DeVore is DeSpicable
Illinois Republicans ought to be ashamed of their AG nominee
9-15-2022 (issue No. 53)
Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above.
News and Views on the popularity of football, Lauren Bobert, Drag-Queen Bingo, the untrustworthy foes of abortion and more
Land of Linkin’ — Where I tell readers where to go
Language court — With what, if anything, should we replace “alderman”?
The Weekly Schmich — Mary on vanished memories
Re:Tweets — finalists in the poll
Tune of the Week: “Lorena”
Resign now, Thomas DeVore!
“Went to a kids ballgame tonight,” wrote Thomas DeVore of downstate Sorento on Facebook in January 2017. His post continued:
We got two sodas, two popcorn and a candy. It took a good minute for the kids to come up with the $7 total. I gave her a $20 and two $1′s. The special child (that’s politically correct for window licker) looked at me and argued it was only $7. I said I know. She was clueless. Then here comes special child #2 who hands me the two $1′s back. I told her I don’t want them back and figure it out. I finally gave up after all four special children were lost. I had to tell them to give me $15 back and that I did it because I didn’t want any $1 bills. Lord help us with the window lickers, I mean special children.
The ugly and dismissive way in which he referred to people with intellectual disabilities caused a bit of a local stir at the time. DeVore, an attorney, was running for a seat on the area school board, and whether or not the children running the concession stand were actually cognitively challenged or just harried and bad at math, his use of the term “window lickers” was beyond contemptible.
It signaled a lack of compassion and caring about some of society’s most vulnerable people and a lack of respect for the friends and family of those with developmental and other disabilities. DeVore finished last among four candidates in that school board race.
But now that he’s back in the spotlight as the Republican Party’s nominee for Illinois attorney general, it’s time to revisit his appalling comments and his continued refusal to take responsibility for them.
The “window lickers” anecdote was in the first paragraph in Chicago Tribune reporter Dan Petrella’s front-page story about DeVore on Monday.
As for the phrase “window licker,” generally recognized as a derogatory term for an intellectually disabled person, DeVore said he “grew up in a different era.”
“That word, which you can find in a slang dictionary, was used in my time to refer to irritating, unruly, mean, disrespectful, right to people’s face,” he told (St. Louis TV station) KSDK.
The term appears in slang dictionaries, yes. The Online Slang Dictionary, Urban Dictionary Wordnik and many others have entries for it. And the reference works are uniformly in agreement that it is a derogatory term rooted in the stereotype of children with developmental disabilities pressing their mouths against the windows of school buses.
The Mirror (U.K.) reported, “In 2003, the term was voted third most offensive that could be used relating to disability in a poll run for the BBC’s Ouch! disability talk show.”
If you’re tempted to give DeVore, 53, the benefit of the doubt on the chance that the term had different connotations in rural Illinois when he purportedly “grew up,” consider his linkage of the term with the terms “special child” and “special children,” well-known and long-used euphemisms for children with significant disabilities.
To KSDK-TV in 2017, “DeVore pointed out that his post used the phrase ‘special child’, not ‘special-needs child,’ and he said ‘special needs’ is not what he meant.”
When questioned about this ugly incident at a McHenry County candidate forum in May, he said “it’s all false,” apparently insinuating that someone else wrote the post.
An abject apology in the aftermath of the original post might have repaired most of the damage. That would have included an admission that he grossly overreacted to a mild inconvenience and, in the heat of the moment, used terms that were deeply hurtful and profoundly unacceptable, and a pledge never to use such words again.
Instead, well, I’ll let Petrella flesh out the story:
People critical of DeVore’s post shared it more widely and in one case urged area residents to contact his law office. DeVore proceeded to file a libel lawsuit in Montgomery County against three people, including a local special education teacher, alleging they had falsely accused him of ridiculing “children with ‘special needs.’”
That made it “seemingly impracticable for DeVore to seek public office as a school board member” and harmed his law practice, the lawsuit alleged.
Court records show DeVore ultimately dismissed the lawsuit in May 2020, just as he was gaining notoriety statewide for his legal challenges to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s coronavirus mandates.
The entire article (read it!) concerns “a series of cases in which DeVore has responded to public criticism with legal action. Most notably, he sued Pritzker last year after the governor called him ‘a grifter’ during a news conference.”
Piling a preposterous lie and a frivolous lawsuit on top of the use of the vile term “window lickers” was and still is loathsome behavior — infamous, revolting and so lacking in probity and empathy that it disqualifies him from holding any public office, particularly the office of attorney general.
Yes, Democratic incumbent Attorney General Kwame Raoul will trounce him in November after which he’ll crawl back under his rock. But sooner rather than later, the Illinois Republican Party should summon its vestigial decency and moderation and renounce his candidacy.
Last week’s winning tweet
Scroll down to read this week’s nominees or click here to vote in the new poll.
News & Views
News: The football season has kicked off with boffo TV ratings.
View: My guess is that blame or credit for this resurgence goes to the explosion in online gambling. The ads for the services are ubiquitous, and those who fall for the come-ons have an additional incentive to watch games that might otherwise not be of interest. So the NFL, too, can take great advantage of human credulity and greed.
News: Drivers who flee police — or those who own the vehicle — to be fined $900 under new Naperville ordinance.
View: Good idea. How about $9,000? The dangers of high-speed police chases are serious and well documented. Yet the malignant impact of policies that in effect tell motorists they can avoid arrest or sanction just by taking off like bats out of hell is also obviously detrimental to public safety. On Monday, the CWBChicago crime-news website reported:
A newly released surveillance video shows a serial armed robbery team mugging a man at gunpoint in Wicker Park on Friday morning. Minutes after the footage was recorded, Chicago police officers spotted the robbers in their getaway car nearby, but a CPD supervisor ordered the cops to stop following the vehicle (when) it reached the Kennedy Expressway. … A CPD supervisor, adhering to the police department’s strict vehicle pursuit guidelines, ordered the officers to break off and let the car go.
CWBChicago separately reported:
Chicago cops terminated pursuits and “follows” of another robbery crew’s vehicle at least five times in the six months between November 2021 and May 2022. That group of offenders is believed to have robbed well over 50 people, often pistol-whipping and sometimes firing shots.
Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown needs to find a better answer here than “Oh, well, let them go!”
News: Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has been mocked on social media all week for revealing during a televised debate question that she did not know what the 19th Amendment is.
View: Boebert is dreadful, ignorant and mean. But criticizing her for not knowing or not being able to remember that the 19th Amendment is the one that gave women the right to vote is politically destructive. A lot of everyday people don’t know all or even most of the amendments by number — I certainly don’t — and harshing on Bobert for such a failure comes off like elitist piling-on. Especially given that the 19th Amendment is no longer controversial and there is zero chance it will ever be repealed.
News: The existence of a 41-tent encampment at Chicago’s Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., has reportedly made the park so unsafe for general neighborhood use that the Chicago Park District has closed the park indefinitely.
View: This cannot, should not and must not happen in the richest nation on the the planet. The News-Star a neighborhood newsletter for Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown and Andersonville, quoted Touhy Park Advisory Council president Jill Liska saying the failure of officials to enforce anti-vagrancy laws and park curfews has resulted in a situation that’s “out of control” and “about to get worse.”
View: It ought to be distressing to everyone, from the biggest fans of drag shows to people who would never want to attend one, that this event — that any event — was canceled due to threats contained in “aggressive emails and threats from conservative-leaning residents.”
It’s a surrender to bullies, a capitulation to a theoretical mob.
News: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., proposes a federal ban on abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation.
View: Psych! For five decades, conservatives pouted that abortion law should be left up to the states. In fact earlier this year, Graham himself tweeted, “If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which I believe was one of the largest power grabs in the history of the Court, it means that every state will decide if abortion is legal and on what terms. That, in my view, is the most constitutionally sound way of dealing with this issue.”
Then just after the court granted his wish in June, Graham said, “All of us in the conservative world have believed that there’s nothing in the Constitution giving the federal government the right to regulate abortion.”
But the thing about abortion-rights foes is that compromise on this issue is not their goal. Compromise violates the very principle that ostensibly animates their position. Give the issue back to the states and they’ll want to impose a federal law so that no state can be a have for abortion, as Illinois is.
Give them a 15-week outer limit, and they’ll push for 12. Give them 12, and they’ll push for six. Then they’ll push to criminalize all abortions and, ultimately, logically, to prosecute and imprison the women who obtain them.
So even if you’re tempted to see Graham’s proposal as reasonable, remember that it’s not a compromise but just a foot shoved a little further into the door.
Eng and Kaufmann in year two at Axios Chicago
Charlie Meyerson has just posted a new edition of his Chicago Public Square / Rivet360 podcast series Chicago Media Talks, featuring an interview with journalists Monica Eng and Justin Kaufmann, who are embarking on their second year as co-editors of Axios Chicago, a daily email newsletter. Here is an excerpt:
Meyerson: Justin, what did you want to be when you grew up? And how did that lead you into Chicago radio?
Kaufmann: You know, it’s funny. My dad always reminds me that I was really into DePaul Blue Demon basketball when I was a kid and I would write up stories like sports stories of the games that they would show on Channel 9 at the time, like when DePaul would play like Creighton, or Georgetown. And I would write—he showed me when I was older—like, these write-ups. So I think I wanted to be a sports writer in some form. But to be honest, I really wanted to be in radio. I love the idea I had my own— I did the announcements in high school and a lot of things to end up where I ended up to be a talk show host. So I think that that’s what I wanted to be.
Meyerson: High school announcements: You and I have that in common. Monica, what did you want to be when you grew up? And how has that shaped your career?
Eng: I had no idea. But by the time I was 15, and my mom was dating Roger Ebert, he said, “Hey, so do one of your kids need a job this summer?” I said, “Well, I’m not going to be doing anything but watching TV. So maybe I’ll go try this thing called being a copy clerk at the Chicago Sun-Times.” And from the first day I started working in the features department at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1985, I fell in love with it, and that’s all I ever wanted to do—be a newspaper woman or a newswoman. I did not envision I would be an emailer …
Meyerson: It’s an honorable profession. It’s honorable.
Land of Linkin’
Every so often, I feel it important to direct readers to “Nietzsche Family Circus — Randomized pairings of Family Circus cartoons and Friedrich Nietzsche quotes.” A sample:
“I Have Never Seen a Catcher Make a Play Like This, Full Stop” at Bleacher Nation.
In “Downtown casino plan has a surprising ally: Chicago River lovers,” Steve Johnson, writing for WBEZ, quotes Margaret Frisbie, executive director of the Friends of the Chicago River: “If you look at that particular location now, it’s a seawall and a big building. So, if that turns into natural habitat and public access, I see that as a win in the long term.”
Parodies don't get much more deft than Amy Schumer's "The Foodroom," a riff on such earnest, talkie Aaron Sorkin productions as "West Wing" and "The Newsroom.”
More great work out of ProPublica: “St. Louis’ Private Police Forces Make Security a Luxury of the Rich.” “Wealthier neighborhoods in St. Louis have armed themselves with private police, giving them a level of service poor areas can’t afford and fueling racial and economic disparities.
“Selling Shame: 40 Outrageous Vintage Ads Any Woman Would Find Offensive” includes this from the 1930s:
Resurfacing Dan Brooks’ 2014 New York Times essay “The Existential Anguish of the Tattoo.” “If the boomers have taught us anything, it’s that the trappings of youth will embarrass you as you get older. We grasped that lesson only partly, and we have implemented it in the most ironic way imaginable.”
The Picayune Sentinel on the air: On Thursdays at 4:30 p.m., WCPT-AM 820 host Joan Esposito and I chat about ideas raised in the new issue. The listen-live link is here.
The Picayune Sentinel preview: Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. I talk with WGN-AM 720 host John Williams about what’s making news and likely to be grist for the PS mill. The WGN listen-live link is here.
Patrick Freyne in the Irish Times last year:
Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown. …
The contemporary royals have no real power. They serve entirely to enshrine classism in the British nonconstitution. They live in high luxury and low autonomy, cosplaying as their ancestors, and are the subject of constant psychosocial projection from people mourning the loss of empire. They’re basically a Rorschach test that the tabloids hold up in order to gauge what level of hysterical batshittery their readers are capable of at any moment in time.
Jack Zimmerman, former Press Publications columnist, on Facebook:
(My mother) was funny and delightful, and her favorite bit of advice was, “Don’t beat yourself up. The world will do that for you.”
Language court, you be the jury
In his Sun-Times column Monday, Neil Steinberg wrote, “More than a dozen alderons (mind if we experiment? I don’t like ‘alderpeople’) bowed out of the next election” and followed up later by dropping in “alderfolk” and “alderpol.”
I share Neil’s lack of affections for the clunky, precious “alderpeople” or “alderperson,” though I am a great believer in gender-inclusive terminology.
In March 2021, Ald. Andre Vasquez, 40th, introduced a resolution calling for “the Illinois General Assembly to pass legislation replacing word ‘Alderman’ in all places within Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) with gender-neutral word ‘Alder.’”
It clangs on the ear initially: “Alder Vasquez” sounds like a character in a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.
But “server” also clanged at first, as did “firefighter,” “mail carrier,” “flight attendant,” “police officer” and so on, each term introduced as an evolving society began rejecting such needlessly gendered terms as “waitress,” “fireman,” “postman,” “stewardess” and “policeman.”
Remember that the title “Ms.” once sounded radical and weird.
We could call female members of the City Council “alderwomen,” sure. But why needlessly bring gender into it, especially when we will inevitably see a nonbinary member of the council? And “alderwoman” smacks of the bad old days when “comedienne,” “aviatrix” and “bar maid” were in common use.
I can’t think of a single “-person” neologism that doesn’t sound at least a little bit preachy and forced.
And, by the way, members of the General Assembly tried and failed to push through a statutory change from “alderman” to “alderperson” in 1993.
Opponents observed that state law specifically provides that “words importing the masculine gender may be applied to females” and therefore “alderman” is definitionally gender-neutral. But it takes a willful blindness to history and a sexist adherence to tradition to accept such an assertion.
Barring a wholesale terminological shift to, say, “representative,” “councilor,” “trustee” or “commissioner,” how do you vote?
I think “alderpol” is the most satisfying option, as it contains the reminder/suggesting that they are, at the end of the day, politicians. But I have just one vote!
Mary Schmich on vanished memories
My former colleague Mary Schmich posts occasional column-like entries on Facebook. Here, reprinted with permission, is her most recent offering:
I’ve been thinking lately about how little of our lives we remember. I’m not talking about memory loss due to old age or dementia. I mean all those moments that, at any age, vanish from our minds fairly soon after they happen, the ones that never get filed away into the easily accessible drawers of memory, that never get boxed up into the stories we tell to explain who we are.
Conversations, events, feelings. Most of them come. Then go. Poof! As fleeting as weather. That’s mostly OK. If we remembered everything we lived through our heads would explode.
Still, I like to think I have a good memory and that what I remember is relatively accurate. So when I’m confronted with things I’ve forgotten, my first thought is: How much more has slipped away? How has what I’ve forgotten shaped me as surely as what I remember has?
Take the photo above, for example.
My brother Joe, the family historian, texted it to me yesterday as he was going through a box of old stuff. He’d never seen it and neither had I. He appended a question: “Do you remember this moment?”
I stared at the photo. I recognized my grandfather in his final weeks, or maybe his final days. I tell myself I recognized his striped pajamas. I definitely recognized the little buzzer under the light switch in his old house in Macon, Ga. I recognized myself.
But I had no memory of that moment. None. Zero. Why was I posing by his bedside? Who asked me to? Who was taking the photo? Was I asked to put my hand on his shoulder or did I just place it there lightly as a gesture of connection and affection? Did I think putting my other hand on my hip made me attractive?
Not a clue.
Here are some things I do remember: When I was in sixth grade and my father had lost all his money and we could no longer afford food or rent, my mother asked her father if she could bring her kids—8 of us—for a visit. We wound up staying for nearly three years.
During most of that time, my grandfather kept to himself, holing up in the “morning room” with his newspaper and National Geographics. Sometimes he walked around with his cane, puffing on a cigar. In the late afternoon, he was back in the morning room with a highball. He went to bed early.
Whatever his feelings were about having these eight rambunctious kids in his house I never knew, but he did what a father did: He took care of his daughter and her children in their time of need.
During that time, my father sometimes came for the weekend but mostly he stayed up in Marietta, near Atlanta, to run a Norge Village laundromat while also selling Amway and Americana encyclopedias door to door.
Eventually, when I was in eighth grade, my grandfather was confined to his bed. As summer approached my father told us we were moving to Arizona, where, rumor had it, a guy could make a lot of money in real estate.
Granddaddy, who had never lived outside Georgia, was told we would take him with us if he wanted. One night—or so the story goes—he had a dream in which he imagined he was a cowboy; he swung an imaginary lasso above his bed, shouting, “I’m not going to that goddamn desert!” He died soon after that. A few weeks later, we headed to Phoenix.
I have many more vivid memories of those years at Granddaddy’s house but looking at this photo I realize I’ve surely forgotten more than I remember. Maybe I forgot the moment in this photo because I knew my grandfather was dying, without understanding what dying meant. Looking back, I realize this was the first time I was close to someone moving toward death. Maybe I didn’t have space in my mind for another loss when all I wanted at the age of 13 was to get on with my life.
But who knows? And I think about these questions:
If we remembered even half the things we’ve forgotten as clearly as we remember what we retain, how would we be different? Would our view of the world be different? Of our relationships? Of ourselves?
And while one thing I almost always remember is my old clothes, I have no memory of that ridiculous dress. — Mary Schmich
Former Tribune Metro section editor Mark Jacob made his debut appearance on “The Mincing Rascals” podcast this week. Host John Williams also included Austin Berg and me. Mark introduced us to the term “Hellhole Chorus” to describe followers of Republican gubernatorial candidate Darren Bailey. I was the only one bold enough enough to offer a firm prediction for Gov. J.B Pritzker’s margin of victory in November (18 percentage points). We talked about sports more than we usually do, and careful listeners and readers will note how and where I followed through on my threat to swipe a couple of apt nouns from Austin. Subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. Or bookmark this page. If you’re not a podcast listener, you can now hear an edited version of the show at 8 p.m. most Saturday evenings on WGN-AM 720.
In Tuesday’s paid-subscriber editions, I present my favorite tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the classic Tweet of the Week contest in which the template for the poll does not allow the use of images. Subscribers vote for their favorite, and I post the winner here every Thursday:
The new nominees for Tweet of the Week:
There are no Hostess products that can't be used as names for your nasty bits. — @bestestname
My wife screamed "You haven't listened to a single word I've said, have you?!” I was taken aback....what a weird way to start a conversation. — various sources.
THEM: Maybe we could hang out some time. ME: I am busy all of those possible times. Any time you can imagine, I am busy during it. If they invent new or different kinds or types of time, I am also busy during those. — @Jake_Vig
Can't believe they are making a MAN queen. This woke nonsense has gone too far. — @unfortunatalie
I’m just a girl, standing in front of a fan, talking into it so I sound like a robot. — @bitzydimbo
What, again with the time warp? — @Fulkery1
Those three little words that mean so much: “Here’s a snack.”— @KatieDeal99
By replacing just one alcoholic drink with kombucha you can eliminate 97% of the joy from happy hour. — @mxmclain
Pretty much every gasp is audible, but ok. — @itsBABYSMITH
I’m fortunate to have so many people in my life who care about my problems. Heck, I’ve even had complete strangers yell “What’s your problem, lady?” — @ddsmidt
I’m well aware that the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” allusion by @Fulkery1 will baffle or elude most readers, and that even many of those who get it won’t find it funny. I expect @bitzydimbo’s “Notting Hill”-based joke to do only slightly better.
Tune of the Week
Legend has it that “Lorena,” a sentimental Civil War-era ballad of lost love, had such a powerful effect on soldiers on both sides of the conflict that generals forbade their men to sing it around evening campfires lest it inspire them to desert and return home to their sweethearts.
It does seem possible. The lyrics were written in 1856 by Universalist minister Henry D.L. Webster in anguish when his fiancee — Ella Blocksom of Zanesville, Ohio — broke off their engagement because “a wealthy married sister, with whom the girl made her home, had higher notions for her than that she should marry a poor preacher,” according to a 1906 newspaper article by one of Webster’s nephews
“Ella” eventually became “Lorena” because the composer of the associated tune — J.P. Webster, no relation — needed a three-syllable name to fit the meter.
Higgins Brothers of Chicago published the song in 1857, and it became a huge hit, particularly in the South.
A hundred months have passed, Lorena, Since last I held thy hand in mine; And felt the pulse beat fast, Lorena, Though mine beat faster far than thine
It’s been recorded and performed countless times. I really like John Hartford’s take, though it includes just three of Webster’s original six lugubrious verses.
A less well-known but still achingly poignant song from the same era is the 1864 song “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still.”
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