"Heaven has a road, but no one travels it; Hell has no gate, but men will bore through to get there."

Monday, February 11, 2008


Last year around this time I was working on a friend's campaign to replace our current Chicago Alderman. If anyone elsewhere is unfamiliar with this position, there are 50 of them in the city and they pretty much control everything (along with Mayor Daley of course!) through their acute powers of pandering, distorttion, corruption and influence-peddling. Occasionally, they do some work. Many sleep in council meetings and the rest are just content to simmer in self-righteous anger. One or two are so old they really need to expire. At any rate, below is a letter I wrote on behalf of my friend who ran to offer a different alternative than this ugly, gray hulking machine. As I reread it yesterday, I noticed how much the basic political values represented in this tiny election would serve our entire republic:

I would like to write this letter to express my absolute and wholehearted support for Jim Ginderske for 49th Ward Alderman in the upcoming Feb. 27th election.

First off, I will say that while I firmly resist labeling, it is sometimes necessary to establish a point of reference. I am a gay man who fully supports equal rights and treatment for all people. However, for me, this does and should not translate into pandering solely for the purpose of vote-getting targeted at any minority group. I think this type of profiling and ghetto-ization of groups of people does great disservice to individual identity, freedom and the unity of our civil society. I also take exception to the current view that if you are not incessantly grandstanding about “tolerance” about gay causes, you are somehow de-facto “intolerant.” This is a limited and rather childish view and reminds me of choosing up sides on a playground- an odd concept when the acknowledgement of difference should be but one step on the path toward the final goal of common humanity and shared interests. For me, it has always been a matter of personhood first, sexuality second.

In accordance with this view, I am supporting Jim Ginderske in this respect, not for any sloganeering or focus on any single community, but for his more all-embracing concern, compassion and desire to serve us all. I have found that when somebody truly believes in something, they live and demonstrate it everyday in their interactions with whomever they may encounter. No simple and shallow lip-service is needed. I might add, that applied from a larger perspective, Jim puts all of his principles into action. Through getting to know him, with regard to any issues of “equal rights,” Jim deeply believes the following which informs all of his decision making:

At the most basic level, we are either all free, or none of us is free and whatever we try to accomplish in society will fail if we do not recognize and act upon this fact. In addition, it is an alarming contradiction, in Jim’s words, that “there is so much intolerance for those people who have learned to be MOST tolerant of others.”

Jim has welcomed all people into his genuinely grassroots campaign, not because they wear a particular label, but for who they are and what they can bring to the endeavor of making positive change amidst difficult circumstances. Jim supports each member of his diverse set of friends and he “gets it” when it comes to an understanding of how such diversity enriches a community. He has supported numerous causes to fight crime, improve education and support the creativity so necessary to thinking outside the box about complex problems- even building an art studio to allow the talented people he has met to express themselves. Jim is wonderfully suited to the character and personality of our ward.

Because he so values all people, Jim has a corresponding desire to work for their betterment, which is why he took on the monumental task against entrenched and powerful opposition to stand up and courageously run for Alderman- enlisting the aid of all those who respect him and pooling the collective talents of the neighborhood to serve this cause in amazing ways. For me, it is safe to assume he would bring the same talent to the office of Alderman- uniting rather than attempting to divide our community along racial and economic lines. He is a whole person of great integrity who desires to foster this kind of personality in others. He is about building a neighborhood that is whole, safe and thriving. This race for him is not a cynical construction manipulated by moneyed interests, but much more organic, about linking compassion to problem-solving to address the concerns of those who live in this unique community. He has had an
integrated plan to do this available on his website for nearly a year. The incumbent and his other opponents have laundry lists of lackluster accomplishments from the past, or poorly thought out schemes for the future. Jim provides a very clear contrast to the superficial fear-mongering coming out of other campaigns and most of the base chatter coming from the local blogosphere.

Given the current political environment in our country, I think the reason people are slow to respond to the idealism needed to animate and empower our political process is because they have become conditioned in cynicism, believing at a fundamental level that political idealism has somehow become bad taste through lack of any positive examples of its execution. There can therefore be only a very few Kennedys or O’Bamas or Martin Luther King Jrs when the public would hardly recognize them or give them a chance to attempt to do good if by some miraculous stroke of good fortune they might happen to already be in our midst.

In short, I support Jim because he supports me – as a spiritually committed person, citizen, neighbor and yes, a gay man, who cares passionately about the welfare of others. This kind of support for the community at large is evident in Jim’s work on healthcare, crime reduction, affordable housing, poverty remediation and enhanced business development. He has also proposed a Boys and Girls Club of American for the 49th ward to transfer hope, optimism and the promise of accomplishment to our youth as an alternative to the streets.

Jim has shaped his idealism into a compassionate and holistic approach to deal with the neighborhood’s complex problems honestly and for the good of its residents and not some underhanded and self-aggrandizing motivation. He has put his own money where his mouth and heart are and to me, that is the ultimate measure of concern and involvement. In response to the commitment I have seen from him, I chose to take a month off from my usual work to support Jim’s vision. He cares for his neighbors and recognizes the importance of fulfilling the promise of opportunity not only for those who can afford it, but for minority, impoverished and disenfranchised residents as well.

In conclusion, I am concerned that Jim’s obvious superiority for this position has not been more fully recognized and applauded by everyone in the 49th ward and outside it who seek real and meaningful change. Jim is ideally suited to the higher cause of healing and uniting our community behind genuine leadership, and creating an example for the rest of our city, state and country of how inspiringly good ideas and yes- some joy- have the ability to lift and empower all our friends and neighbors.

Because of Jim, we need not be afraid for, but excited and hopeful about the future of #49!

No comments: