Anyway, Helen did fine. What follows is a spotty and quickly dashed off (therefore not polished) look at what Helen's opponent (and supporters from their website) have to say.
I must say James Cappleman did remind me of President Bush. The facts didn't matter. What he did do was fear-monger, and alas, that works with some people. He also provided some unintentional humor.
Perhaps the funniest moment was when, in apparent desperation near debate's end, he cited a pro-Cappelman, anti-Shiller website, whatthehelen.com. This was a huge error on his part, as that website is one nasty, lie-filed hate fest. More on that in a moment. Helen -- astonished he'd brought the site up -- observed how it reflected his campaign and was run by folks backing him. He denied it, yet brought it up himself. Surreal. Helen repeated the site's url and urged Channel 11's viewers to log on themselves to see the nature of Cappelman's supporters.
So, about that website. Helen said, quite bluntly, that it was racist. I didn't see any overt mention of race on the site. But she's absolutely right in a larger sense, in that the site reflects the reactionary xenophobic core of Mr. Cappelman's campaign strategy. He seems to be all about creating and cultivating fear of "the other." And as I mentioned in a previous post regarding the aldermanic election, the racial breakdown of supporters for each candidate is self-evident and (in my opinion) not accidental. Uptown's poorer families are currently at risk due to wild land speculation and condo developments (many of which are less than half full). It is this class-based struggle which for the past twenty to thirty years has defined Uptown's political landscape. And, like other unsuccessful candidates running against Helen in the past, Cappleman uses the fear of some "haves" to marginalize the have-nots.
How is such fear cultivated? Since he did cite the whatthehelen site himself, let's go ahead and use it for some examples.
To hate properly one has to create and define "the other." And apparently the other in this case includes JPUSA (Jesus People USA), the ministry / intentional community I am a part of. Despite being a member of the Evangelical Covenant Church (a forward-looking Christian denomination with its international headquarters and renowned University and Seminary, North Park, within a mile or so of JPUSA's 920 W. Wilson home), JPUSA is labeled a "cult" over and over again by Cappleman's supporters. We are wildly accused of illegal and/or unethical activities, and videos are posted of our home (which frankly strike me as "stalker" video). Further, the site claims they are going to stalk, with video cameras, voters using our address (we are a precinct polling place for the Feb. 27 elections). If that happens, I will certainly call the election board and / or police and suggest that voter harassment is occurring.
The most bizarre video example offered by their site is one carefully documenting the existence of a "wire" between two of our buildings -- this wire is alleged evidence of wrong-doing on someone's part. (For my part, I think someone has a short in their wires.)
Our faith itself becomes a target. Unfortunately, I have to be self-referential here, as the site does bring me personally into their uninformed version of reality:
"Jesus Camp" is a film about an evangelical Christian philosophy called "The Charasmatic Movement." The local connection to the movement can be found in Jon Trott, of Jesus People USA fame.I'm sorry. I actually laughed aloud on this one. I get it. I'm supposed to be a fundie who thinks George Bush is at the Right Hand of Jesus (or one day will be), and who thinks invading Iraq is part of God's plan to evangelize the middle-east. The fact I've repeatedly posted -- on this blog -- opinions harshly contrary to those views (whaddya think "Blue Christian" means, anyway?) is ignored by the Cappleman folk.
Did they actually watch "Jesus Camp"? I did. Here's my mostly positive review (which has been up for quite a while. Second, that is "Charismatic" with an "i" -- might want to bone up on your theology, er, philosophy (???). And no, "Jesus Camp" is not about the Charismatic movement, except incidentally. It is about Evangelicalism in general, especially the more far-to-the-right elements within it. Contrary to popular belief, there are also many centrist and to the left-of-center elements within evangelical and charismatic groups. This site is one man's attempt to explore that "blue evangelical" world, which includes folks such as N. T. Wright, "emergent church" leaders such as Brian McLaren, and one-time Chicagoan Jim Wallis (of D. C.-based Sojourners and sojo.net).
Anyone living in intentional community -- especially if that community has faith-based overtones -- can quickly be dispensed with simply by using the word "cult" to describe said group, or "cultist" to describe a member of said group. I will tell you here and now that doing so is essentially the same as calling a black person "nigger." Calling someone a "cultist" is to accuse them of not having meaningful thoughts of their own, not having a meaningful faith, not having compassion or depth of insight into our common humanity. A "cultist" is either stupid or brainwashed, or both, and a "cult" is a malevolent organization bent on using and abusing the innocent to its own nefarious ends. These terms are, like racial slurs, a shortcult -- er, shortcut -- to removing that person's and/or group's humanity from them and turning them into a vicious cartoon. So, yes, the site is racist in the larger sense of the "us/them" mentality.
Seriously, if someone out there actually wants to know more about either JPUSA or evangelicals who lean left -- and maybe some who don't as well -- do let me know. I don't mean to ruin the "JPUSA is a fundie right wing cult" idea... but it just happens not to jibe with hard fact, and is also a despicable slur.
Note that anti-religious bigotry is okay for them, though our traditionally Christian position on homosexuality is not okay and is called "anti-gay."
Yes, we do along with many Christians worldwide believe that sexual expression is meant for heterosexual marriage alone. This is not an unusual or extreme view, whether our friends and neighbors agree or not. But with it, we believe our gay neighbors are our neighbors, and know what the Lord asks us to do: "love your neighbor as yourself." We have consistently worked with gays over the years on political and social issues confronting Uptown, including and especially creating affordable housing. We have publicly and harshly criticized those mis-characterizing homosexuals as child-molesters, "unfit" to teach in schools, and the like, esp. groups such as the nefarious (and in my opinion satanic) "God Hates Fags" sect led by Fred Phelps.
But the bottom line is what does all that have to do with Helen Shiller -- who is pro-gay and has been so consistently? She's been endorsed over her opponent by most of the major gay media voices in Chicago. She works with all the folks in her ward whether she disagrees with them on some issues or not. As do we. Helen also works with most of the faith community in Uptown, much of which holds a position on homosexuality very much like JPUSA's.[*] That does not, again, mean Helen Shiller agrees with us on this. In short, the gay issue as it relates to Helen's re-election is a red herring her opponent is attempting to mislead folks with.
The burning issue in Uptown remains the poorer residents in the area. Schools are shrinking as poorer families are priced out and moved out in favor of new condos mostly stocked with young urban professionals. The neighborhood is increasingly white, whereas it has historically been the city's most racially diverse neighborhood.
As Helen herself said at the close of the Channel 11 debate:
"The real problem is that we have to have ways in which the breadth of people can see themselves reflected in terms of their needs and desires when [those needs and desires] are competing. And we can do that."In short, Helen is about building consensus in the midst of diversity. Her opponent is about destroying consensus through fear-mongering, then diversity through the systemic elimination of housing and aid to poorer Uptown residents. There's not much else to be said.
* a footnote re charges made by the whatthehelen.com site that JPUSA removed all articles on homosexuality because we didn't want people to know about our "anti-gay" stance... Actually, those articles were (and technically still are) on our cornerstonemag.com site, which alas I administer. But it was built by someone else, and the ENTIRE SITE is down, except for a few very old links and the front page. Written in Micro$oft ASP by a good friend, the site was moved to a new server and since then all articles in the newer database format -- which is almost all of them -- are unavailable. I'm unable to figure out what is wrong, and have called in help. But at present, we don't have it up. To think I'd take down three quarters of my entire writing output over the years (along with that of many, many others) over a local election is a fairly paranoid way of thinking. The site has been down for months, and it remains a highly irritating state of affairs for me.