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Letters

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Re “Apparently Money Does Grow on Trees: There’s No Other Way the Park District Can Justify the $22 Million It’s Spending on Its Streeterville Offices” by Ben Joravsky, April 10

And how much property could be purchased for $22 million in less affluent areas for the creation of neighborhood parks? The Park District is always crying poor when it comes to the neighborhoods but continues waste­ful spending on administration and boondoggles like this.

Aviva Patt

Have you ever been in the offices? Beau­tiful!! Real wood, artwork everywhere; it is a fantastic custom build-out. I wish I worked there, except I think I would feel too guilty.

Jenn

Hi Jenn, if you enjoy opulent interior decorating, don’t miss CTA HQ.

Hugh

Given the remedial math skills of these “brain trusts” they must have graduated from CPS schools. . . . Oh, that’s right, the graduation rate sucks so maybe they went to . . . the Richie Daley School of “Stick It to the Taxpayers.” One more in a long line of rip-offs, where the F*** is Fitzgerald?

Frank Morgan

This is the same park district that spent millions to put iron fences around the parks. I guess when you’re spending someone else’s money then the sky is the limit. Daley, Stroger, and the rest of the hacks are brilliant at rewarding their friends.

albanypark

Men of Their Times

Re “Harold and Barack” by Michael Miner, Hot Type, April 10

Harold Washington was Black. [An] African-American who lived the American Black experience.

Barack Obama is African-American but lived the white American experience.

Barack Obama did not suffer racism but has been gifted because of white guilt, while Harold Washington was brutally oppressed because of race.

The ancestors of Harold Washington were slaves. The ancestors of Barack Obama were slaveholders.

Barack Obama is an intelligent and articulate man. But he does not speak truth to power. He is the Black man that whites feel comfortable with.

Barack Obama has been silent on torture under Jon Burge.

Barack Obama has been silent on corruption in the Daley and Blagojevich administrations.

Barack Obama has been silent on police torture in Chicago and racism that still happens today in his area.

Harold Washington had courage, Black unity, and higher turnout, which did not happen under Barack, and spoke truth to power.

John

How do YOU know what Barack “suffered”? I really wish people would stop playing the “is he black enough?” While your points about his support of machine politics and Burge are valid, they are overshadowed by the other crap you were kicking.

Jamie

It's not the Movement, it's the Moment

I hope Michael Miner’s piece on “Harold and Barack” leads more readers to Salim Muwakkil’s wonderful new book [Harold! Photographs From the Harold Washington Years], including its chapter on how “The Movement Finds the Man.” It holds lessons from an earlier era that can help us contemplate today’s challenges.

Harold Washington told me that he himself did not “subscribe to the great man theory.” He thought that history’s principal actors—the heroes who get the credit—were always the beneficiaries of what today we might call a perfect storm of opportunities.

But he did not credit “the Movement” for putting him into office—or anyway not beyond the decent respect of any politician for his or her political base. Specifically, he chuckled at the thought that he had audi­tioned for the role and had been anointed by a committee of elders (or, according to other claims, radical young Turks).

On the contrary, he told me that he had responded to calls for him to run—again (he had been a mayoral candidate in the 1977 primary)—by challenging community leaders to meet high goals for fund-raising and black voter registration, channeling their enthusiasms for his political risk taking (“Let’s you and him fight,” is how he put it) into focused work on his behalf. Like any leader who knows how to credit others for his successes, he never discouraged anyone from thinking that they were the indispensable element in his election—but the movement didn’t make the man, the man surfed on the movement, and it doesn’t help us in meeting today’s challenges to perpetuate a myth or draw the wrong conclusions from history.

My long contemplation of the meaning of Harold Washington—in my teaching, in my sporadic journalism, and in my two nonfiction books plus a still un­pub­lished novel about Council Wars—convinces me that it’s the Moment, not the Movement, that makes the difference between a frustrated activist and a successful leader.

The Moment is always a patchwork of long-term trends and sudden opportunities, a matter of finding the perfect perspective from which to assemble seemingly dis­parate fragments into a coherent pattern—and then articulating a dynamic narrative supported and illustrated by that pattern of evidence, in which you—the “hero”—are the principal actor. This is not something that happens by itself. The “great man” is almost always an active player, not a humble Samuel who trembles at the call.

I agree with Salim’s take on the similarities and differences between Harold and Barack. The Moment in 1982-1983 was not the Moment of 2007-2008. I have no doubt, however, that a leader of Barack’s skills would have been able to put it all together as Harold did—and vice versa. I only wish such a leader had been around to pick up the torch in 1987, when we lost The Man and had only The Movement to turn to.

Alton Miller
Associate Dean
School of Media Arts
Columbia College Chicago

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