Chicago Elections 2019: Willie Horton Comes to Rogers Park

Willie Horton Comes to Rogers Park

by Lew Rosenbaum

[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page.

The People’s Tribune encourages reproduction articles so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org Please donate whatever you can to the People’s Tribune! We are supported by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no advertisements. Donate via PayPal at peoplestribune.org or send to PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.]

Most of my older friends will know what I am talking about when I ask “Do you remember Willie Horton?’  They may not remember the year, the presidential campaign, and the names of the candidates. They’ll know I’m not talking about a baseball player and his homerun hitting heroics.

The candidates were George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988.  The latter, a Democrat, hailed from Massachusetts and opposed the death penalty. Horton, an African-

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Mug shot of Willie Horton from the 1988 G.H.W. Bush campaign ad

American man, had been convicted of murder.  He was on leave from prison under a program in place while Dukakis was governor.  While furloughed, Horton raped a white woman and stabbed her partner.

Bush launched an ad with the mug shot of Horton, and with these words spoken by a narrator and flashing across the screen: “Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison,” and ends with “Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on crime.”

Unless you have forgotten your recent history, you know that Bush I won in a landslide

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Detroit Tiger Willie Horton, NOT the subject of the campaign ad

over Dukakis, and that this ad was very successful.  It tapped into the long simmering racial schism that has besmirched this country since its inception.  It is the primary way an otherwise out-of-touch elite has been able to divide and conquer, especially after the Civil War (when legal equality between white and Black began to be legislated). It has been all over the map, openly, in the last two years with a federal administration that courts the KKK and the Nazis, while using the one word “wall” to summon up the most vicious myths of people “threatening” our existence. And now Willie Horton has come to Rogers Park.

Today, February 22, the birthday of George Washington (incidentally the wealthiest man in North America at the time of the revolution, a considerable amount of that property in enslaved people), the postal person delivered two mailers. They say substantially the same thing:  “Maria Hadden wants to take police officers from safe neighborhoods.” She “supports moving officers from Rogers Park to other neighborhoods, putting our safety at risk.” Joe is white.  Maria is Black. Pictures of each. In stereotypical fashion, Rogers Park is safe (because it has cops); the South and West sides are unsafe (because they don’t have cops).

First of all, does anybody reading this NOT see: the “Black woman is soft on crime”

Maria soft on crime?

Joe Moore’s “Willie Horton” leaflet

message in this? Does anyone NOT see: residents of Rogers Park, especially white residents, are supposed to protect themselves from the hordes on the South and West Side with this message?  This is a barely clothed appeal for white unity.

Second, the source for the smear is an answer that Maria gave on the IVI-IPO questionnaire to aldermanic candidates.  The question (#82) is: “Do you support reallocating police services from high-crime to low-crime neighborhoods?”  There is no sane person who would answer that question “No.”  Moore himself “reallocates police services” within his ward from one neighborhood to the next depending on the crime rate.  It is bogus.  But it is sensationalized in this mailer.

Third, if we are going to talk about soft on crime:  what about Moore destabilizing the community by advocating with the Mayor to close half the mental health clinics in the city (there were only 12 at the time; now there are six) including one in the 49th ward?  What about lying to the community that they could find the services they need in the privatized sector?  The reality is that Cook County Jail has become the largest provider of mental health services in the County.  Thanks Joe.

And what about public schools, the anchors of the neighborhoods?  Maria has always championed the neighborhood school, while Joe has led the fight to privatize education — he has brought two charter schools into this community, stealing resources from both the elementary schools and the high school. He advocated for a third charter to which  community residents expressed such opposition that the plan fell through. Joe supported efforts to close two neighborhood schools (parents and teachers resisted this and embarrassed him so badly he could not complete that plan);  he ignored legitimate and documented claims of lead paint in Gale School, thus delaying remediation — he claimed that he did not know of a study CPS had done a decade earlier that revealed the lead paint, and that CPS (in typical Daley-Emanuel style) had simply neglected to correct.  Community residents had to embarrass him at a meeting on violence in the ward that he called to welcome a new police commander. We pointed out that lead paint in the schools does a violence to our community. We also pointed out that the school had been

Maria soft on crime? 1

Maria Hadden’s plan addresses the root causes of crime

asking CPS to fix a fire alarm that was out of order and got no response from his office nor from CPS. In a school named after Stephen Gale, who from 1844-47 served as the chief engineer of the Fire Department, Moore failed to advocate for fire safety. In a city that early in its existence almost completely burned down! If he wanted to reduce violence he should pay a little attention to that kind of violence.

And then there is the little matter of housing and services. Diana and I moved into Rogers Park a few years after Joe became alderman. One could find affordable housing here still, but the winds of change were blowing.  The Rogers Park Community Action Network (RPCAN) had its hands full doing the research and confronting the alderman about prospective TIFS and redevelopment plans that were created sub rosa, without community input, while continuing to disinvest in the area north of Howard, the most poverty stricken area of the ward.  At one point, the alderman denied that plans to redevelop were in existence, only to find RPCAN had found them and made copies to distribute among activists.  Complete plans, in fact, with extensive implications for community residents such as displacement at least by rapidly increasing rents. You can see how Moore had learned the business of denial, which he employed in his stonewalling Gale’s lead paint, early on in his administration. Development with displacement has become the rule in this ward as affordable units are converted to luxury units;  and only with tremendous resistance are affordable units maintained.

Joe Moore:  a friend to private developers, privatization of public mental health services, privatization of public schools.

So who mailed this flyer smearing Maria Hadden with Willie Horton claims?  “Paid for,” it says, “by INCS Action Independent Committee.”  Further, the INCS AIC is not authorized by Joe, nor did Joe authorize the content of this communication. In Crook County, are we to believe the emperor has a tuxedo?  INCS is the acronym for the “Illinois Network of Charter Schools,” and the “Action Independent Committee” is a PAC that supports candidates that support charter schools. Joe has been THE pivotal person on city council to block an advisory referendum from coming before the entire city electorate on an elected school board.  And, as mentioned above, he has been actively soliciting charter schools to his ward to the detriment of the public neighborhood schools in the ward.  Joe is clearly acting in their interest, a mainstay on the city council at a time when nearly every mayoral candidate now has expressed a concern about proliferating charters and declared a willingness to invoke a moratorium on charter expansion. Incidentally, the INCS PAC has contributed heavily to Moore’s campaign.

The history of the 49th ward is an important one.  In 1983,organizers in this ward were on the front lines organizing on the North Side for Harold Washington.  While Alderman O’Connor (just south of the 49th in the 40th ward) joined with “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak and Ed Burke to lead the pernicious Council Wars against newly elected Mayor Washington, David Orr from this ward took a leadership role in organizing to support the Mayor. The election of 1983 was a partisan election — that is contested by Republicans and Democrats.  Washington won the Democratic primary by a plurality among the three major candidates.  Winning a Democratic primary was the expected prelude to a guarantee to occupy the mayor’s office — at least for the entire 50 years prior to 1983. O’Connor et al were shocked by Washington’s stunning victory and deserted the Democratic Party to endorse the Republican candidate. But once Washington won, the Vrdolyak 29 engineered changing the primary system so that never again, they thought, could a radical emerge as a winner.  Thus came about the “non-partisan” mayoral and aldermanic elections we have today. The form of this was a racist attack on Washington. The content, however, was an attack on the movement that Washington symbolized, a movement of the disenfranchised, the working class of the city in all its hues. Momentarily a movement emerged that began to recognize that there was no demand that the African-American working class could make that would not benefit the entire class.

And now, 36 years after the Harold Washington election, the Bush-Trump-and-Vrydolyak-like Democrat in office in the 49th ward conducts a racist smear campaign against a candidate I have no hesitance in comparing with Harold Washington. Joe should be ashamed of himself.  But then Joe, after 28 years feeding from the trough of the privatizers, has no shame.  I hope that the good voters of the 49th ward will resist the politics of division and embrace the politics that has long characterized our ward: the politics of a multicultural, diverse class unity.  I’m casting my vote for Maria.

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Chicago Elections 2019: Interview with Erika Wozniak Francis

[Eric Allen Yankee, on behalf of the People’s Tribune, interviewed Erica Wozniak Francis, running for alderwoman in the 46th ward.]

Housing is a Human Right

Eric Allen Yankee interviews  Erika Wozniak Francis

*EAY Why did you get into the race?

EWF I decided to run for alderman of the 46th Ward because I believe strongly that our community needs and deserves principled, progressive leadership that can stand up for all its residents and ensure the 46th Ward is a place where we ALL can thrive. For too long, we’ve been represented by an alderman who puts the interests of big corporate pt.2019.02.09_erikawozniakdevelopers, wealthy campaign donors, and Mayor Emanuel ahead of the very real needs of the 46th Ward’s residents.
I’ve spent my career standing up for progressive values. Whether it was speaking out against the Emanuel administration’s egregious misspending of $55 million that were meant for CPS on private interests; or fighting back against the 50 school closings that devastated so many communities, including our own, I’ve always tried to do what’s right for Chicagoans.
I’m rooted in my values because of my upbringing and my family. I come from a working class family–my father was a public school teacher for 38 years, and my mother worked office jobs. At a young age, I was taught to look out for others who may not be able to stand up for themselves. This has been my life’s mission.
We can do better—through compassionate, responsible, principled leadership. I will bring that leadership to our ward and to City Council.

**EAY What are the main issues you think are important in the campaign?

EWF Education: Every child deserves access to a high-quality public education in their own community. As alderman, I will focus on providing fair and equal resources for our neighborhood schools with wrap around social services, strong programming and funding for early childhood development.
Public Safety: I believe in a proactive approach to keeping our community safe. I will work to advance public safety policies that support well-trained, fully-staffed public safety departments that work in strong cooperation with the diverse civic communities they serve. I will create and maintain a service-oriented, community-centric ward office so that all resident concerns brought to me are addressed swiftly and appropriately.
Housing: Housing is a human right. I will make sure development is ethical, equitable, and puts the needs of our neighbors above the interests of big developers and corporations. As a teacher, I have to meet the needs of every child in my classroom. As alderman, I will work to ensure that every resident in the ward has a safe place to live, and every neighborhood in the ward receives services equitably; from street sweeping and sidewalk maintenance to parks and public safety. I will engage representative voices from the 46th Ward, and create opportunities for all neighborhoods in the ward to be heard.

***EAY How would you as an Alderman approach the issue of Homelessness in the 46th ward?

EWF With empathy. I would work to ensure that those experiencing homelessness have a seat at the table while making decisions about policy that will directly affect them. I will work with existing organizations to help to get those experiencing homelessness access to both housing and the services they need. I support the Bring Chicago Home initiative.

****EAY What are some of the city wide issues you will address as an Alderman? How do you see yourself working with other Alderman?

EWF To boost our local economy, we must focus on creating and protecting living wage and prevailing wage jobs with good benefits and paid sick and family leave. We must foster a diverse economy and provide equitable opportunities to those who have been pushed to the margins.
As alderman, I will work with other progressive leaders to fight for a strong local economy that works for all of us, including the passage of a $15 minimum wage. I support the Chicago Fair Workweek Ordinance to give Chicago workers more control over unpredictable, last-minute workweek schedules that make it difficult for people to

Erika and other challengers in 46th ward

Erika Wozniak Francis and the other challengers show their united determination to unseat Cappleman, gentrifier in chief, whom Mayor Emanuel has just gifted with chairmanship of the Zoning Committee

predict their income from week to week. I will stand with workers seeking to organize and bargain collectively, as I have done throughout my career as a union steward. I believe that access to affordable healthcare is a human right. In the 46th Ward, uninsured and underinsured people suffer from inadequate access to physical and mental healthcare. With affordable, accessible healthcare under attack by the Trump administration, and many 46th Ward residents still reeling from the closure of Chicago’s public mental health clinics, we need an alderman who will stand up and fight for access for all our residents. In addition, our physical and mental health is intimately linked to environmental health: it is difficult to take care of our planet when our basic needs for survival aren’t being met. As alderman, I will work to fully fund our city’s remaining public mental health clinics to ensure neighborhood residents have equal access to psychologists and other healthcare professionals on site.
I will work with other members of council to take immediate action to address aging infrastructure – such as lead pipes leaching lead into our drinking water – that poses health risks to children and adults. I support the broader goal of establishing investment policy that mandates investment in ESG (environmentally responsible, sustainable and good governance practices) compliant investments and committing to move the City to 100% clean energy sources by 2030. I will advocate for the ban of coal tar sealants from being sold or used in Chicago. This ban will help prevent dust from coal tar, a known human carcinogen, from polluting our air and being tracked into our homes. I will join the fight to demand a full audit of the City’s recycling and waste management programs, and advocate for smart solutions. The Department of Streets and Sanitation recycling contract is up for renewal in 2018. Today, the City’s recycling program falls far short of where it should be, and aldermen lack the data they need to evaluate it effectively.
[We encourage reproduction of articles from the People’s Tribune, so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org.
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Chicago Elections 2019: The Four Aldermen of the Apocalypse

[This article was written for the People’s Tribune Chicago Area Facebook Page by Lew Rosenbaum.  This is a tale of four aldermen embroiled in the kind of corruption Chicago is known for — and the challengers who are bringing the demands of the people to the polls on February 26.

The People’s Tribune encourages reproduction of this article so long as you credit the source. Copyright © 2019 People’s Tribune. Visit us at http://peoplestribune.org Please donate whatever you can to the People’s Tribune! We are supported by reader donations. We get no grants, have no paid staff and have no advertisements. Donate via PayPal at peoplestribune.org or send to PT, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.]

Chicago Elections 2019: The Four Aldermen of the Apocalypse

by Lew Rosenbaum

In this election season, the truth is clear now: Chicago lies at the corruption center of Crook County.  Retiring Alderman Solis (25thward) wore an FBI wire for two years and, in the wake of revelations about his trading sexual favors, was stripped of his Zoning Commission chairmanship (it’s now obvious why he decided not to seek re-election); Ed Burke (still running in the 14thward) has been indicted for extortion and stripped of his chairmanship of the Finance Committee.  These two most powerful chairs, allies of Mayor Emanuel, have been replaced by two more staunch cronies of the Mayor (Cappleman from the 46th, O’Connor from the 40th).  These four wards are shaping up as key battlegrounds in the February elections. As Chicagoans bring their demands to a political elite wallowing at the public trough—an elite who refuse to hear their constituents – insurgent candidates are fighting to become the representatives of a program of the people.

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Byron Sigcho-Lopez

Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who ran for the office of alderman in the 25th ward in 2015, is running again.  He has supported the People’s Tribune and has the endorsement of the CTU and the Pilsen Alliance, and has fought in the 25thward for education and housing for all. He also signed on to the five point program advocated by the Concerned Puerto Rican Voters, a program of what we-the-people need to survive.

In Burke’s ward Tanya Patino is striving to win against long odds, but this year, because of the indictments, Burke may be vulnerable.  Patino  has been endorsed by Chuy Garcia (who also endorsed Hilario Dominguez in the 25thWard). Patino told the Chicago Tribune that this is these are her top priorities: “The top campaign issues I am advocating for are; equitable education and social services funding, funding housing improvements and security to improve residents homes and facilitate them remaining in the community, increasing opportunities for and access to good jobs which will also require more frequent and reliable transportation services in the neighborhood, and a greater focus on safety in our neighborhoods. To accomplish that I intend to work to pass legislation such as an Elected Representative School Board, TIF Reform, a reformed property tax system, rent control, a $15 minimum wage, Fair Workweek Ordinance, a welcoming ordinance with no carve-

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Taanya Patino

outs, abolishing the gang database and new activities for our youth.”

Hopefully, O’Connor and Cappleman will not be around to enjoy their new chairmanships for long.  In both wards, at least three worthy opponents are vying for their seats.  In the 46th, activists Erika Wozniak Francis, Angela Clay and Marianne Lalonde have challenged the incumbent.  The 46thward is where the city evicted an encampment of people who were homeless from a sheltered area under the Lawrence and Wilson viaducts.  Cappleman lied when he promised to find homes for the people living in the encampment.  Public housing,  education, and sufficient social services are among the chief concerns of the ward. Erika recently spoke at a United Working Families and People’s Tribune joint fundraiser and was interviewed by Eric Allen Yankee for the People’s Tribune. Her full interview is available on this pageHere is a snapshot of  two other challengers:

46-lalondeMarianne Lalonde (46th Ward) “We need to ensure housing stays affordable – meaning we must preserve each and every unit of affordable housing in our ward, and also add more. As we’re adding additional units, we should add family-sized affordable housing where parents can raise their children and send them to 46th ward schools, creating a long-term investment in our community.”

Angela ClayAngela Clay (46th Ward) “Uptown’s history and core values of community, family, opportunity, and affordability are all currently under attack. Many of my neighbors, longtime residents who built this community, are being displaced because they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood that made them. Without investing in our schools, affordable housing & resources, our neighborhood will continue to push us out – which is why this matters. Uptown matters! Affordability matters! Your vote matters!”

 

The nearby 40thward also boasts three challengers all of whom are responding to concerns that the incumbent refuses to heed.  Here Diane  Daleiden, Andre Vasquez and Ugo Ukere all express that housing is the major issue (Daleiden, whose experience is as a teacher, also speaks authoritatively about what needs to be done in the public schools).  In both the 40thand 46thwards, the sometimes unspoken fundamental issue that strides forth is privatization on steroids: unbridled corporate development without any attempt at affordable housing and encouragement of charter schools.  Here are thumbnail 40-daleidensketches of what the 4oth ward challengers are saying:

Dianne Daleiden (40th Ward) “My number one priority to help traditional neighborhood schools. We are building a two-tiered education system in Chicago, with privatized charter schools and some elite schools getting the resources they need, while other schools suffer. If we really want to improve educational outcomes, we have to invest in traditional attendance based neighborhood schools.”

40-vasquez

Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) “On a public policy level, affordable housing is the number one issue that I hear from neighbors who are being priced out of this ward every day when I knock doors. I support the creation of affordable housing in my ward and across the city in a lot of different ways: rent control, greater investment of public dollars in housing stock and rent subsidy, and protection of existing affordable housing.”

40-okereUgo Okere (40th Ward) “I have been a vocal opponent of the Cop Academy because the issue of crime and violence in this city is an issue of austerity. Instead of further investments in the carceral and repressive functions of the city, money needs to go into public schools, the re-opening of expansive mental health clinics, and community centers to tackle the root causes of violence – poverty and youth who are given no path to a better future. Ending gun and intra-community violence means properly compensating and supporting teachers in CPS, by hiring social workers, nurses and teachers in every school.”

There is a golden thread which ties all these ward struggles together – it is indeed the golden thread of bribery and corruption and subversion of democracy that the corporate control of the electoral process has.  The not-so-veiled hand of the Democratic Party machine is fighting to maintain its power through the city-hall-connected incumbents.  Meanwhile the people are seeing an opportunity to take to these elections the demands they have not been able to have resolved by the miscreants who have occupied these offices for decades. In the wake of the turmoil grass roots leaders are stepping forward in a bid to take on the machine. February 26 can lead one step away from the apocalypse and toward achieving the program of the disenfranchised.  Let’s get prepared for new battles in City Council.

 

Thank You For Your Service — a Review by Lew Rosenbaum

[I became FaceBook friends with Robert Sommer after an exchange with Oklahoma poet laureate Jeanetta Calhoun Mish. Bob was kind enough to send me an advance copy of his book then.  Although I had difficulty extracting myself from the book once I started reading it, the content was difficult for me to process.  Difficult as any important story told with lyrical and thoughtful earnestness. Difficult to figure out the entry point into such a complex story.  Thanks to Jeannetta for the indirect introduction, and to Bob for writing.The FB page for Losing Francis is here. You can order Losing Francis (Fomite Press, 2018, $15) through your local bookstore or other used and new sources. ]

Thank You For Your Service

A Review of Robert Sommer’s Losing Francis

by Lew Rosenbaum

 

“Sometimes people told me . . . thank him for his service. They were sincere. They meant well. But now, after years of war, and with so little sacrifice by so many and so much by so few, phrases like that resonate in the hollow white noise of bumper-sticker platitudes that have become the background chorus of our lives.”  Thank him for his service?  What could they know?

That refrain repeats itself, sometimes in Francis’ own words, throughout the Robert Sommer’s powerful collection of connected essays that form a coherent memoir.  Losing Francis gives us a strong and complex rendering of the complicated story of Francis Sommer, the son of anti-war activist parents, a young man who joined the army to fight in Afghanistan. Francis, with an IQ of 140, did poorly in school and barely graduated from high school. Without prospects for college, he resorted to alcohol abuse and found his way to the army as a kind of salvation.  The army deployed him in Iraq and then Afghanistan, and 4 years later, in 2007, discharged him.  He was treated by the VA for PTSD with a variety of medications, went to Johnson City Community College (Kansas City) where he nearly completed his education in culinary arts, and then, drunk, drove his car into a ditch and killed himself in 2011.

I have waited for months to write this.  I’ve actually sat down at the computer three or four times and too much inundated my head.  I couldn’t get straight all the strands, all the interwoven threads.  But somehow the poignancy of “Thank you for your service” seems to strike at the heart of it.  What service?  Francis certainly came to question the rationale for sending him overseas.  When you are “in-country,”  you are obligated to defend your comrades’ backs, because (if for no other reason) you depend on them.  But what about the tasks you are performing on the ground?  And also, imagine the misgivings of parents, like Bob Sommer and his wife Heather, who picket against the war while their son is on the front lines.  Francis comes to understand and support this, but isn’t there at least a little kernel of guilt that can never be assuaged by the slogan: “Support the troops. Bring them home”?

And then, of course, fundamentally, the pragmatism of American life removes us from the fields of conflict, the battlegrounds, such that fewer and fewer people have any personal ties to the wars.  Without a draft, with more and more deployment of drones and high technology warfare, the number of Americans isolated from any action of armed forces in war areas is minimal and shrinking.  Just exactly who are our troops serving?  How does a soldier come to terms with  his or her “service,” perhaps what they have come to regard as crimes committed?

Robert Sommer

Robert Sommer feels bitter about the environment of “so little sacrifice by so many and so much by so few,” where “bumper sticker platitudes” fill the air.  This is how he describes what it was like leading up to his son’s deployment (p. 68):

This is an American project, an American invasion and war, and it is without doubt coming soon, any day, following a long, intense build-up of arms and troops, and fear-mongering by the Administration and its apologists. By now, thanks to additional support for the war (and fear-mongering) in much of the corporate media, Americans have been mostly won over to the cause and along the way have become expert on a handful of factoids about the Middle East, which they recite to one another in coffee shops and kitchens and break rooms and garages and offices and warehouses and bars across the country.

Whoever tells the best story wins the hearts and minds of the people.  And clearly the best story was being told, through the corporate media, and repeated in every venue, over an over again. What makes this observation relevant and resonant are the factoids and platitudes and outright lies swirling in the media environment today.  It’s not clear who has the best story, but it is clear that the best story does not have to be grounded in reality.  And when Francis Sommer returned from deployment, that very unreality clashed with the reality he knew and had experienced.

Francis Sommer – Christmas morning 2007 (from the Fomite Press web site)

Francis Sommer was diagnosed on discharge with PTSD. He showed signs while still on active duty. His father observes that PTSD is not simply isolated to the combatants.  It is contagious, it vitiates families and communities. Much of the narrative that describes Francis after his deactivation portrays his inner and external conflict. That conflict started years earlier.  Robert Sommer tells the story of a call from Iraq in 2004. There were occasions when Francis asked his father to take the call where his mother could not hear.  This was one of those calls.  Francis had killed — by mistake — one of the translators on his team.  He was trying to come to grips with what he had done (the army hand cleared him of any blame) and wanting to hear his father’s voice.  So they exchanged words and assurances.  And, Robert says, “everything wrong with that war was compressed into what had just happened and now what we said . . . turned anger and pity into jingoism and nationalism.”  How can there not be post traumatic stress and its contagion?

The outcome of Losing Francis is betrayed by its title. It’s not entirely clear when Robert and Heather lost Francis — the author questions this as well.  But there is one definitive moment, the moment that the police came to the door to inform the parents about the car crash and the death of their son.  It didn’t matter that they had avoided the scenario they had rehearsed years before, expecting the visit from military personnel.  It didn’t matter that the Francis that returned from war was not the same person as before; or that even the pre-war Francis was, in a sense lost.  This was finality.  It’s over.

Or is it?  Losing Francis brings memory to lyrical life, and “Memory is not altered by truth, only strengthened. . . Like seeing rust on the hillsides, and dying glaciers, and wars.”

One of the most suggestive details in John Singer Sargent’s ‘Gassed’ (1919) is the soccer match in the background, symbolically evoking the contrast between the worlds of war and no-war — a major theme also in ‘Losing Francis: Essays on the Wars at Home.’ (From the FB page for Losing Francis.)

 

Remember Antietam! A Civil War battle contains lessons for today

Remember Antietam!

A Civil War battle contains lessons for today

BY CHRIS MAHIN

It was the bloodiest single day of fighting ever to take place in North America. On that day, more than 2,000 men gave their lives to halt a slaveholders’ army. Within days of their sacrifice, the first step was taken to abolish slavery in the United States. The Civil

Gardner_Confederate_Dead_Antietam

Confederate soldiers lie dead on the battlefield.  “The whole landscape turned slightly red.”  Over 2,000 Union solders were killed

War’s Battle of Antietam deserves to be commemorated by all those fighting to transform society today.

In a sense, the process of abolishing unjust property relations in this country began on September 17, 1862 on a battlefield near Antietam Creek in western Maryland. Twelve hours of hard fighting by brave soldiers that day gave the Union Army a victory of sorts. That gave Abraham Lincoln the political protection he needed to begin steps that would transform the Civil War from a defensive war to save the Union into a revolutionary war to abolish slavery.

Five days after Antietam, Lincoln convened his Cabinet and announced that, if the Confederate states were still in rebellion on January 1, 1863, he would free all their slaves. Lincoln was true to his word and, on New Year’s Day in 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This executive order freed only the slaves in those states or parts of states that were in rebellion. It did not abolish slavery throughout the United States. However, it transformed the nature of the war, and unleashed a process that led inexorably to the

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Abraham Lincoln recognized that Antietam gave him the rationale for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. This portrait of Lincoln was drawn by Charles White.

Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which did abolish slavery throughout the United States.

By the time of the Civil War, slavery in the United States was dominated by wealthy capitalists, most of whom owned thousands of slaves. This tiny elite represented about one percent of the population of the United States. They sold their cotton and other commodities on the world market and were an important part of the world capitalist system. Since the average price of a slave was $1,000 and there were 4 million slaves in the United States, emancipation removed $4 billion in value from the hands of capitalists.

At its time, the abolition of slavery in the United States was the greatest blow to a form of capitalist private property which had ever taken place in history. (That remained true until the Soviet Revolution of 1917.)

So, in a sense, the process of abolishing unjust property relations in this country began on the Antietam battlefield. The stage for the battle was set in early September 1862. Emboldened by several recent victories, General Robert E. Lee moved the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland, a slave state that had remained in the Union. A major Confederate victory inside Union territory would strengthen pro-Confederate sentiment in the North right before the fall 1862 Congressional elections. It might also convince some European powers to intervene in the war on the side of the Confederacy.

Lee believed that the commander of the Union’s Army of the Potomac – General George B. McClellan – was cautious to the point of cowardice. Lee also thought that McClellan’s army would be demoralized from recent defeats. As historian Stephen W. Sears has pointed out, these assessments were “only half right.”

McClellan was a supporter of slavery who constantly made excuses for why he would not

McClellan

General George McClellan: his conduct fully justified Lee’s contempt for him.

fight the Confederate Army. At the Battle of Antietam, McClellan’s conduct fully justified Lee’s contempt for him. McClellan had learned Lee’s plans and had more troops at his disposal than Lee did. Still, he refused to move decisively against Lee, and allowed Lee’s army to escape after the battle.

But if McClellan violated all the principles of warfare at Antietam, the same cannot be said for his soldiers. Forced to attack in “driblets” (as one Union general put it), the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac fought bravely.

The courage of the Union troops was vividly demonstrated in the struggle to take “The Sunken Road” – a small depression at the edge of a farm. After several attacks against this strategic position failed, the task of capturing it fell to one of the Union Army’s most celebrated units – the Irish Brigade. This unit was known for marching into combat behind emerald green battle flags bearing gold shamrocks and harps. Shouting its battle cry (“Clear the way!”) in Irish, the Irish Brigade advanced across an open field. Intense enemy cannon and rifle fire “cut lanes” into its ranks. Within minutes, hundreds of its soldiers were killed or wounded. Ever since, the Sunken Road has been known as the “Bloody Lane.”

In all, 2,108 Union soldiers were killed at Antietam; 9,549 were wounded; and 753 ended up missing. The carnage that day was so terrible that – as one Union soldier put it – “the whole landscape for an instant turned slightly red.” This sacrifice saved the day for the Union; Lee was forced to retreat back into Virginia.

There are moments in history when the future of humanity rests on what a relatively

Antietam_Overview

The battlefield at Antietam

few people are willing to endure. September 17, 1862 was such a moment. The bravery of the Union soldiers that day did not end the Civil War. Lee’s army would invade Union territory again, and the war would drag on for two more long years.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, the fruit of Antietam, did not guarantee equality for African Americans or a just society. Eventually, the post-Civil War Reconstruction governments would be overthrown and the South plunged into a reign of terror which rivaled slavery. But acknowledging those grim facts should not blind us to the reality that, in a sense, the fight for a new America began at Antietam. The Union victory there transformed the Civil War into a revolutionary war to abolish one specific form of capitalist private property: chattel slavery.

The finest tribute we can pay to those who died at Antietam is to finish their work. At Antietam, every soldier knew he risked his life if he drew enemy fire upon himself by picking up a flag dropped by a slain flag bearer. But battle flags in motion were absolutely necessary to signal the motion of troops, and so, time after time, a Union soldier picked up the fallen standard and raised it high again. In the Irish Brigade’s attempt to take the “Bloody Lane,” 16 of its flag bearers were shot dead, one after another. Today, “picking up the flag” means fighting to end the rule of all capitalists, just as those who served in the Union Army helped end the rule of one kind of capitalist, the slave-owning capitalist. When we fight that good fight, we pay our best homage to those who bled for freedom’s cause years ago beside a winding creek, on a day when the very landscape itself seemed to turn red.

                              

This article originally appeared in the September 1999 edition of the People’s Tribune. For more information about the People’s Tribune, go to: www.peoplestribune.org

____________________________________________________________________________

Santiago On My Mind

Santiago On My Mind

by Lew Rosenbaum

 

I imagine myself

sipping my scotch

alongside reporters from

the Washington Post and The Guardian

HotelCarrera_320x240_Ext

The Santiago, Chile, Hotel Carrera

in the bar in the basement

of the Hotel Carrera

across the street from La Moneda –

I’ve never been to Santiago,

one of the largest of cities

in the Americas,

on a day when Nixon-sent

bombs dropped on the palace,

where Kissinger doomed democracy

and later complained that

96c648a8.NixonKissinger1_800x554

Co-conspirators: Nixon & Kissinger

reporters had not given US credit

for its strangling hand in the coup –

sitting on a bar stool

downing my pisco sour*,

would I recognize the door opening

to the deaths of 3,000 —

or was it 30,000?

and the number of tortured?

did the blood from Victor Jara’s

severed hands run in rivers

all the way through Wall Street

Victor_Jara

Victor Jara, murdered September 16, 1973

or was it the silent sound

of his guitar that drowned out

the cheers from the stock marketers

on September 11, 1973.

 

Our own 3,000 dead

in New York City

food service workers and

janitors and traders and

secretaries – vaporized and rubbled upon,

embracing miraculous air coffins or

consumed by a collapsing monument

to global wealth and plunder –

how can we take advantage of these

fresh dead

ask the politicos looking for an enemy

around which flag to rally

the disconcerted, to declare, reimagine,

construct, flim-flamify this day as

patriot day

I wonder what a manhattan would taste like

in the bar on top of the World Trade Center

I imagine the dry heaves after the

taste of thousand dollar bills

 

and how can nine eleven only mean

nueva york,

in a country that styles itself “America”

or even THE united states

as if there were no other nation

that boasts united states

and now denying 1973

coopts tragedy for its unique

butchering self

 

sitting in a bar across from La Moneda

Palacio-de-La-Moneda-Santiago

Palacio La Moneda, Santiago, Chile

sitting in a café in Manhattan

dipping my finger in the memory of blood

growing purple morning glories whose vines

will strangle borders and bombs

 

 

 

*A pisco sour is an alcoholic cocktail of Peruvian origin that is typical of the cuisines from Chile and Peru, considered also a South American classic.[A] The drink’s name comes from pisco, which is its base liquor, and the cocktail term sour, in reference to sour citrus juice and sweetener components. The Peruvian pisco sour uses Peruvian pisco as the base liquor and adds freshly squeezed lime juice, syrup, ice, egg white, and Angostura bitters. The Chilean version is similar, but uses Chilean pisco and pica lime, and excludes the bitters and egg white. Other variants of the cocktail include those created with fruits like pineapple or plants such as coca leaves.

Remembrance Of A Hunter Of Stories

Eduardo Galeano died in April 2015.  I think of him often, I was overjoyed to hear that Hunter of Stories would be published posthumously in Nov. 2017. This is excerpted from a post I wrote a year earlier, November 2016, on this blog:

Eduardo Galeano sat at my dining room table in my Chicago apartment on Lill Street one block away from Guild Books, pen poised and a stack of books to be signed at his side. Breakfast consumed, he had reluctantly agreed to sign some books in advance of his appearance at the bookstore later that Saturday, 1988.   He was anxious, it seemed, and we had been warned that his health was mending after some heart issues. We didn’t press him to sign books, but were delighted when he agreed with our suggestion that some folks might just want to purchase a signed copy without talking with him.

I sat mesmerized with the tremendous accomplishment of getting Galeano to Guild; even more amazed by the good fortune of giving up my bedroom to him and my relocating to the living room couch. How did that happen?

Three years earlier, in 1985, I’d been a bookseller at Midnight Special Books in Santa Monica, California. I had done many things at the bookstore, but in 1985 I was mostly the person in charge of ordering books. While the consolidation in book selling and publishing had been well underway, it was still a few years before the tremendous expansion of super stores. It was still important for sales representatives to call on booksellers for book orders.

Doug Hodges, who later became a national sales manager for Random House, s0ld the Random House catalogue to me then. He always came to see me early in the season. He told me I prepared more thoroughly than any of his accounts for our meetings, and, even with the smaller number of imprints under the Random House rubric than I would later have to deal with, meeting with Doug could be an all day event. Start at 9 AM, break at noon for lunch, then come back to wrap up from 1 to 3. All independent bookstores relied heavily on Vintage paperbacks, Pantheon literary and political titles. Less important for us were the books in the venerable Knopf imprint, the Random House titles and Crown and Villard were least important. Nevertheless I always combed through each of those catalogs to find the gems, which was one reason Doug came early to see me. He said he learned a lot about the importance of some of the books that no one else knew about. This day in 1985 was going to be one of those days.

In the Pantheon catalog I found Eduardo Galeano’s Genesis, “the extraordinary first volume of a great and ambitious project” reads the flap of the book jacket. This is probably part of the catalog copy that leaped out at me. And the first thing I said to Doug as we sat down to the Pantheon list was: “We want Galeano in our store when he tours for the book. He has GOT to come here. No place else in Los Angeles area would know what to do to promote this book or who has the connections to get people to hear him.”

Hodges sat dumbfounded. “Who is he?” Doug asked.

I told him about how a generation of Mexican and South American intellectuals had cut

galeano-autograph-1

Galeano signed Genesis at my breakfast table

their critical thinking eye-teeth on Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (two decades later Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would choose to present a copy to recently elected President Barack Obama); how that was the most consistent best selling book on Latin American history in that section of the store; how the most important Latin American studies departments/teachers in the Los Angeles area from UCLA to UC Irvine to Cal State Los Angeles relied on that book, all of whom we knew and to whose students we therefore had a direct line. And when I got through Doug reiterated that was why he came to the Midnight Special first. He had never heard of Galeano, he now had something to tell other booksellers when he showed the catalog.

But Random House was not planning on touring him, it was not in their plans at all, he was too unknown in the US, Random House could not afford to bring him from Uruguay where he lived. Excuse after excuse met my rants and raves and criticism of their short sightedness.

Random House did not bring Galeano to the US in 1985.

The situation repeated itself, complete with rants and raves and refusals from Random House in 1987, when the second volume, Faces and Masks, was published. This time, however, Doug knew who Eduardo Galeano was and thought he would pre-empt my tantrum by telling me in advance that Galeano was not coming to the United States.

At the end of 1987 I packed my Toyota Station Wagon with its rebuilt engine and its 200,000 miles and drove to Chicago to join the Guild Books staff. One of the first sales representatives I met was Random House’s Mary McCarthy. While poring over the Pantheon catalog I saw that Galeano’s third and concluding volume of the Memory of Fire Trilogy, Century of the Wind, would be published that season (1988). I guess the cumulative brow beating Random House reps had gotten from the likes of Richard Bray at Guild and me at Midnight Special must have taken its toll on the Random House touring brass.

This time Galeano would come to the US.  Richard had come to know Eduardo Galeano’s agent in New York, Susan Bergholz, who insisted that Galeano needed peace and quiet while he was here, recuperating from his illness. Some place away from what she anticipated would be a flurry of activists tiring him out and keeping him from getting the rest that he needed on what looked like a very strenuous tour. He hid out in my bedroom.

So there he was, in my dining room, at the table at which he had just finished breakfast, signing books, including all three volumes of the trilogy, Open Veins, Days and Nights of Love and War, and a copy of each signed to me, all signed “gratefully, mil mil abrazos,” and more importantly with the caricature of the pig with the flower in his mouth, a trademark he said he reserved for special autographs.

But, he said, “I will not read.” OK, we thought, we don’t want to press him on this, make him angry or more anxious. Yes bookstore patrons, our bookstore patrons, want the author to give them a taste of what is in the book and talk about it.   But here is a man who is clearly nervous about the upcoming event. So we backed off, and Eduardo went for a walk, returning directly to the bookstore an hour or so before the event was to start, declaring himself willing to sign more books in advance if we wished. And yes, we wished.

As he signed, the people began to arrive for the book signing. He was seated in the back room, but heard the commotion beginning to build, glanced into the store area, and said, “I think I will read. But I left my book with my notations in your apartment.” I ran to the building, ran up to the third floor apartment (yes, we had cleared with his agent that walking up 3 flights would not be too strenuous for Eduardo), found his book and ran back with it in time to start the program.

The crowd hung on his words, as he read in English but also in Spanish, and then answered questions, altogether about an hour and a half, and then began signing books, as the line snaked throughout the store. He talked with each person as much as the person wanted; he took pictures with the customers and their children. I stood at his side doing the task that all booksellers do in this situation: open the books to the pages preferred for the signature. And about 45 minutes into the signing ritual Eduardo turned to me with a broad but incredulous smile: “They like me. They really like me!”

Before he left, Eduardo toured the 3,000 square feet of the book store and spent some time looking at the political and labor posters we had for sale, on display in a rack. He fingered the display, took some notes, and left. The next morning friends of ours recorded an interview with him on video and took him in search of Haymarket Square, a search that proved unsuccessful.

DSCF5075

The Haymarket monument, sculpted by Mary Brogger, located just north of Randolph on DesPlaines, was not in place when Eduardo went in search of Haymarket Square in 1988

Four years would pass before Eduardo would return to Guild. In May, 1992 my divorce from my first wife was finally becoming a reality, my marriage to my second wife a month away, and the book Eduardo would be signing would be The Book of Embraces. The existence of the bookstore itself was tenuous as both a Barnes & Noble and a Borders had opened in the neighborhood and as the neighborhood became less affordable for our regulars. Our core clientele were moving away. We had to close one third of the bookstore and the Guild Complex, the not-for-profit literary organization we had spawned to take up the promotion of literary events, had to move (they occupied a performance space in the South Loop called The Edge of the Lookingglass. This is where Eduardo was going to read.

This time Eduardo stayed in a hotel off Michigan Avenue. We agreed to meet in the lobby of his hotel. There were some items he had to buy while he was on tour, and we could talk while I accompanied him on his rounds. We went to one of the “Magnificent Mile’s” most appealing shopping attractions, the Water Tower Place, where Eduardo wanted to pick up some CDs for his daughter and where I knew there was a small CD store. He picked up a couple of classical CDs and a jazz CD, off the sale rack at the front of the store, but then was stymied in finding the CD his daughter wanted.
Eduardo walked to the checkout counter and asked the sales clerk, in faltering but carefully pronounced words, “Do you have anything by the [clearly and slowly enunciated] Butt Hole Surfers”? A quizzical and sheepish look spread over his face as he said it, almost apologetic. But the clerk was the one who apologized, saying that he wished the store would carry them, but probably the best place to try would be Wax Trax Records (which was right across from the Guild Book Store!).

That evening at the Guild Complex at the Edge of the Lookingglass, Eduardo Galeano read to an even larger crowd than he had the first time in Chicago. And among the things he read was this tribute to Guild Bookstore, the “largest bookstore in Chicago” in this anecdote:

Forgetting
Chicago is full of factories. There are even factories right in the center of the city, around the world’s tallest building. Chicago is full of factories. Chicago is full of workers.

Arriving in the Haymarket district, I ask my friends to show me the place where the workers whom the whole world salutes every May 1st were hanged in 1886.

It must be around here,’ they tell me. But nobody knows where.

No statue has been erected in memory of the martyrs of Chicago in the city of Chicago. Not a statue, not a monolith, not a bronze plaque. Nothing.

May 1st is the only truly universal day of all humanity, the only day when all histories and all geographies, all languages and all religions and cultures of the world coincide. But in the United States, May 1st is a day like any other. On that day, people work normally and no one, or almost no one, remembers that the rights of the working class did not spring whole from the ear of a goat, or from the hand of God or the boss.

After my fruitless exploration of the Haymarket, my friends take me to the largest bookstore in the city. And there, poking around, just by accident, I discover an old poster that seems to be waiting for me, stuck among many movie and rock posters. The poster displays an African proverb: Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter.

* * * * * * * * *

We know now where the Haymarket was, where the rally was for which the Haymarket

galeano-we-say-yes-to-diana-and-lew

In his 1992 book of critical essays, We Say No, Eduardo wrote: “We say no to some people. And we say yes to Diana and Lew.

martyrs were arrested and imprisoned and executed. In 2006 Henry Holt published Eduardo’s Voices of Time, continuing the epigrammatic form he has worked with, this time “stories that I lived or heard.”   At the Guild Complex we convinced Susan Bergholz to take Eduardo’s strenuous tour through Chicago once more. He read for us at the Museum of Contemporary Art to a packed audience. For many, this was the culmination of what Guild Books had been about. For us, it was an opportunity of bringing memory, forgetting, and not knowing at all together, these themes that strike at the heart of Galeano’s work and of the revolutionary process.

May Day, 2006, just weeks earlier, I walked among almost a million Chicagoans along a route from Union Park to Randolph into the Loop and Grant Park. The steel, concrete and glass canyons resounded with the chants of marchers, many of them recent immigrants from Mexico and Latin America. “El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido” reverberated from the walls of those buildings, the marchers swelling into the streets in a mass farther than anyone could see.

But before coming to the loop, just a few blocks out of Union Park, we came to Randolph and Des Plaines. I stepped to the sidewalk, stood in the shadow of the corner building and looked north as the throng walked by me. The contingent from one union, also looking north, paused briefly and saluted the sculpture across the way – a recreation of the platform from which the speakers addressed their audience that May, 1886. Most marchers seemed unaware of the historic place through which they were walking, although well aware of the historic day on which they were marching.

How could we bring this reality of American consciousness to the reading that Eduardo was going to do? We made sure that some of those union leaders representing the marchers and their consciousness of May Day introduce Eduardo. And so they did, and we had the chance to talk about the sculpture, the march, and that although many marchers did not know where Haymarket square was, the fact that their march reclaimed not only the memory of the martyrs but the reality of the struggle which continues.

********

And that’s how the blog post ends,  with shop floor union leaders who had been in the leadership of forming that march talking with Eduardo about the significance of that march, a way for us to return to the Book of Embraces, in a way to embrace this chronicler of the historic struggles of the international working class.  As I told Eduardo about this march that was more than a march, I explained that I had been to many May Days in my life.  They were travesties of what May Day used to be like.  I recounted to him how my father had walked in May Day marches in New York, as part of the insurance workers union (I didn’t know this then, but one of the largest unions in Chicago in the 1930s was the union of workers who worked for large insurance companies). In a way I felt cheated, because my sister, 14 years older than I, stood on the sidewalk with my mother while the parade went by.  But my May Days were small gatherings of at best 100 people.  And here, in 2006, hundreds of thousands of workers marched in the streets, while the ideologues had their small meetings and groused because “these were immigrants, not really workers”!

The National Museum of Mexican Arts celebrated the publication of Hunter of Stories in December, 2017. Sandra Cisneros, among others, read from the book.  She chose to read this selection:

May Day is the most widely celebrated of all holidays.

The entire world stands still to pay homage to the workers hanged long ago in Chicago for the crime of refusing to work more than eight hours a day.

On my first trip to the United States, I was surprised to learn that May 1st was a day like any other.  Not even the city of Chicago, where the tragedy occurred, seemed to notice. In The Book of Embraces I confessed that such willful forgetting pained me.

Much later I received a letter from Diana Berek and Lew Rosenbaum of Chicago.

They had never celebrated the holiday, but in the year 2006, along with the largest crowd they had ever witnessed, they paid homage to the workers sent to the gallows long ago for their bravery.

In the letter, Diana and Lew told me they finally understood the discomfort I described in the Book of Embraces.

“Chicago embraces you,” the letter said.

Hunter of Stories is a collection of  memories, sometimes gentle, sometimes sharp, alwaysGaleano Hunter of Stories penetrating.  There are, for example, two recollections of his book Open Veins of Latin America. One recounts how his native country, Uruguay, at first did not ban the book thinking that it was a book of anatomy. They discovered their error quickly.  The second, tells of the soccer player who carried the book that found its way across continents, a book pierced by a bullet that entered the back of a guerrilla fighter from El Salvador, killing him, found its way back to the hands of its author.  The book is a kind of a pearl necklace, an embrace of images of a lifetime strung artfully together for reminiscence . . . or for meditation on what is next.