United States Capitol (Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 3.0)

We are in the midst of tumultuous times, nationally and globally, and not without local concerns. As I reflect on what has gone wrong and what might go right, my reaction to this paper’s recent coverage leads to some thanks and a gripe.

Thank you for including in the paper before the recent primary election the Check Your Judges voting guide from InJustice Watch. This comprehensive and well-organized insert had helpful advice for choosing judicial candidates. Without endorsing any candidate, the guide concisely showed their experience and the ratings received from various lawyer groups and others, and in some cases any associated controversy. An excellent read.

In a wise society the selection of wise judges is key. Settling disputes fairly leads to trust within the society, smoothing the way to domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. Courts of appeal, composed of wise judges, serve to review individual judges. An ultimate decider, a supreme court, comprises the wisest of the wise.

Reality intrudes. Has the word “wise” ever been associated with Justice Samuel Alito? Another three SCOTUS justices were nominated by Donald Trump, the least wise of our 45 presidents. They gained narrow Senate approval with a margin provided by senators who later actively disputed the fair election of Trump’s successor. The lack of wisdom by the current SCOTUS majority contributes to the U.S. reality of a house divided.

This paper’s June 29 editorial joins a move to declare Oak Park an abortion sanctuary but shows an exasperating understanding of the national scene. It name-checks Trump and McConnell as villains but flunks the reality test by lumping in Susan Collins and Joe Manchin. The villains in the U.S. Senate are those who toady to Trump & McConnell. At least 40 senators fit that profile better than Collins and Manchin. The paper is lazy in ignoring this.

Citizens of Illinois seeking influence beyond the state border should focus on neighboring states, not those we rarely visit, such as Maine and West Virginia, which Collins and Manchin represent. Five states border Illinois and of the 10 senators representing those states, nine consistently follow the Trump/McConnell line. Flip two of those seats and laws pass; flip five and things get moving. But I bet the editorial writers need Google Search to name even one of the senators from Indiana, our closest neighbor with our longest shared border.

Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana have had progressive senators in the recent past, Wisconsin has one currently. If the voters of these states and others can elect people touched by, in Lincoln’s words, the better angels of our nature, we can regain the promise of America.

The New Yorker magazine’s July 4 cover, seen around the country and the literate world, features architecture familiar from some of those Oak Park blocks just south of the Green Line. Titled “House Divided,” the cover is by Chris Ware, our local artist, who once again captures the ambiguity of the moment. Will these neighbors talk or ignore each other?

What is the way forward?

Jeff Petertil is a longtime Oak Park resident who has spent many days in Washington D.C. and still more time thinking about what happens there.

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