Confessions of a lapsed liberal

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By John Hubbuch

would describe my politics as chameleon. I grew up parented by New Deal Democrats, then became an anti-Vietnam War zealot, for reasons of policy but mainly cowardice. Then when I began to make some money, I morphed into a Reagan Democrat. Having lived in Oak Park since 1976, I eventually joined the Oak Park Church Of Liberal Orthodoxy. It was just easier to go along and get along especially given decades of Republican perfidy. Almost everyone I knew were members of the Church. Kumbaya.

But alas I can't take it anymore. Two recent events have been been my Paulian-like epiphany on the road to Damascus.

First, regular readers of this column will recall how foolish, I believe, are the high school's efforts to close the achievement gap, which begins at birth, 14 years earlier, before students ever arrive at the high school, and despite decades of strenuous effort to close the gap. 

Now, according to last week's editorial in this newspaper, "We are battling a century plus of systemic racism in this high school." Really? I believe that in 1919 the board was probably focused on World War I, and also, you can't have a gap if there are no black students. The statement does a disservice to the many teachers, administrators, parents and students who have tried to solve this pernicious problem. 

It is truly laughable to think that a magic potion in the form of the newest iteration of a racial policy is going to fix the unfixable. Even worse, there is the implication that those who are not on board with this alchemy are somehow racist.

Second, there was the Tribune report that a 1930s mural from one of the village's junior highs has been removed because it depicted only white children and adults skating on a frozen pond, which did not reflect the diversity of the community. Really? May I suggest for consistency the removal of the honorary photos of past white citizens from all village public buildings who have served on boards and halls of fame. There will be a lot of space created. Also, our hagiographic elevation of Messrs. Hemingway and Wright, and even Madam Betty White may need to be reconsidered. I don't see how they can possibly reflect the current diversity of the community.

White people skating on a pond is not the same thing as a statue of Ku Klux Klansman Nathan Bedford Forest bestride a horse.

So that my confession might be complete. I believe that the impeachment of a president who will stand for election in 18 months will significantly increase division in the country. I believe that police sometimes shoot black people for reasons other than race. I believe that safe spaces should be the size of a closet instead of an arena. I believe that capitalism should be better regulated, not eliminated. I believe that Democrats pander to their base as much as Republicans. I am very conflicted about abortion.

Now that I am woke, I have learned that there are quite a few Oak Parkers with views similar to mine. We are liberal, just not that liberal. We hide in the shadows so as to avoid charges of racism, misogyny and insensitivity. 

I call us the Silent Minority.

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James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 7:14 PM

Not sure I'm a lapsed liberal, but I am an old white guy. I do believe we bring something to the party. You can't stereotype "old white guys," just like you can't stereotype any group. That said, here's my take on civic discourse. ONE. Emotion cannot rule thinking. TWO. Cynicism and sarcasm are the worst forms of communication. THREE. Politics is America's No. 1 spectator sport. It relies on barbs and flat-out lies to dominate discussions. FOUR. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle. FIVE. Change takes actual work, not just a comment in a discussion thread.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 3:34 PM

Fwiw, I'm also not a big fan of unsubstantiated claims, faulty logic, and poor rhetoric in these comment sections. But then hey-- 1st Amendment and WJ open forum and all that... And I'm not a TOTAL pessimist. To those who claim that those who call the shots are becoming LESS diverse, they should see this Pew Research report on "The Changing Face of Congress" and how the current Congress is "the most racially and ethnically diverse ever." https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/15/the-changing-face-of-congress/

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 2:05 PM

@Alice, since white people control just about everything I don't think there's much to be concerned about as far as white people being heard. Christopher might be the only person commenting here that's not white. There are basically only white people leading our whole country now. White people have more than enough of a voice so let's not complain too loud when others would like the mic also.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 1:32 PM

Oh, and for those who think that white people should just shut up, here is a discussion between two African Americans - Larry Elder on the Candace Owens show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wR2lK36Tc4M

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 1:27 PM

It was silly that Barack could change system. He did for what is called talented tenth - for us with degrees from top schools it meant we could first time bee seen as ceo etc. for average brother on street he could only do some much. Academic excellence is the best equalizer ... in fact my mom always told me you must be twice as good to get half as far as whites

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 1:21 PM

Christopher Bell - isn't it interesting that it happened in the last 10 years, since the election of the first African American president who was expected to close the gap and end the racial divide in this country. And yet it is now worse than before him.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 1:15 PM

@ Alice - I was 21 the first time I met my father and there are plenty of moms pushing forward and helping kids succeed. The reality is achievement gap will increase across races (we are most affected). In last 10 years middle class has shrunk from 60 to 49 percent of population ... for the first generation ever, many kids will drop a level from parents and gap will widen

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 1:04 PM

"The reason for this self-flagellation is that whites are secretly terrified that the academic skills gap will never close. Better to imply that there is a racist conspiracy to keep blacks out of the selective exam schools than to speak honestly about the cultural catastrophe of black family breakdown that results in the lack of socialization of black children and in the disciplinary problems that they bring with them to school." https://americanmind.org/features/the-redefinition-of-racism/fake-bigotry-real-money/

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 12:47 PM

Thanks, John. I am often at odds with you in your other Op-Ed pieces, but there are many points here with which I agree-- particularly re. a "Silent Minority." Or, even more provocatively, a Silent (Presumed) Minority-- since it is easy to assume in this day of social media that what is "trending" (or what is shouted most loudly) represents the views of the majority. This assumption, of course, is not necessarily true....

Janet Haisman  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 12:19 PM

John is always witty in his remarks and often makes fun of himself. Of course he is not always "right'" whatever that is to you or to me. But he does get us to thinking! For my part, I think the term "opportunity gap" is much more realistic than "achievement gap," and I have been told that many African-Americans in Oak Park share that view. Every child deserves every opportunity (whether they enter school already reading or not). "Achievement gap" puts the onus on the child (and the school, by default), and how can that be positive?

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 11:48 AM

Brian - always enjoy your witty comments. There are the core elements to OP which make it special. Quality of schools, progressive rep and housings stock/closeness to city. Two of the three are under duress ... again, in my humble view over 50 years and speak often to many people who left never to return. What is interesting is the most successful OPRF alum (across many areas) leave and never return. For example a classmate of mine is worth $300-400M (Dean - Harvard MBA, PArtner is $30B hedge fund) ....

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 11:40 AM

What does Cohen see that Bell does not see and what does Bell see that Cohen does not see? Plus how does the direction the Village takes is in those positions.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 11:03 AM

@ Jason "did I ask you a god damn thing! " - sam Jackson pulp fiction. good luck to you as well.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 10:55 AM

Here is my perspective as someone who up in Oak Park, black, attended U of C, served as top exec for software company that we took public and now two black boys going IVY and other likely pre admit MIT. My parents generation was THE generation which built Oak Park's reputation, worked to improve schools and race relations - they were intellectual progressives. - many educators, arts and science. Having returned after 22 years Oak Park is not entitled exceptionalist - in which having the title of liberal is more important than doing the work or excepting new ideas required to move forward. Now anytime someone dissents they are pushed out the bubble. Also, honestly, North OP is not integrated - yes black live here but it was not like South Oak PArk - blacks are excepted but not part of inner circle of white families - just take a look at facebook pages and see how many blacks are included. Again, I think OP is in trouble on financial front (spend /distress). that it is not nearly as intergrated as it once was on micro level.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 10:47 AM

@Christopher, I think we get it now. You are leaving and your son is going to a good school. It's like the 10th time you posted this now. Adios man and best of luck. No need to repeat the same content over and over.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 10:42 AM

@ Ramona always like your comments - did not see reference - but my son is going to UPenn in fall to study economics/physics (like elon musk) and will look it up :-). LAst few days of my time in Oak Park - and cant wait to leave. Not the place I grew up in and my parents made great (and I outgrew it long ago). Very big challenges on horizon and we will see what happens.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 9:56 AM

@Aaron. Could you please post links to the studies you mentioned from Stanford and Penn. The definition of liberal has changed in the last 50 years. JFK today would be considered a conservative. LIbertarians are the true live and let live liberals in today's political spectrum.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 9:28 AM

#WalkAway https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51UGcghHZsk

Jason Cohen  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 8:42 AM

It's important for the senior white guys to share their thoughts on what offends young african american children in our community. I am sure John spends a lot of time at Julian and can really speak to the impact this mural had on some of the children. He probably didn't even know this mural existed until he read the article it was being removed. It's always amazing to me that people want to be heard so bad about things that literally have zero impact on them. Let's not listen to the kids and their feelings. I mean they just go to the school. We should listen to all the senior white guys that aren't impacted by a change like this at all. Archie Bunker would be proud.

Scott Dolezal  

Posted: April 24th, 2019 7:43 AM

As a white man, I don't think it's useful or helpful for me to tell minorities what they should or should not be offended by, particularly when those people are children and still working on developing their racial identities.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 6:54 PM

Well stated, John. Thank you.

Aaron McManus from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 6:13 PM

Can you dig a little deeper and examine the evidence? It's not too hard to understand that the absence of black people in school is *not* the absence of racism. Kind of the opposite. Working on the racial achievement gap isn't alchemy or magic. There's a ton of evidence collected at places like Stanford, Penn, and many more about *how* to do it and what has been *proven* to work. It's not laughable in the slightest to think that what has worked other places can work here. It's sad that in 2019 we can't take an evidence based approach to policy, but instead have random fantasies that "racism doesn't exist" and efforts to change it are "magic" guiding John's political outlooks.

Carol Ann from OAK PARK  

Posted: April 23rd, 2019 5:29 PM

I know you are not alone. I am right there with you. Every thing you wrote could apply to my feelings exactly. Finally, someone that is not afraid to speak up.

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