumptions, if you were a black person in Chicago this year, you were at least sixty five times more likely to be murdered by another black person than by a police officer. As I've said before, separating the violence in the African American community from the police killings is disingenuous.

The author of the Post article claims that white people
aren’t paying attention to these stories (of the police shootings) out of fear for their lives and the lives of their children and spouses; they are only tuned in out of black and brown contempt.
Obviously I can't speak for all white people. The author is absolutely correct in assuming that as a white man, I cannot possibly know what it's like to be black in this country. I don't know what it's like to be constantly harassed by cops, or judged harshly by people unlike me simply because of the color of my skin.

It's also true that I cannot imagine having been brought up without two loving parents who taught me to respect others as well as myself, parents who praised me when I did right and let me know in no uncertain terms when I didn't. I don't know what it's like to have to find a parental figure somewhere out on the streets, someone who doesn't have my best interests at heart, someone who wouldn't give his or her life for me if he or she had to, in other words, a parental figure who doesn't give a shit about me.

That's exactly the plight of far too many children living in our cities today. No child should have to live under those circumstances, not is there a good reason for it to be so, but that's the reality for tens of thousands of children in our city alone. Combine those kids growing into teenagers who don't give a shit about themselves or anybody else, poverty, segregation, and the criminally outrageous availability of guns in this country, and we get the situation we find ourselves in today.

By the way Mr. Linly, I live in a neighborhood where it's not unusual to hear gunshots from our home, and in a city where life is often considered cheap. So please don't tell me that I'm "not invested", "don't have skin in the game" or that I don't live in constant fear for the safety of my wife and children. I've invested plenty in this city that I love dearly, both the black and white of it, with literally my blood, sweat and tears.

The same is true for all the hard working people of Chicago of every race, creed and walk of life.

Incidentally, the Washington Post article came to my attention as it was posted by a white Facebook friend who lives in San Francisco. It was followed in my FB feed by a picture of a young black girl holding up a sign that read, "Stop the violence, let me grow up" posted by a black friend who lives on the south side of Chicago.

That little girl's chances of growing up, something all of us should be concerned about. are not going to improve by well intentioned people sitting out the national anthem, or chanting inflammatory slogans. Unfortunately we live in a society where ideology, slogans and symbols are more important than critical thinking and self-reflection.

Until that changes, I'm afraid we can only expect more of the same.