Thursday, January 14, 2021


Metropolitan Museum of Art
     COVID was strange and scary and terrible enough. But now. It's almost like some malign deity said to himself, "Hey, I wonder if I could turn up the knob on political chaos so much that people actually FORGET the pandemic, even though it's WORSE than ever? THAT would be fun."
     Which is where we are now, more or less. One thing in favor of the storming of the Capitol: I bet you weren't thinking about hand sanitizer. The whole next week was like that. I spent most of yesterday answering email, which is stupid. My wife tells me just to delete them, unread, but how can I be plugged into the zeitgeist, savvy to the vox populi—not that a person who is either would use words like "zeitgeist" or "vox populi," but work with me here—unless I take their pulse, etc etc. etc. 
     Or maybe that isn't the real reason. Maybe reading the mail is, as Luna Lovegood says, "Like having friends." Or maybe I'm just kneejerk polite. Someone writes to you, you write back.
     Whatever reason, I plowed through them, which is like being swallowed by a whale and shat out the back. 
     I think I'll share a few of the more noteworthy ones Friday in the paper, there'll only be room for a few, and there are plenty to add here.
      The question in Wednesday's column, Why wasn't the Capitol mob carrying guns? to be honest, threw a few people. A lot of people read that as "Why wasn't ANYONE carrying a gun?" which was not the point. Especially on Facebook, diving into the weeds and becoming lost because a few protesters did, apparently, flash guns. Then there was this:
Dear Neil,You article today in the Suntimes was very disappointing. Condemn the insurrectionists. Taunting the DC rioters for NOT using guns was disturbing. It was as if you want them it use their guns next time or they are weak.
     I wish your article was not printed. You do great work but this is wrong.
     Very sad to send this,
     How to reply? I could have highlighted how I had said, in the column, that I was glad and grateful they weren't armed. But since she missed it the first time, and probably wouldn't get it a second time, I threw up my hands:
Dear Claudia:
With all due respect, I would suggest that you misunderstood my point completely. Since I was fairly clear the first time, my trying to explain further now would only cause more confusion. Still, thanks for writing.
     That isn't a bad thing to say, right? I try to never be insulting in my replies, since the sender, more often than not, is insulting enough for the both of us.
     Speaking of which. This one is long, but worth reading, because it reflects the view held by about 70 million Americans. He uses his full name but I've deleted his last one to save him the embarrassment of being associated in public with his sincere opinions. Notice the tone. That's the entire Trump movement in a nutshell: angry, aggrieved, the cry of the wronged victim:
Mr Steinberg,
     My name is Patrick M. and I am a recently retired 37 year Captain on the Chicago Fire Department. I was assigned downtown area on May 30, 2020 during the riots and insurrection. I saw looting, arson, vandalism and more shootings than you can imagine. My fire engine was purposely rammed by a van full of rioters who attempted to flee, leaving two toddlers in car seats behind. Luckily they were apprehended by the CPD immediately. I saw looters steal everything that wasn’t nailed down. When they were done, they would either set the store on fire or set the sprinkler system off, to flood the building. The whole purpose was to destroy or steal everything they touched. The damage from spray paint alone had to be well over a million dollars.
     In the months of rioting in this country that followed in Seattle, Portland, New York, Kenosha and yes Chicago, I never once recall you refer to “the mostly peaceful protesters” as rioters or insurgents. I remind you of these events because I just read your article on January 13th and have found some misconceptions and downright lies.
     You stated that guns were not used at the Capitol demonstration. That is a lie. An Air Force veteran protester was shot down in cold blood my Capitol security guardswho fired into the crowd. No one is calling for an investigation into her murder, unlike other deaths at the hands of Police in this country. Why aren’t there calls to “Say Her Name”like other victims of police violence?
     You also claim protesters were there to hang Nancy Pelosi, another lie. There is absolutely no proof that that is what the protesters were planning to do.
     Another clueless statement you made is “the protesters did not have guns”. That is also a lie. Many of the protestors, if not all of them, had guns. Concealed Carry laws prevent them from showing their weapons.
     I really don’t know what happened in your life to make you despise the police and law enforcement, but it really is sad that is how you feel. You should do a ride-a-long with the police on a Saturday night in July in Englewood. I think your perspective would change.
     Again, the best thing would not to respond at all. But I like to say ... something, so I said this:
     Did the president of the United States encourage that looting? If not, you're kinda off point here. What I call a "look-a-squirrel" response. Interesting, if you a) like squirrels or b) want to distract from the situation at hand. I didn't say guns weren't used. I said the mob wasn't armed. Which it wasn't, largely. As for the rest of your email, I lost interest. When a man is responding, not to what I wrote, but what he imagines or wishes I wrote, in order to knock it down more easily and not have to think, we part ways. Thanks for writing.
     Exhausted yet? I sure am. And that is just two of dozens. Okay, my work is done here. Have a good day. Stay safe. Wear your goddamn mask.


  1. Patrick, you are so very wrong about with that lie when you wrote: "You also claim protesters were there to hang Nancy Pelosi, another lie. There is absolutely no proof that that is what the protesters were planning to do."

    Even the extreme right-wing NY Post has an article about a man who wanted to kill her:

    To make it weirder, his name is Cleveland Grover Meredith & was obviously named after a two term US President!

  2. Yoour response reminds me of a headline I saw years ago, in Minneapolis:

    "Distraction a top cause of--Hey! A kitty!"

    You were exceedingly polite and a lot more charitable than I would have been. I'd have asked him why he believed I despised cops and law enforcement. I'd have briefly mentioned the ride-along I took one Christmas Eve, years ago, on the South Side. And then I'd have tactfully told him exactly where he could display his steenkeeng bahdge. I have no tolerance for the resentment, bitterness, and ill will of the Trumpsters. A diplomat, however, would know how to tell a Trumpster to go to hell--and also make him look forward to the trip.

    But then, I'm not you. Nor do I respond like you. Which is probably why I am where I am in life, and you are where you are. Can't wait to hear your take on the outcome of Impeach Bowl II. And I do wish I could stay as cool and as calm and as level-headed as you seem to be, especially during these trying and terrible times.

    All the best.

  3. Dear Patrick: Those people desperately trying to keep that mob from killing our elected representatives were not "security guards." They were Capitol Police -- sworn officers belonging to a police force, just as much as anyone in the CPD. That you would take the mob's side against them shows that your professed love of "police and law enforcement" is bullshit.

    1. My sister has the same problem with her husband, who is a police officer with the University of Chicago and a rabid Trumpster. I'm sure Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh give him a rationale for supporting the rebels with a lost cause. Can it really be so that almost half the country has gone absolutely batshit crazy?


  4. From Michigan about a month ago: "The indictment says that in an electronic message, Caserta wrote that if the men encountered police during a reconnaissance mission, “they should give the officers one opportunity to leave, and kill them if they did not comply.” -AP

  5. The main difference between the protesters in cities like Portland and Chicago and those at the Capitol is that the former had a legitimate beer (i.e. white cops killing defenseless black people) while the latter's protest was based on a huge pack of lies spewing from our soon to be ex-President.
    On another note, as a retired firefighter I never could understand how anyone in the protective services, who's comfortable lifestyles wouldn't exist without the help of unions, support the anti-union party.

    1. I assume you meant a beef and not a beer.

    2. Yep. Bad proof reading on my part. Thanks.


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