Saturday, November 26, 2005

SIDEBAR: Political stridency (case in point #2)

Note: SIDEBAR is the term I use when talking about my personal experiences that relate in someway to news of the day. In news reporting, it refers to a secondary feature, usually in a "box," that highlights a facet of the primary news story. It is borrowed from the legal profession, when judges and attorneys stand to the side of the public "bar" (judge's bench) to engage in an unrecorded private discussion.

The most recent incident of right wing political stridency run amok (previous blog item) reminded me of another incident ... or maybe several more incidences … of the damage done to good old conservatism by the extremists in our own house.

As most every knows, I am a very hard-line pro-lifer. That did not prevent me from being attacked by one of the religious vigilantes.

Several years ago, I was leading a fight to reopen Chicago's lakefront Meigs airport after Mayor Richard Daley shut it down and painted an "X" on the runway. The effort to reopen was successful, much to the chagrin of the mayor. So, five years later, Hizzoner bulldozed the runway like a vandal in the middle of the night. But, that is another story.

During the earlier battle, I received an irate call from what I had always perceived to be a pro-life friend. He screamed into the phone, threatening to never associate with me or my activities again. (Listening to him at the moment, I considered that a blessing). In fact, I have not seen nor heard from him since (definitely a blessing).

One prominent personality in my Save Meigs coalition was Richard Phelan, fromer president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Despite his Catholic upbringing, and the plea of his fellow communicants, Phelan personally ordered the restoration of abortions at the county hospital. Needless to say, I was among those who thought excommunication was not inappropriate. However, those were the days of Cardinal Bernadine, who was more interested in his civic public relations than Catholic doctrine.

I explained to the caller that Phelan was the attorney for a group of pilots how had sued the mayor over the issue. But, that was not a suitable response. Having my airport cause supported by Phelan was unacceptable, period. It apparently was my obligation to myopically confront the former board president in the most hostile manner at each and every opportunity. For the caller, society had only one issue.

Finally, in frustration, I told the caller that if he could bring evidence that they were performing abortions at Meigs airport, I would cease my campaign to have it reopened, and disassociate myself from the scorned Mr. Phelan.

As a postscript, I should add that the caller was not one of the highly visible anti-abortion activists, but a ubiquitous fellow traveler. Never the guy on the podium, but the one always yelling from the rear of the room. You know the type, I am sure.

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