Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Helen Shiller Debates Bush... er, Cappleman

Gosh, but James Cappleman reminded me of our President last night. He was on Channel 11 (PBS) debating our alderperson, Helen Shiller. Helen got off to a nervous start but did fine once the debate got rolling. It was easy to tell she knew what she was talking about, and that Mr. Cappleman did not. For instance, he cited HUD standards for housing as a reason her Wilson Yard project was no good. Yet he seemed ignorant of the fact that the project was NOT a HUD project and that HUD standards are by no means the only standards for housing in Chicago or anywhere else. The fact that Wilson Yard passed through Chicago's rigorous approval process with flying colors seems not to register with Cappleman. Instead, he and his supporters write it all off as a conspiracy. Sigh.

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, 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

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 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 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.


Corey said...

In regards to: 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.

Y'mean you don't believe those things? Crap... I need to go re-evaluate your Jesus Camp post again. Sarcasm can be lost on the strident.

JP Paulus said...


i wouldn't say that Helen SHiller did stellar on CHicago Tonight.

She was pretty rude & dominating, and ELizabeth Brackett did a poor job of restraining her.

i thought it odd, too, that James Cappleman would mention whatthehelen(dot)com, since it is not officially sanctioned by his campaign. SO much for "plausible deniability".

My big challenge for IrishPirate is to meet me in person, talk to me as an individual human.

He has totally balked at that.

Hopefully, people will look at that site with an open mind and consider if the hate generated by that attitude is worth supporting. People in the middle, such as at www.erikmoe(dot)com/wp/ don't seem to like it.

But on the message board of buenaparkneighbors(dot)com there is starting to appear some anti-Cappleman people. They aren't helping things with their bad attitude.

We really need to pray for peace in the neighborhood.

Jon Trott said...

Corey, you are correct that sarcasm can indeed be lost on the strident. Hehehehe... I can imagine the Cappleman folk misquoting me to show just how fundie I am! Heck, can't a guy have any fun at all? So... just for the record... I feel Bush's tenure and misadventures in Iraq have been unmitigated disasters... not only for America and Iraq and the world, but also for Evangelicals in particular. We'll be a long time getting rid of the stigma of Mr. Bush. A good long time... If ever.

IrishPirate said...


I posted a picture of your home because it has a Shiller sign in the front window. Interesting for a tax exempt religious group.

If you don't like it.........too freaking bad.

I don't like many of your religious beliefs........too freaking bad for me.

If you want to openly use your religous group to support Shiller.........fine.

Just play by the rules and give up your tax exempt status.

IrishPirate said...

Hey Jon

if you lost your writing try

It should be there.

I may not agree with you but I understand the importance of it to you

IrishPirate said...


Your site should be there.

Jon Trott said...

jp paulus...

I'm glad for your voice in this fracas, even though we don't always agree. Peace is a good thing, though it usually seems impossible in Uptown's framework of reality.

As for Helen being rude, you have to understand that I'd just gotten done reading the full set of posts the whatthehelen folk were offering on us. So Helen seemed to me choir-like in her demeanor after that. But I do admit I might be a touch biased. (No! Trott?!)

As far as the nastiest folks, if it were only me they were after, who the heck cares. As I mentioned in the post, it was more funny than anything to be grouped with radical elements of the Christian Right. But when this "cult" business starts up, I guess I'm just done. People who use that word are bigots, xenophobes, and need a course on tolerance. I guess I'm not too tolerant of them anymore, truth be told.

Re Irish Pirate, I've never met him and am unaware who he is. If at some point after the election he would sit down with me (maybe with you there as well so this event would be witnessed by someone) I'd be game. If he's not up for it, oh well.

Anyway, thanks for the comment.

Jon Trott said...

Irish Pirate...

That was weird. Here I am writing a post to JP Paulus regarding (among other things) you, and you meanwhile are posting here.

First, thank you for that link. Very cool, and yes most of the site if not all of it is indeed there. I'll have to download it all and then figure out how to repost. (Sigh.)

The after-election cuppa joe at Starbucks or whatever with JP is on.

I do hope you hear me about that "cult" word, if indeed you are responsible for using it. The word once had real meaning, which (by the way) wasn't necessarily pejorative. T. S. Eliot, for instance, wrote about "cult and culture" never thinking the first term had anything to do with folks having their brains sucked out. But it has today become a dangerous and highly inaccurate means of labeling people and groups. If we have evidence that a group or person is involved in systemic lies, financial rip-offs, and/or sexual misconduct with those they are purporting to help, call them bad Christians (or bad Buddhists or bad Muslims). But don't slap the "c" label on to groups you don't like... because it is a bigot word.

I can go on and on re that subject. But won't.

As for you taking pictures of our front door, heck, make it your wallpaper! (Wink) But I honestly can't help feeling that the all-out assault on those you disagree with has put us all in a strange and unhappy land. (And of course, you likely feel we -- meaning Helen Shiller supporters, not necessarily JPUSA folk -- have done the same to you.)

I will tell you this. I doubt I would ever vote against Helen, and that isn't because she made big money for JPUSA somehow or greased the wheels of progress in some unethical way. Think about it. A group of our size would nearly always get help from an alderperson -- any alderperson -- provided we weren't asking for unethical and/or illegal forms of help hidden from public view. So why is Helen important to us?

It really is about two things. Housing affordable to low-income residents and families in Uptown... and integrity. (Sorry... that is probably maddening to you, but most of those backing Helen feel this is perhaps her strongest characteristic of all.)

And as a complete aside, I do like pirates... ever since I was a kid. Though Errol Flynn and Leslie Howard make far better pirates than Johnny Depp ever dreamt of making.

Anonymous said...

Jesus People and Helen, you really must stop calling everyone racist just because they disagree with you. Even where no racial issues have been raised or discussed in the entire campaign you insist that you are picking up a secret vibe that they exist. Balony.

As to your logical analysis it could your some work. Just because something co-exists with something else, does not mean that one caused the other. They may be totally unrelated. The racial makeup of anyone one's following does not mean that racial preference or hatred is the cause. To follow your logic, Barak Obama must be a white supremist and Hillary a black activist because they each are drawing a majority of supporters from their opposite race.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Trott- almost had me till the Johnny Depp comment. Well, not really, you lost me when you described Helen with Integrity.... but.. your sense of humor is refreshing these days :)

Jon Trott said...

Anonymous, yep, Johnny does alright as a Pirate, but Flynn, Howard, and (how could I have forgotten him?!) Tyrone Powers all were better. But it has to be Maureen O'Hara in the heroine's role.

Joyce said...

Jon a fundie! Wow. I've heard you wrongfully accused of other things, but NEVER that! Haha! Oh my gosh ... I laughed until my stomach hurt.

To those of you who are reading this who don't know me, I lived at and worked with JPUSA for several years, side by side with Jon for a good portion of that time. I can't tell you how many times we went toe-to-toe on political issues, me being the "fundie" and Jon being anything but! However, during all of my tenure at JPUSA and beyond, I was never pressured to "vote as a block" (as the WhatTheHelen site accuses JPUSA of doing; what a bizzare site, BTW) or act in any other "cultic" manner.

What I have seen is a group of people, Jon included, who honestly and sincerely love the people of the Uptown neighborhood. From living with and working with the people of JPUSA so very closely, what I know to be true is that this group of people desire to love and care for God's people in the manner that Jesus did by following His example and teachings. Love your neighbor. Care for widows and orphans. If someone is hungry, feed them. If someone is naked, clothe them. If they are homeless, give them shelter. If Uptown Chicago has an alderman who catches a glimpse of that vision and supports it -- by all means, give her your vote.

Jon Trott said...


Obviously I sucked your brains out with a straw.

But seriously, thank you for the kind words, esp. in light of how I keep treating Dubya. (wink)

FGFM said...

Paulus, I asked "IrishPirate" on WTH why he wouldn't meet with you and he claimed not to know you. In any event, I uploaded the part of the debate where was discussed along with a post by IrishPirate that was taken down by the administrator.


Jon Trott said...


Odd that Irish Pirate sez he doesn't know JP Paulus... esp. as in one of the very odd videos Pirate does (on YouTube) he mentions and dismisses JP Paulus by name. But I thought the funniest video I've seen yet was the Cappleman video called "History Starts Now" (also on YouTube). Ever seen the movie "Bob Roberts" (where Tim Robbins plays this right-wing yuppie kind of guy that rips off Bob Dylan songs and completely subverts their meaning via altered lyrics)? Anyway, "History Starts Now" oughta be a campaign slogan for Cappleman... it certainly seems that re-writing Uptown history in his own revisionist way is that campaign's goal.

Koelpien said...


Interesting stuff.
However, perhaps a paragraph or two describing the changes happening in the JPUSA neighborhood over the last few years may be enlightening to those who aren't familiar with the local politics of your area.

What was your neighborhood like 20 years ago?
What is it like now?

Then we might more grasp the political/societal scenario you're involved (directly or indirectly) in your last few posts.

JP Paulus said...


Can you elaborage on the post you had? i didn't see it on WTH (i try not to delve into it too much.)

Can you post the link to your question, as well as what was deleted?

It's interesting that anythng was deleted...i thought part of thir thing was that the public is smart enough to decide. i guess not.

i will checkout that video maybe monday -- don't want my wife to hear ...she banned me from uenaparkneighbors message board for a while, since it had a toxic effect on me.

FGFM said...

"Can you elaborage on the post you had? i didn't see it on WTH (i try not to delve into it too much.)"

I tried to find it, but they are posting a lot of frenzied diaries given that time is running out for Cappleman. I basically said "Why won't you meet with Paulus?" and he said something about leaving Paulus out of it and that he didn't know you anyway. I countered that he probably didn't want to meet with you because you might know him from the neighborhood.

I can appreciate his desire to remain anonymous because I have been harassed by various semi-anonymous people posting my personal information in the past, but I don't think that it is "cricket" to run around slandering locals when they are not anonymous themselves. He claims that he remains anonymous because he lives in a multi-unit building and random people might be subject to physical intimidation. Sounds like more of a case of projection than anything else given the way WTH does business.

JP Paulus said...


Can you at least remember which post it was (i.e. what it was originally about), or the approximate date? i don't feel like wading through all the hate

I understand being anonymous, but with all his posts, and the mention on Chicago Tonight, he's practically a public figure.

He wants Alderman Shiller to be held accountable, but as long as he's anonymous, he can't be held accountable.

James Cappleman said...

I came across this blog, and sadly wasn't surprised by yet another attempt to paint me a fan of George Bush. There's discussion of what some supporters believe, but little has been said about what I believe.

Let's focus on some truth:
1. I'm a liberal Democrat and have always been.
2. I have always remained a strong advocate for people who live in poverty. You will not find any literature from my campaign that even remotely suggested I was against affordable housing. I adamantly for it. Where I differ is that I am for housing that meets the suggested guidelines as outlined by HUD, which provides a blueprint for quality low-income housing; something that I believe people living in poverty deserve.
3. I have always sought efforts to eliminate racism, homophobia, classism, ageism, and sexism. That comes with being a liberal Democrat. That comes from being a Christian with strong humanist leanings.
4. I abhor the polarization that exists in Uptown. At the WTTW interview, I brought up the What the Helen blog to demonstrate that there are deep divisions within this ward in order to confront Ald. Shiller's attempts to gloss over the anger that is present in the community. Listen to the tape again. I believe her approach has divided this ward. Proof is in the very words you write; false words, I might add.
5. My campaign worked to unite people from all different beliefs, cultures, income levels, and levels of education. No one from my campaign was allowed to refer to the Wilson Yard proposed housing as anything like Cabrini Green housing. They were not allowed to refer to it as "towers of poverty". They were not allowed to refer to Uptown as a "dumping ground" because that's insulting to people who live in poverty. No lies were permitted or ever tolerated. There were people who did all kinds of things on their own. They were not a part of my campaign. I could not control What the Helen, but to their credit, I understand they removed statements that could not be supported. Ald. Shiller cannot make that claim.

I had homeless people supporting me; wealthy people, people living in SRO's, people of all different races, singles, families, the LGBT community, straight people, people from all ages, and yes, people from a wide variety of political beliefs. Regardless, just as there were sinful people who supported me, there were also sinful people who supported Ald. Shiller. Ald. Shiller's chief of staff, Denise Davis, had campaign literature distributed with her name on it suggesting that I was a member of the Klan and stating that I wanted to round up all the children in the neighborhood to have them arrested on sight. In literature distributed by Ald. Shiller's campaign, it was stated that I was against all job training, that I wanted to close down Uplift, that I was against all subsidized housing, and that I represented the worst of the Republican Party. Jon, that is called polarization. That divides people. That was not truthful.

Jon, there's a spirit of meanness that pervades your writing. You might see as sarcasm and dismiss the seriousness of it, but it's there. You would benefit from searching your own conscience.

In the meantime, I will not sink to your level. We don't agree with one another on politics. I don't and never will agree that the end justifies the means. I also embrace a spirituality that sees an element of God's truth in all religions, including yours. I expect you to be truthful. I would think your God expects the same.
-James Cappleman

Jon Trott said...


Thanks for posting. I'm going to respond at length to your post in the near future, but currently am snowed under by other responsibilities. Your post deserves a thoughtful response, and I will give it one.

Jon Trott said...

James, I have in fact now posted my response -- as a seperate blog entry -- and hope it answers some of your concerns.