A few odd things come together in my mind over a weekend in which we had 28 shootings.
The first was Eugene Kane's column about Michael McGee, Jr. Kane tells the tale of two McGees - or of one McGee and a Jackson - or some other multiple of any given set of names. Yes, he's a boor, but he has all these accomplishments. Somewhere - deep inside - he has the right stuff. In this, I think Kane represents a significant, although by no means universal, strand of thought within the African American community.
The most striking thing about these "accomplishments" is how irrelevant they are to any of the serious problems faced by McGee's consituents. He pushed a law to require companies who do business with the city to find out if they - or more accurately a predecessor five times removed - ever engaged in a transaction in which slaves were involved. 150 or more years ago. That'll sure improve things down at 27th & North.
He wanted to find a "safe haven" for cruisers, say a malt shoppe or more of the ubiquitous midnight basketball. He opposed an anti-loitering law because everyone knows that the real source of stray bullets in his district is not open air drug bazaars and the disputes that arise from them, but overzealous cops. Anyway, since McGee has told the community to "stop snitching," no one has anything to fear from the gangbangers down the corner. There's a clever bit of peacemaking.
After a tragic drowning, he wanted to put up warning signs along the Milwaukee River. I'm not sure what they were going to say. Maybe "This is water. Don't fall in."
He wanted to buy back guns. We all know how effective those are in taking guns out of the hands of criminals. If you have a choice between keeping a gun to defend your drug house or to protect yourself from the Egyptian Cobras or selling it to Mike McGee for fifty bucks, well, that's just a no-brainer, isn't it?
He did take a leading rule in protesting the Frank Jude verdict. I'll give him that. I guess that made him too busy to protest the murder of a witness who identified the thugs who beat a young man to death. Well, he told them not to snitch. I guess he can't do everything.
Why defend this guy? I am reminded, ironically, of Randy Newman's old song Rednecks. (Warning: offensive lyrics.) It begins:
Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart ass New York Jew
And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox
And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too
Well he may be a fool but he's our fool
If they think they're better than him they're wrong
So I went to the park and I took some paper along
And that's where I made this song
Georgia had to give up on Lester Maddox