By Ken Trainor
I write to find out what I'm thinking about.
If writing is how we find out what we're thinking, then writing a weekly column affords the opportunity to mark when I was thinking it.
Some readers tell me I write too much about certain topics. All you ever write about is: national politics … the Catholic Church … gun control. You never write about anything local.
So I went back and checked. 2012 was a presidential election year, so it's not surprising that I wrote about national and state politics eight times. I wrote about what conservatives stand for, what progressives stand for, what it means to be a good voter, how we identify ourselves politically (introducing a friend's intriguing notion of "free-market socialism"), some interesting numbers to put the upcoming election in perspective, questions to ask before voting, a failure of common sense by almost half of the electorate, and one for the morning after (written several days before) about our "united states of mind."
When is national politics local? When it's in the forefront of the minds of local residents. How often, for instance, have you been thinking about Newtown, Conn., and the "fiscal cliff" lately? I rest my case.
As a columnist, I try to write about not only what's on my mind but also what's on the minds of readers. Please let me know if I'm out of synch.
One subject that isn't on the minds of everyone is the Catholic Church. But I'm a Catholic, there is a sizable Catholic population in these two towns, and the Catholic Church is one of the oldest, largest and most influential institutions in the world. Since that institution made lots of headlines that impact the local level (and as an empowered lay person who considers it his prophetic imperative to speak up), I wrote a total of five Catholic columns, more than usual, but still less than 10 percent of 52. They covered birth control, sexism, the assault on the nuns (and sundry other PR disasters committed by the bureaucrats in the Vatican), celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, and sharing an essay I wrote from a book about what it means to be Catholic in the Archdiocese of Chicago (a shameless plug, admittedly, but I did mention Oak Park).
Guns were much on my mind in 2012, but not enough on the minds of other Oak Parkers (in my opinion) after the NRA bullied their way in and overturned our handgun ban, then tried to gouge us with inflated legal fees (their friendly way of saying, "Don't mess with us"). The Oak Park Health Department held forums on other ways to regulate guns, so I contributed my ideas (back in January). The health board capitulated meekly to the political and financial realities, which seemed to be fine with most people (except me).
The George Zimmerman vigilante slaying of Trayvon Martin started to get people's attention ("Why vigilantes make lousy cops," April 18). Then the massacre in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater made people sit up and take notice ("Maximum freedom, minimal responsibility" about the NRA's complicity, Aug. 1). Next, I responded to gun advocate Dave Schweig's overtures to start a dialogue on the issue (Sept. 26). Finally, in response to his reply, on Dec. 12 I wrote "Why the NRA should support gun control," two days before the unconscionable slaughter of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Now everyone — locally and nationally — is paying attention to the scourge of guns in our society. All I can say is, it's about time. It's also about time that the people in the middle get off the fence and start speaking out on this one. Sorry, but I feel a special intensity about this issue.
The number of gun columns this past year totaled five. I should have written more.
For those who say they don't get enough of my local slant, I wrote 15 this year, which is more than 25 percent of the total, covering the Lake & Forest development, the "tree of hope" outside First United Church (since taken down), "What makes Oak Park special" (about Harriette and Mac Robinet and 1960s integration), mental health activist Marie Wackrow (one of my heroes), the memorial tree plaques in Scoville Park (Memorial Day), a reprise of my interview with Mrs. Cannon (a legendary teacher at Ascension School in honor of their centennial), the importance of baseball in Oak Park and River Forest (following OPRF's state championship), the importance of shade trees, a call for a new Fiesta de Hemingway, Festival Theatre's wonderful production of Richard III, the No Obamacare sign controversy, the demise of my beloved old mulberry tree in Scoville Park (I didn't have much luck with trees this year), the grace and courage shown by local residents in the face of great adversity, a testimonial on the death of former village president John Philbin, and a Thanksgiving column about the "common good" that makes living here such a privilege.
I covered plenty of ground, in other words, including columns about Woody Guthrie, Neil Armstrong, Mike Royko, whitewater rafting, living in a "slow-tech" world, turning 60, the mystery of beauty, reasons for optimism and (separately) for joy, thinking about thinking, and, of course, the peril of typos, just to name a few.
For a writer, 2012 was a very interesting ride. I hope, as readers, you enjoyed the voyage. The coming year promises to be the most interesting one yet.