In my career, I’ve reported on many people sunk in a state of debasement. Emaciated crack addicts nestled in filthy nests of rags on Lower Wacker Drive. Diseased prostitutes selling their bodies to passing cars on Cicero Avenue. Impoverished street people huddling in Uptown doorways in sub-zero weather.
I try to treat them with humanity, to convey their life stories honestly, without judgment.
But state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, newly minted Republican nominee for governor, poses a challenge. There he was, last weekend at a downstate Trump rally, a proud supplicant before the disgraced and disgraceful former president, who should be in prison, not regally bestowing blessings on acolytes.
“Darren is fearless supporter of the 2nd Amendment and a tireless champion of religious liberty,” Trump said.
Given the source, a chronic liar, much of that statement must be assumed to be untrue, and it is.
“Fearless” and gun fetishization certainly don’t go together. Fear is what the whole secular religion built around guns is about. Me, I can go to the store to buy eggs without strapping on an arsenal. Others can’t, and should be viewed with pity. It must be awful to be so terribly afraid.
Set that aside as a word choice quibble. Bailey is your guns guns guns guy, and if that’s the world you want to live in, or try to, vote for him.
But “tireless champion of religious liberty”? Again, a bit of truth. For Bailey himself, sure. His notion of religion, his brand of rigid Christian white supremacy, is pushed relentlessly. Zeal never rests.
When it comes to the religious liberty of others, however, Bailey is not a tireless defender, but asleep at his post. Your beliefs are perversions to be swept away. You have the right to follow his practices when it comes to raising your daughter, or what your son is taught in public school.
Bailey actually said that government needs to get out of schools. The poor man. Public schools are run by the government. That’s like saying Uncle Sam shouldn’t meddle in the military.
Consider. This week a courageous 26-year-old former White House staffer, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified before the Jan. 6 committee, adding searing details to Trump’s attempted coup.
“They’re not here to hurt me,” she quoted Trump saying, words that will live in infamy.
Imagine. Three days before that enormity drops, you make a pilgrimage to the same man, your hero, to bow your head and receive his blessing. Wouldn’t you be ashamed to be caught doing that? There are videos. I would be ashamed. Why isn’t Darren Bailey ashamed?
Bailey first registered on my radar when a single word popped out of his campaign commercial: “indoctrination.”
Republicans believe if they slap a scary term on something they don’t like, they can demonize it and make it go away. Thus gay people wanting to raise families isn’t ordinary life, but “an agenda.” And the idea that public schools should teach tolerance and encourage students not to be bullies, but rather, to understand the range and diversity of human beings? That’s “indoctrination.” A Maoist re-programming camp during the Cultural Revolution.
“Indoctrination” also means teaching clear-eyed American history. Their idea — again, fearful — is that we are not a nation great enough to contemplate the truth about ourselves. They prefer the smooth whitewash of a North Korean propaganda poster.
Imagine. Slandering Illinois teachers, impugning their motives, seizing control of their classrooms. I’d be ashamed. Maybe, to be charitable, we can spin it as a kind of courage: Darren Bailey, boldly ridiculing kindergarten teachers, knocking textbooks out of their hands, tearing out the pages that scare him.
This must be a strategy to avoid the judgment of history. Republicans fear the next generation will regard them with open-mouthed horror: “Dad! Donald Trump was a traitor. He betrayed everything noble about America. And you begged for his support. How could you?”
Naturally, they feel compelled to limit education — so their own children will be as ignorant as themselves, and perhaps miss history’s judgment. That must be the plan.
I’m trying not to judge. Though it’s difficult. Between now and November, we’ll be obligated to visit the ethical cardboard box under an overpass and check in on Bailey, as he wallows in his oblivious faith-wrapped amorality and unaware anti-Americanism. I still have a question for him:
Aren’t you ashamed?