Don't retreat, John, keep trying

Opinion: Columns

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By Jason Lukehart

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Numerous times during the last year I have found myself bothered by something John Hubbuch wrote in Wednesday Journal's Viewpoints section.

On Nov. 7, he complained about being expected to be part of the solution to sexual harassment and implied that too many accusations are false for anyone to do anything about the problem. ("So you'd better be pretty damn sure before you go to HR, or the boss' boss, and tell them you have become aware of an incident of sexual harassment that you did not witness, but just heard about. The workplace is filled with rumors. Sometimes these rumors are false, even maliciously false.")

On Nov. 21, when ostensibly trying to argue that women should hold more power, he can't keep himself from falling back on tired stereotypes. ("Women. Now they aren't perfect either. They sometimes drink a little too much white wine. They can be picky. They are awfully fussy about their appearance.")

On Jan. 9, he took offense at the idea that Oak Park might, despite its wonderful diversity, still include some racism, and as a community might still view things through a white person's lens. He argues that if Oak Park is less racist than other places, it shouldn't be an issue, and we shouldn't have to talk about it. ("The discussion begets the thought that if Oak Park is a racist community, then name one that isn't. And if all communities are racist, then what are we really talking about?") He's also very concerned that too many people (namely people like him) might be at risk of being considered racist, and won't someone think of people like him? (Not liking the NBA doesn't make him racist, but if bad free-throw shooting is his concern, then the NBA is exactly what he should be watching, since their free throw percentage is higher than that of college hoops, which I imagine is Mr. Hubbuch's preferred form of roundball. Perhaps, like pretty much all of us, John has some biases he's not aware of, which is exactly why we as a community should discuss this stuff.)

On April 24, he engaged in both-siderism, blasting media on both sides of the political spectrum, and wishing every state was purple, which only makes sense if you believe both sides have equally valid aims. That piece is titled, "Resistance is a balm, not a cure," which I think is a slap in the face to everyone who has sacrificed in order to stand up to oppression throughout history, be it modern or ancient.

Last week he decided resistance isn't even a balm; it's just a waste of time. He can't fix any of the world's big problems, and his solution to that is to opt out and assume things will get better on their own. Of course, that's significantly easier for a straight, white male who is well-off enough to own a home in Oak Park, and while Mr. Hubbuch is entitled to do as little as he pleases, I have to question why Wednesday Journal sees fit to give him prime real estate to announce it to the rest of us.

My father, John Lukehart, brought my family here when I was a baby because he valued what Oak Park valued. He wasn't under any illusion that moving here absolved him of the need to do anything more, which feels to me what Mr. Hubbuch is arguing. My dad understood that the struggle for civil rights, for a better world, doesn't go away, that's why he continued going to work as often as he could, even as brain cancer destroyed him. It's why during his final months he also continued to champion the arts in and around Oak Park, and to walk to Scoville Park and tend the flowers there. He knew he was running out of time, and could think of nothing better to do with it than continue trying to make things better. 

I am not my dad; I lack some of his gifts, while hopefully having at least a couple of my own. I don't know what his solution to any of this would be (rare is the day that passes without wishing I could talk with him), but I'm certain it wouldn't be just to throw his arms in the air and shrug.

I realize that in highlighting only a few of Mr. Hubbuch's pieces from the last year, I am leaving out most of his contributions, some of which I have enjoyed, agreed with, and/or learned from. But Wednesday Journal is the voice of record in our community, and it pains me to see a significant part of that voice used to declare, "Everything is fine here; whatever problems exist in the world aren't worth trying to fix; living here means you've done enough." It shouldn't take readers to push back against that message, the paper itself should be doing so. "Sound the clarion call: Retreat!" did not merit space in a commodity as valuable as the Journal.

My first job was delivering the Journal to folks on the 500 and 600 blocks of South Elmwood and Gunderson when I was in seventh grade in 1993. Both of you were important voices in Oak Park then, and have continued as such for the quarter of a century that has since passed. Thank you for that, and for allowing me to voice my concerns today.

Jason Lukehart is a longtime resident of Oak Park.

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