Counter Book Banning With Book Sanctuaries

It seems incongruous to have members of the Proud Boys complain about a book at a local library. Unless there was a plan to scale the building or enter and threaten patrons it seems odd to have that right-wing organization involved with books. Or engaging with the ongoing book-banning conversation in the nation.  But in Downers Grove, Illinois group members objected to an autobiographical novel in a school library about nonbinary author Maia Kobabe’s journey of gender identity.  After the needless controversy, Gender Queer was unanimously voted by the school board to remain on the shelves.

This is but one of the far too many episodes where an attempt at censoring books and limiting ideas and removing varying perspectives on bookshelves has been undertaken by conservatives in the United States.  Not all such cases, sadly, are concluded as soundly as with the Downer Grove school board.  That then begs the question of what route can be taken to limit the damage from those who feel threatened by living in the 21st century?  While some conservatives are hell-bent on limiting exposure to the lives and experiences of people of color and LGBTQ+ people, it is important to know a move to counter the book banners is gaining traction.

The idea seems to have started in Chicago and is centered around a rather fundamental cornerstone. The city’s public library system has grounded itself as an institution fully committed to upholding the First Amendment Rights of all citizens, wherein books and the right to read them are front and center and where the well-heeled political groups have no undue influence. There is a procedure for complaints, but the first hurdle to cross would be the First Amendment.

The Chicago Sun-Times ran an article about this concept, which echoes the disdain that authors, readers, librarians, and teachers have registered against the ones who find censorship an embraceable action. 

Chicago hasn’t faced any battles over which books to make available, so library Commissioner Chris Brown said the city library system has more freedom to respond to the issue than many. He said any place can be a book sanctuary.

“It can be in your house, it can be in a community center, it can be in a school and also a library,” Brown said.

People seem to be catching on to the idea. Brown said more than 1,300 people viewed and downloaded materials that the Chicago library system first made available online last fall to help them get started. The library isn’t keeping track of who is downloading the kits. He said protecting challenged titles is part of the legacy of Chicago’s libraries.

According to the library association, which is based in Chicago, there were 67 attempts to ban books last year in Illinois, up from 41 such efforts in 2021. It says the number of book ban attempts has been on the rise in recent years, with 681 such moves involving more than 1,600 titles throughout the United States in 2021. That’s the most attempts the association has seen since it began tracking these numbers 20 years ago. According to ALA statistics, 44% of challenges to books happen in school libraries and 37% in public libraries, with sexually explicit material the No. 1 reason cited.

Tracie Hall, executive director of the library association, said the rise in book-banning efforts could be due to an increasingly polarized political climate nationwide. She said there’s a focus on books representing the lives and experiences of people of color and LGBTQ+ people.

“The way that power is hoarded, sometimes the way reading is politicized is an attempt to get to something that’s much deeper than just a joy of reading,” Hall said. “It’s really trying to restrict political, economic and social access.”

I fully understand the importance of books and their introduction of new ideas and countless perspectives.  I was a boy in rural Wisconsin with my local library providing the light and opening to the vast world beyond the town limits. I can speak to reading at a higher level than my peers from an early age, and why venturing into topics and arguments about issues that define our humanity allowed me to become the man I am today.  Book banning and censorship are reprehensible.  Book sanctuaries are an idea that must be furthered coast to coast.

Assault Weapons Face Wrath Of Illinois Citizens

When the legislative process works in accordance with the needs of society, and the desires of the majority for public safety there is a reason for general applause. Too often the monied interests and top-name lobbyists pull the levers in legislatures. Therefore, when long-simmering issues finally reach the committee process and the top half of newspapers, we can cheer both the governing process and the topic at hand. Simply put Illinois had more than 50 mass shootings in the state in 2022 and people are tired of the death and bloodshed.

Today, Illinois lawmakers held a hearing on legislation that would ban the sale and ownership of assault-style weapons.  The measure is akin to what both California and New York, upon listening to their citizens, have done with the enactment of similar laws.  House Bill 5855 would outlaw the manufacture, possession, delivery, selling, and purchasing of assault weapons, .50 caliber rifles, and .50 caliber cartridges.

It comes as no surprise why such a bill is clearly warranted as data proves firearm homicides increased by 35% from 2019 to 2020 nationwide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Legislators have heard the calls from Illinois voters and seen the polling from Global Strategy Group which shows support among registered Illinois voters at 58% for an assault-style weapons ban in the state while 66% said they wanted the minimum age to obtain a FOID card raised from 18 to 21.  (Illinois is one of four states to require a state-issued Firearm Owner Identification Card — known as a FOID card — to own a firearm, which it has done for decades.)

It likely does not need to be explained to folks in the Midwest what spurred this measure. The dastardly July 4th massacre in Highland Park gave impetus for sensible gun control legislation.  This bill will ban over 100 guns which include the AR-15 rifle which was used to kill seven people and also injured 48 others in that one shooting event alone.  I very much agree with the provision that makes it illegal to purchase or possess magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds and also bans the sale or purchase of “switches,” which can increase a weapon’s rate of fire. Equally important, in my estimation, is the aim of the bill to increase the age for people to carry a firearm from 18 to 21. The data shows what happens when unstable young men with mental health issues or feverish extreme political views have easy access to purchasing assault weapons that can kill scores of people in mere seconds.

I have been reading and following the politics of this measure, which is as important as the bill’s content.  I sense a strong move for passage. This bill will get over the finish line.  As of this morning, there are more than 25 co-sponsors and in interviews over the past month, top assembly leaders have promised the matter is not only a priority piece of legislation but could be passed in a lame-duck session in early 2023. Governor JB Pritzker is a solid supporter of the bill and will affix his signature as soon as the paperwork is placed on his desk. 

The gun epidemic is so pervasive and perverse that it will take a series of bills and avenues of strategy to start to stem the death and bloodshed. At this point, the aim is to reduce gun crimes by limiting the sale of certain types of guns and curtailing the ability of young men to purchase weapons designed for the battlefield. While we know the gun-toting NRA types will swirl about with lawsuits and legal procedures let us not forget that in the reality of how people are confronted with gun violence in churches, grocery stores, schools, and too many neighborhoods it is incumbent that elected officials grasp one solid fact. 

The tail should never wag the dog. Citizens have had their fill of selfish gun owners, easy access to gun sales, along with deadly and reckless outcomes.  Illinois is fighting back.

And we can strongly applaud their efforts.

Bad Parenting And Mass Shooter In Highland Park

On July 14th I turn another year older and it seems each year at this time I spend a bit of time pondering life, looking back nostalgically and also sizing up where life has taken me. This year, given the gravity of the headlines following the mass shooting in Highland Park and the additionally troubling news of the shooter traveling to Middleton and the Madison area, makes me most aware of how adrift society has landed from when I was in my early 20s.

I am not lacking knowledge as to the differences in generations and the types of stresses and issues that current parents and children encounter in life. Technology alone has altered the landscape from how teachers conduct classes to how kids ask someone out for a Saturday night movie. Granted, I was born in 1962 in a rural county in Wisconsin.  Many can, up to a point, claim ‘things were much different’ then, and they would be accurate.  But only up to a point. 

What I have argued and at times it might appear even preached, is that there is no reason the same common-sense rules of the road for parenting that my mom and dad employed should not apply today. A large portion of my first book Walking Up The Ramp (second book to be published later this summer) speaks to how mom and dad raised a boy to be a man. The very foundations that applied in my home, along with the vast number of my fellow classmates during the years of schooling were not old-fashioned or ‘dated’. Rather the problem today is that in too many cases they too often have been cast aside. Worse still, not even entertained as a path of raising a kid.

I was flabbergasted to read, and sadly see, Denise Pesina, the mother of mass shooter Bobby Crimo pulled down her top and exposed her right breast while confronting the professional SWAT personnel waiting to enter her home following the slaughter during the Fourth of July parade. That act was one more piece of the growing puzzle as to the lack of character of the killer’s parents and what type of home environment existed. Perhaps the photo can be used for her end-of-the-year holiday letter?

Her action was not a ‘one-off’ and pardon me the bad pun. Such behavior does not just occur, but rather resembles the makeup of the person, err…’parent’.

Nothing, however, proves the lack of parenting skills or the total disregard for community safety more clearly than when Robert Crimo, Jr., the father of the mass shooter, signed off on his son’s application for a deadly gun in December 2019. That occurred despite Bobby having two previous encounters with local police, including one in September 2019 where he allegedly threatened to “kill everybody” in his family.

Sure get him a deadly weapon! What possibly could be the harm in doing so?

With such a delusional frame of mind can my readers imagine the father as the mayor of Highland Park? His political background and the news from this week underscore how correctly voters were when gauging him at the ballot box.

Obviously, there will be a criminal investigation into the culpability of the father, and legal fees for his actions, we can only hope, are extravagant, given the scope of the deadly and heinous crimes committed by his son. We can strongly assume the father will slink away and not be ever again seeking public office or pressing for lax gun control measures.

As I have done a couple of times previously on Caffeinated Politics I again offer a few ideas that either were in place when I was a kid or ones that clearly had no need to ever be addressed because we had a solid family foundation. I wonder how many of the ones below were not included in the Crimo home and treated as a daily routine?

Sadly, we know the father had no regard for gun safety given his reckless actions regarding his son. Meanwhile, it is reported the wife has been separated from the husband, and it appears the family home is soon to be facing foreclosure.

  1. Kids need to be read to from day one.  Books need to be in a home and used as an everyday item same as a plate or spoon.
  2. There is no excuse to miss school except for sickness.
  3. Schoolwork is front and center in the evening.
  4. One may not have lots of money but there can still be an investment made in education.  Attending parent/teacher meetings or volunteering at the local school are but two ways to impact a child’s education.
  5. From the start know who your kids interact with and the quality of people they spend time with when the parent is not around.  Alerting them from the start about the quality of friends can be most important.
  6. Every day there is a time when all in the family meet for dinner (supper) and no electronic gadgets are allowed at the table.  Talk centers on whatever took place in the lives gathered.  Fostering good communication skills for the whole family is a most undervalued asset in times of turmoil. 
  7. Kids do not smoke in the house.
  8. No drugs are allowed in the house.
  9. No guns or other weapons are allowed in the house.
  10. There is an expectation from Day One that learning is important and respect for oneself and others is never to falter.
  11. No one even hints at dropping out of high school.

Times change but common sense does not.  Young people who make awful choices need to take their share of responsibility for what happens.  But parents need to step up their game and help society create the next generation of adults we would want as our neighbors.

We saw this week what happens when parents do not meet their obligations. Not only to their children but also to society.

Illinois Governor’s Race Looking (Deep?) Blue

There was a primary surprise in Illinois last night which I did not see coming.    The closeness of the race between Governor Bruce Rauner and his primary opponent underscores the deep chasm among the Republicans in a state where unity–in the face of electoral facts–is nothing short of a necessity.   I had wondered how divided the GOP would be after this contest, but had figured the truly dirty campaign tactics from State Representative Rep. Jeanne Ives would be more soundly rejected.   In the end Rauner won with only 51 % of the vote.   So narrow that he avoided becoming the first sitting Illinois governor in 42 years to lose his party’s nomination.

Rauner’s slim victory shows that nasty red-meat campaigning is still a draw for angry conservatives.   Rauner did what was needed in his term by raising income taxes and facing–at least in some limited ways–the reality of the state’s economic woes.  In addition, he increased funding for abortions and in so doing received a mighty severe blow from conservatives over this middle-of -the-road policy decision.

Recall that Rauner was elected 50-46 percent in 2014 over then embattled Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. ( I really liked Quinn for being a decent man with a common-man touch to politics.) Now he will face billionaire businessman JB Pritzker who defeated businessman Chris Kennedy and State Senator Daniel Biss in the Democratic primary.

As we head to November it also needs to be noted than in 2016 Hillary Clinton won Illinois 56-39 percent over Trump.  With a state that is mostly blue as a whole, combined with a national mood that is very much at odds with an angry orange man, means that Rauner’s problems within the Republican base is a real problem.

What Rauner has going for him is Pritzker, who was my least favorite candidate in the Democratic primary.  While it is true that he a Democrat in a Democratic state in a Democratic year should not remove the fact he has a background, and closet of secrets that can still make for a nasty series of headlines.

Primary Day In Illinois

All eyes are on the frothy–or might it be better to say blistering primary battle– Jeanne Ives has waged on Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.  The radio ads alone are enough to curdle milk.  The television commercials have produced not only a strident message but also blow-back.

In one TV ad alone there is a male actor dressed as a woman “thanking” Rauner for “signing legislation that lets me use the girl’s bathroom.”  That may make a headline but will not hit suburban Republican women in a way that causes the lever to be pulled for Ives.  (You can see my age is showing with ‘pulling the lever’. Ah, well, politics should always have a nostalgic feel,)  The hard right wing attacks on Rauner are making for a major split within the GOP.  The results will be shown in the fall which is already shaping up to be a harsh one for the GOP.

On the Democratic side CP is very much pulling for Chris Kennedy.  The legacy family name is not the reason for my views, but instead I have really liked, and been persuaded by, his stance on issues along with his humanity.  At a time when politics is so raw he talks like a father, a concerned member of society, a man who enjoy facts.  That all matters much to me.

Meanwhile  J.B.Pritzker, a billionaire and philanthropist who has put over $60 million of his own money into the race, and state senator and former teacher Dan Biss are running in a crowded field.  Biss is where I am watching as to the amount of progressive type votes he might split off from Kennedy.  Biss has styled himself as the “middle class governor,” emphasizing that his competitors have never had to face the real world given their personal assets.  I argue it is not the amount of money one has but the way it is used, and the efforts made by the person to ensure the lives of others are better.

This will be an a fun night for election returns.

Whoever has the best down-state operation will be the winner—that is how Rod Blagojevich and other campaigns have secured their wins after coming out strong in Cook County.

Political Trivia: Murder During U.S. Senate Campaign

September 18, 1966.

Fifty years later, it remains one of Illinois’ best-known and most mysterious unsolved killings.  Valerie Jean Percy, 21, was found beaten and stabbed to death in her bed in her family’s Kenilworth mansion.   Mrs. Lorraine Percy will wake at 5 A.M. to breaking glass and then witness a man bludgeoning her step-daughter to death.

The political fact is when it came to the vote tally that year in Illinois for Charles Percy the ratio of symptomatic votes with the callous ones based on race (given the headlines that year nationally) were suspiciously high.

Video: Senator Mark Kirk Makes Ugly Remark About Tammy Duckworth

This was ugly and just one more reason as to why a Democratic pick-up will take place Election Day in Illinois.

At Thursday night’s Senate debate, Rep. Tammy Duckworth explained at that her family has “served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution.” Senator Mark Kirk responded, “I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

Did Fox Lake Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz Commit Suicide On The Job?

This is the strangest police shootings of the year. Namely, because it is looking less and less that a criminal element killed the officer.    Recall when much of the region was on the hunt for three killers?   There is a strong sense from what is being reported–and not everything is of course, and that is understandable–that this officer killed himself.

More than $300,000 has been spent on the investigation into the unsolved shooting death of a Fox Lake police lieutenant, according to a review of personnel records from 50 suburban Chicago police agencies.

Almost two-thirds of that number, about $196,000, was related to overtime, according to an analysis by the Daily Herald. The review also found that departments with employees assigned to the Lake County Major Crime Task Force had some of the highest costs. 

The killing of Fox Lake Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz on Sept. 1 prompted a manhunt for three suspects. Authorities later confirmed Gliniewicz had been shot twice with his own weapon. Investigators have revealed little else.

Despite a wide search and a month of detective work, police haven’t made any arrests, identified any suspects or come up with a possible motive. Questions have swirled around the investigation — particularly since the county coroner said he has been unable to rule the 52-year-old Gliniewicz’s death a homicide, suicide or an accident.

The review found that 283 people from 50 suburban Chicago police departments and sheriff’s offices were involved in the first three weeks after the shooting, either assisting in the investigation or covering shifts for others. That amounts to more than 5,700 hours of work.