Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A tough choice is better than no choice


     My wife had to leave the house early Tuesday—4:48 a.m., to be exact—because she's an assistant attorney general, and thus half of one of the 170 teams that Lisa Madigan scattered across Illinois to keep an eye on polling places.
     She would, she told me, vote when she got back. But she didn't know the issues in Northbrook. Neither did I. Don't worry, I said. "I'll find out and brief you."
     So I did some digging. Very quickly identifying the key issues and races to be resolved in the old leafy suburban paradise:
     Nothing.
     No candidates running opposed. No referenda. There is one school district with four candidates running for three slots, but that is district 31 and we're in 28.
     Given the epic slugfest in Chicago, with class, race, ethnicity and economics all rumbling the pillars of democracy, that's just sad. Though not unique to Northbrook: Cook County Clerk David Orr says 63 percent of candidates ran unopposed in suburban Cook County.
     Which left me wondering, for the first time in my life: Why vote at all? It's tough enough to pretend your vote has meaning during a presidential race. This is empty symbolism.
     Are people in Northbrook contented or just apathetic? I phone Sandy Frum, the village president of Northbrook, and ask.
     She laughs.
     "I would prefer to believe that things are going well, as they tend to do in our community," she says. "I hate to think people are indifferent or complacent."
     Controversies have emerged in the past. "I'm a challenger to the status quo," Frum says. "I didn't like the direction the sitting president was taking the village, and I decided it was time to step up. Six years ago, there were three of us running."
     I tell her that my readers treat our village with sneering contempt, as if our lives were handed to us on a silver platter and all we have to do is decide which petit four to pluck off the tray while smiling fate dabs crumbs from the corners of our mouth with a perfumed napkin.
     "It's not true, people do struggle," she says. "We have our share of issues. I have to admit, its easier to deal with issues from a position of strength."
     Good fortune isn't just a matter of money.
     "I think it's good management versus a wealthy community," she says. "Wealthy communities have issues. I would prefer to say we are well managed."
     My issue is whether to cast a ballot.
     Who am I fooling? I dutifully trot off to the polls—through my backyard, over a pine-needled berm past the public vegetable garden and into our red brick Village Hall. It is just past 7 a.m. No voters.
     "Get in line," says Jill Shakian, an election judge, gesturing to the three empty voting booths and two empty electronic ballot stations. She says there has been exactly one voter since the polls opened at 6 a.m. I'm the second.
     Normally a traditionalist, I pick electronic voting. I like making the big fat green check mark. As I go through the ballot, unexpected controversy pops up. The Oakton Community College District 535. "Not more than two" the ballot instructs, and there are five names. I do what voters always do in this situation, choose the names I like: the regal Theresa Bashiri-Remetio and the European Benjamin Salzburg. Democracy's fierce torch, shining brightly.
     One of the great, underappreciated Dr. Seuss books is "I Had Trouble Getting to Solla Sollew." It tells of a journey toward this wonderful place where "they never have troubles, at least very few." As the book unfolds, you get the strong impression that you really don't want to be in Solla Sollew. You want to be back in the real world, where there are troubles, facing them, living life.
     Did I tell you that my youngest boy goes off to college in the fall? He does. Maybe four years from now, readers will have to come up with a better counter-argument than "You don't live here so shut up."

44 comments:

  1. It took about 5 minutes for me to vote at our Palatine polling place Tues. afternoon, located in the preschool just down the street, and since my husband works for one of the two school districts (Elementary District 15), we voted for the recommended candidates. Also voted for a park district commissioner and a referendum on video gambling. The high point of excitement was writing in the recommended candidate for the Palatine Public Library Trustee.

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  2. Northbrook is where Northfield sends its poors.

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  3. It's not that readers think you folks lay about all day, but that many work harder for less even with education.

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  4. Sounds like your wife works too hard. I'm sure you have housekeeping help at least.

    If you don't want readers teasing you about your fancy suburb, then you shouldn't have mentioned where you live.

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  5. I think the reason "I Had Trouble Getting To Solla Sollew" (my take on it is similar, but not quite the same as Mr. Steinberg's) isn't well known might be because it doesn't exactly encourage non-violent conflict resolution (see ending panels) - last year there was some call (I forget how big) for libraries to pull "Hop on Pop." Too bad because it's very good (Solla Sollew - I haven't read Hop on Pop)

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    1. That's a good observation. Given it was published in 1965, just as the Vietnam war was taking over, the idea of going after your troubles with a bat wasn't the message for its time.

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  6. This reader, for one, doesn't treat the leafy suburban paradise with sneering contempt. On our rare visits, it seems fine to me. It's nice to get out of the teeming metropolis once in a while and feast on some vistas that extend more than a block. And, better the l. s. Paradiso than the Purgatorio of Glenview, or the Inferno of Northfield. ; ) (Just an aimless joke -- I can barely differentiate between the three, and mainly threw Northfield in there because of the earlier commenter. But, hey, wouldn't "The Purgatorio of Glenview" or "The Inferno of Northfield" be good names for retirement communities?)

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    1. Purgatorio is a dull climb, Paradiso a twirling compex crystal. The Inferno is the truly interesting one, though both the second and third have their moments. I like, in Paradiso, where Dante notices that half of heaven is made up of Jews.

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    2. No need to prove your intellectual capacity in literature.

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    3. Perhaps a separate board should be used for classical books discussion opera or puppets. This one should be for politics, society, etc.

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    4. Gotta say, there, Anonymous, if you wanna continue your anti-elitist crusade, the blog of an opera-loving, Dante-quoting, classics-enjoying author of 8 books seems an odd place to conduct the campaign, if you hope to have any followers or effect. And how's about identifying yourself when you comment in some unrevealing fashion or another, so we can keep track of which of the Anonymice is which?

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  7. I live in Elgin, where there was an actual mayoral race, with a first-term mayor facing a challenge by a guy who seemed well-qualified (and is Hispanic, not a bad thing to be when you're running in a city that is about one-third Hispanic). I went right after work, which is supposedly prime time, and breezed right through.

    Face it: If non-presidential elections get low turnout, municipal elections get the absolute dregs.

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  8. Mr. S, Noticed that Bitter Scribe, Jack ash, and anon not anon are your pets.

    Tate and or Tom evans to a lesser extent, they are somewhat in the clique that makes up this forum. The more elite, the better you like them. Please don't be a snob like some of them are.

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  9. I don't quite follow the "pets" notion. This isn't 3rd grade. Some people comment regularly and nicely, and I'm grateful for them. Some comment regularly and nastily and I'm less grateful for them. Were a regular commentator, that last thing in the world I'd want to do is become jealous of other commentators. That seems the lowest rung of troll hell, to show off my fancy Dante knowledge once more.

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  10. I live in Racine (village of Mount Pleasant). I voted around 3:30 and was about the 893rd voter. There was one person ahead of me. There was not much to vote on judges, school board, a referendum. I just voted on the latter plus a judge. I went to school with him. I had no clue who the other people were. That is one of the problems with these off year elections. No one has a clue who is running. And perhaps we are at fault for that. People running at the local level are just as important and maybe more so than who are congress men and senators are.

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    1. Cheese head, down with the Packers.

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  11. Somebody seem to be a tad insecure.

    I'm inclined to believe that one shouldn't be ashamed of what one knows... or feel that displaying it is some kind of a claim to superiority.

    And then there is the guidance scripture gives us on the matter in Matthew 5:15:

    "Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth
    light to all that are in the house."

    As one who never made it past "Inferno" I am always grateful for the insights Neil gives us into the rest of Dante's magnum opus. And I'm still waiting to get my membership card in the clique.

    Tom Evans

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    1. Tom, you are too overly religious and no I'm not an atheist.You need to look into Deism and the thoughts of our founding fathers, a bit more.

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    2. I'm a backslid Presbyterian. Which doesn't mean I'm uninterested in religion. Like Jefferson, I generally agree with the moral principles of Christianity, but have to believe the supernatural aspects, of it and other religions, "superstition." I've read, and greatly admire, most of what Jefferson and Madison have written about religion.

      TE

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    3. Well at least Presby are a mainstream Prot. not those Evangelist, anti science nuts.

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  12. Neil, your colleague, Roger Simon at the ST, wrote a good column today on how the archconserv. repub can't win the Presidency. interesting-would like to hear your views on that a times

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  13. Good for Jimmy Carter, who has just said, he's dropping his so. bap. denomination church. He can't abide by something that believes Genesis and that ladies came out of men's rib and that women are the evil sinners. in my words , That's not word of God but word of ancient Jewish writers etc

    Christians need to start looking at NT only and not take OT symobilism or lack of knowledge as word

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  14. Doomed.
    Even Mr. S. doesn't read a local "newspaper."

    Let's hope white-European names continue to appear on his ballot.
    And the state seems to be hiring again! Way to go Mrs. S.

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  15. Neil I'm a long time reader and I've often ribbed you about living in Northbrook. In your book you admit you went running at the first sign of trouble when your kids turned 5. And guess what the city school you abandoned fixed there low performance in reading and math.

    Let me be clear I don't fault you for wanting the best education for your children and moving to the suburbs like you did, I really don't have an issue with it. But when there's some racial blow up or a suburb doesn't want section 8 housing and you try to lecture readers about the importance of diversity when your suburb is 99.99782% white I say HYPOCRITE!

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    1. I don't think Mr. S is in this category, but there are east coast libs even worse. They want to tell ranchers what to do out west while they live in a NY high rise. Or they want to save the wolf, not knowing it kills sheep and cattle. I detest rich liberals unless they are JFK and FDR. My liberal idea is just for the working class and unions, not rel. right repubs, or overly gay obsessed lefties. I say watch Wall St.

      What I think is wrong is when the ones who write about feeling sorry for Mike Brown in Ferguson don't live in areas where it is majority gang black. They shouldn't talk then.

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  16. Hypocrite in what way? I came here for the education -- no secret there. I've never "lectured readers about the importance of diversity." That's just convenient hallucination on your part. If you care to join me in the fact-based world, Northbrook is 86 percent white, with the rest being Asian, Hispanic and a few blacks, all of whom are represented on my block. All-caps are easy. Having a valid point is hard.

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    1. My, aren't we getting defensive.

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    2. My, aren't you getting stupid.

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  17. How about discussing Rand or Sohshenitsyn or Dickens? something more relavent. and slightly more modern

    I like a day in the Life of Ivan Desinovich even better than Gulag.

    I'm Italian but still don't care for Dante, what little I read of it.



    pardon any spelling probs

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    1. I'm not the anon at 4:36 pm, by the way.

      How about some Byron poetry? or others from the Brit. romantic era? Or the light brigade or Green Eggs and ham? lol

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    2. How about you start your own blog, specializing in your own taste in literature, described via scatter-shot capitalization and a steady stream of random abbreviations? ; ) In the meantime, if you and your anonymous cohorts would just put initials or some kind of pseudonyms on your comments, you wouldn't have to explain that you're not the 4:36 contributor. Just sayin'...

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    3. @Jakash - I too wish the anonymous contributors would identify themselves in some way, but I guess we should just learn to accept it. To me, writing anonymous comments in any format is a sign of disrespect, or fear of owning up to one's opinion; it doesn't carry as much weight, and any sense of intelligent discourse is lost.

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    4. it's easier to type and abbrev. that way when writing from the small keyboard of a phone, oh perfect one

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    5. wow, jackash, you are a narcissist indeed , bossy and arrogant as well

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    6. comment at 6:56 is to jack, not sandy

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    7. how about if you go to your own blog, call it Jack ass and discuss your obscure literary thoughts while you smile at yourself in the mirror?

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    8. Got it. No need for a fleet of additional comments. Making a joke and then suggesting that it might be beneficial to the gang here for commenters to attach some sort of alias or pen name to their comments clearly indicates that one is a bossy, arrogant narcissist. Telling the blogger that he essentially should modernize his literary references and keep his enjoyment of classical literature to himself, on HIS blog, mind you, evidently is just a modest proposal from salt o' the Earth types such as yourself...

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    9. The bloggers comments were fine until you jumped in...

      no need for condescension, Mr.

      Salt of the earth is also a good Rolling Stones song

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  18. don't forget Dr. Seuss was really Jewish and that's pseudonym of course, just interesting factoid


    Mr. S, don't ever ban your kids from marrying gentiles please

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  19. That was a pretty weird comments section.
    I guess I fit in the weirdness, somewhere - going off topic and around the bend - but I'm having trouble following what's trying to be said. Maybe I'm just too dense to pick up the subtlety.

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  20. But you are right, Jack. I stand corrected. You are always right.

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  21. J, Only the blogger should care if a poster abbreviates . You aren't the English Prof and this isn't a thesis.

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    1. Can't argue with that. And, I'll readily concede that last night's Anonymous effectively countered my joke about that with his explanation about typing on a phone. I admit that I'd not considered that. Don't know if that was you, or not, but there you have it. Also, I'll just note that Jack Kass already has a newspaper column, so Anonymous' suggestion of a Jack Ass blog might involve a copyright infringement. ; )

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Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted, assuming they aren't, you know, mean and crazy.