Gazette Chicago offers Wish List for troubled times, with the hopes of the Magi as inspiration
December 7, 2018

Last December, when Gazette Chicago offered its traditional Holiday Wish List, we shared the story of the Three Wise Men and their search for the Christ Child centuries ago. We made the case that wise people like the Magi were still seeking the Child and the hopes and dreams for which his birth represented—especially in today’s troubled world. We also made the point that wise women and men in our own community and across the globe also were seeking things of great importance.

We considered the circumstances of the Three Kings. Did they come from rival countries? Did they find common ground in their quest for the Christ Child? What did they talk about as they followed a star on their way to Bethlehem?

We circle back to them at this time not just because their story is endless, but frankly because, one year later, our struggles to find peace, justice, fairness, and opportunity are more difficult and are being met with even greater obstacles.

In today’s world, where nationalism is rapidly gaining a foothold in the United States and in Europe and people of color are looked upon with growing disdain and fear, we need to reflect on the importance of the Three Wise Men and their place of stature in our lives.  They need to be a reminder that the world’s history is filled with the aspirations and achievements of a vast and multi-cultural, multi-colored people.

With that said, what do you seek this Christmas season? Here are some at the national and local level that we are hopeful will come to fruition in 2019:

We continue to seek the preservation of our democracy. It has been a very long, trying, and troubling two years for many of us living in the era of the Trump Presidency. Several months ago we asked where you stood as the President sought to divide our country between his loyal base of supporters and everyone else. He’s still at it. This President has no regard for the rule of law and lacks even a basic understanding of the Constitution or how government works. He has blatantly and willfully created discord with the national media and is aggressively trying to pit them against the American people.

He recently discredited the findings of his own Central Intelligence Agency, which said that Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia were behind the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, and then went so far as to lie and exaggerate about the billions of dollars that would flow from the Saudi’s for the purchase of U.S. manufactured arms over the next decade.

Trump’s message that business deals are more important than the lives of innocent people—especially journalists—sets a dangerous precedent for despot leaders around the world to follow. Does it send a shiver up your spine to know that Vladimir Putin has been accused of murdering more than 200 journalists during his tenure as President of Russia? Of course, lying is a daily part of the Trump Presidency. The Washington Post’s tracker shows that he has lied more than 6,000 times since taking the oath of office in January 2017.

With the Robert Mueller investigation of Russian intrusion into the 2016 elections increasing in pace, Trump is on full-tilt assault, calling the investigation phony and a “witch hunt” while the number of indictments and sentences pile up for his various minions and accomplices. A Republican-led Congress has done nothing to support or protect the Mueller investigation. We hope that when the Democrats take over the House of Representatives in January that the investigation will continue without impediment and that it will find protection under the law.

None of Trump’s actions, words, or executive orders (and we only touched the tip of the iceberg here), have done anything to protect our democracy—in fact, he has steadily chipped away at its very core these past two years.

We seek the reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act and an end to voter suppression in our country. Those of us who live and vote in Illinois are fortunate. We don’t have to put up with the blatant efforts to suppress our votes like those affecting fellow citizens across the country. In virtually every case, it has been Republican-led governors, secretaries of state, and legislators enacting unfair voter ID laws; reducing the number of voting places in heavily Democratic leaning districts; and going out of their way to disenfranchise millions of Americans—mostly people of color—from enacting their intrinsic right to cast a ballot.

This chicanery has to stop. The Republicans aren’t even hiding their actions anymore. In Georgia, the Secretary of State at the time, Brian Kemp, winnowed more than 500,000 eligible African-American voters from the rolls, just in time for him to squeak out a narrow victory over Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams to take the Governorship.

We also call for a nationwide effort to increase opportunities to vote by mail; increase early voting periods; and implement universal voter registration for every citizen 18 or older. 

We seek fair and humane treatment of immigrants and of all people of color who seek a better life in the United States. The actions of the Trump Administration in this regard over the past year have been nothing short of despicable. First, beginning in May, Trump in Homeland Security allowed I.C.E. agents to rip infants and young children from the arms of their parents at the border. The end result was chaos as there were no plans in place at the outset (and little effort since then) to reunite these families once the children were placed in metal cages. The numbers have swelled from 300 children and adolescents to more than 2,300 as of our last check.

As a ramp-up to the mid-terms, Trump ginned up his base by saying they needed to fear the caravan of migrants making their way from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala into Mexico, and eventually the U.S., as if they were nothing but M-13 gang members and—get this—terrorists from the Middle East. It didn’t matter that this lie was fact checked to smithereens; once the Trump base heard this on Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, voters as far north as Minnesota flocked to the polls to cast ballots  for Republican candidates, fearing their homes would be taken away from them by those in the caravan.

Then, to make matters worse, Trump ordered more than 5,500 troops to the border to keep the caravan in check. This political maneuver will cost American taxpayers some $200 million. To make matters worse, the Trump Administration has put staffing at the border at the lowest levels in years, leaving families with young children in makeshift housing having to wait months to be formally processed. He even wants to go against Federal law and ban anyone from seeking asylum going forward.

Oh, and the troops that Trump recently sent?  Some of them have attacked migrant women and children with tear gas. But don’t worry, according to Trump, it’s just a “mild form” of tear gas. We also seek sensible immigration reform and a permanent status designation for the “Dreamers” (young people who used to be protected under DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act).

We seek an end to the government and the higher courts attacking and weakening unions. We were glad to see Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner go down to defeat, being beaten by JB Pritzker, but the rubble Rauner leaves behind not only has damaged our State’s economic standing, but also dealt a severe blow to public sector unions. Rauner fueled the Janus vs. AFSCME Supreme Court decision that weakened public sector unions by eliminating their power to collect fees from non-union members. We seek a strengthening of unions across the country. We also seek a true living wage that begins at $15 per hour and a narrowing of the wage gap between the outlandish salaries of CEOs and their hard-working front-line workers.

We seek a sensible and immediate approach to climate change. It was appalling to see President Trump deny the recent United Nations report that the world must come together and address climate change in real terms within the next 12 years or Mother Earth is doomed. We question whether Trump even read the report as he even admits he hardly reads anything of substance. To continually stick his head in the sand over this critical matter is unfathomable.

His latest comments on the wildfires in California show the President knows very little about this. He even lied about a conversation with the President of Finland that said our U.S Forestry hasn’t done enough to rake our forests. Instead of offering compassionate words of comfort to those in California who lost their homes and loved ones, once again the callousness of this President shown through. Our Congress must come to its senses and do all it can to address climate change.

We seek a Congress in 2019 that will come together and pass legislation that will benefit all Americans. We need to end the divisiveness in Washington and the partisan politics. We were encouraged to see the Blue Wave occur in the midterms when the Democratic Party took 40 House of Representatives seats (along with seven governorships) away from Republicans.  Although the Democrats won’t control the Senate, we hope enough pressure can be put on that legislative body and the President to protect Social Security and Medicare (don’t buy the Republican argument that we have to make cuts to these critically important programs to fund the $1.7 trillion dollar deficit caused by last year’s ridiculous Tax Reform Bill that only put more money into the laps of corporations and the top 1% of earners in this country).

We call for the protection of the Affordable Care Act and a move towards a single-payer program and a state-by-state expansion of Medicaid to add stability to the ACA. We also call for passage of a national infrastructure bill to fix our roadways and bridges as a matter of public safety and put more Americans back to work. In addition, we call for an increase in Federal support for K-12 and higher education and a loan repayment forgiveness program for Millennials who are struggling to pay back $1.5 trillion dollars in Federal loans that allowed them to receive their college and university degrees.

We seek a new Mayor for Chicago who will put the needs of the people first before rich and powerful influencers such as corporations, bankers, and developers. It’s going to be a crowded field come the February election, and each resident must do his or her homework and get out and vote for the best candidate who will tackle a myriad of problems.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has left a long laundry list of issues to address after two terms, including how to fund the growing debt from City pension plans; a fair and more equitable way to fund Chicago Public Schools (we found it sad, but not shocking, to see 20 CPS schools in communities of color lack proper heat during the first cold snap in November); a sensible approach to police reform despite the interference of the Federal government and the strong push-back from the Fraternal Order of Police; a Mayor who will deal with the TIF issue in a more equitable manner (Gazette Chicago calls for the elimination of TIFs within the next Mayoral cycle); an improved and more humane approach to public and affordable housing and gentrification that does not displace more residents and gets homeless people off the streets; a reopening of the City’s mental health clinics that were shuttered by Emanuel; and the implementation of Mayoral term limits.

We seek a City Council that will act more independently of the Mayor and the influence of the Fifth Floor of City Hall. We rail on this constantly, but we are tired of the lock-step support every Mayor gets from the City Council (i.e., see the passage of the most recent City budget where Emanuel avoided addressing the hard issues so his cronies in the Council could have an easier time of getting re-elected in February—that budget passed by a ridiculous 48-1 vote). We want to see more independent voices representing our communities. You, as a voter will also have that choice come the February election. Pay attention to the candidates running in your local ward races.

We seek a city and statewide lifting of the ban on rent control. Chicago is losing population due to escalating costs of living in the city. When middle class families have to spend at least 30% of their monthly income on housing and little else is left for needs such as education, food, clothing, and healthcare, there is something critically wrong. Do we want to be a city of only the very rich? Do we want to lose what is left of our cultural identity in our 77 neighborhoods?

We seek a progressive agenda for Illinois. We call for the implementation of a progressive income tax for the State. JB Pritzker said he would push for this if elected Governor. He didn’t want to tip his hand during the election on what the formula would be and we get that, but once he is sworn in it should be among his top priorities. We seek the implementation of a transaction tax on all stocks with the billions of dollars earmarked to help fund education, healthcare, and social services, and to reduce the City and State pension deficits.

We seek a sensible approach to the eventual legalization of marijuana for recreational use. It’s inevitable, but we remain concerned that Illinois Legislature handle this carefully to protect young people from gaining access and issues such as an increase in impaired driving. We also seek an increase in funding for public schools and resources and salaries for teachers and staff and an elected School Board for Chicago.

We seek healing and peace for the community at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center and for the Chicago Police Department. The city is still trying to come to grips in the wake of the November tragedy that took the lives of ER physician Tamara O’Neal, pharmacy resident Dayna Less, and Chicago Police Officer Samuel Jimenez. Their senseless deaths due to domestic violence is another grim reminder that we must come to grips with the issues of weak gun legislation in Illinois, and in neighboring states, a situation that allows a daily flow of illegal handguns and other weapons of destruction into our state. 

Gazette Chicago also extends its thoughts to the University of Illinois at Chicago community where Dr. O’Neal received her medical training and Ms. Less who was participating in a UIC College of Pharmacy resident teaching program. And, to their families and those of Officer Jimenez, who left behind three young children. We also are keeping in mind the family of Commander Paul Bauer, who lost his life heroically earlier this year, being shot pursing a suspect. This will be his family’s first Christmas without their husband and father—we can only imagine their sadness and feeling of emptiness.

Those thoughts are extended to everyone at the Chicago Police Department who have suffered through an increase of suicides among their ranks in 2018 and to all the families in Chicago, across Illinois, and around the country who have lost loved ones to gun violence this year. The United States leads the world in the number of deaths due to handguns, assault rifles, and the like. When will this bloodshed diminish? We remain grateful to the members of the CPD and to first responders everywhere, who each day put on their uniforms as a call of duty and service to keep the rest of us safe.

We seek a compassionate and understanding process for Renew My Church. The Archdiocese of Chicago, bracing for a continued shortage of priest vocations and trying to stem financial losses, has implemented Renew My Church within 97 cluster groupings. The Bridgeport, Chinatown, and Canaryville grouping recently received word on the first wave of mergers and closings, with more news on the fate of four other parishes/churches in mid-January. The Near West Side community is undergoing a similar process and should hear news of restructuring around the same time.

This is not an easy process nor is closing worship sites and schools easy on anyone—especially the loyal congregants and those supporting Catholic education in our communities. These people aren’t among the 70% of Catholics in the United Sates who are staying at home on Sundays, but they are bearing the emotional brunt of this. The Catholic Church must come to grips with why Catholics are staying away. The sex abuse scandals that continue to rock our cities, including Chicago, are not helping nor are they encouraging families to consider vocations to religious life. 

We seek compassionate deliberations from Cardinal Blasé Cupich and his Presbyteral Council as they determine the fate of our local parishes, schools, and in many cases, historic sites of worship. May they discern wisely and keep in mind the long-term impact these decisions will have for the Catholic Church in Chicago and its remaining loyal supporters.

We seek the generosity of our readers and their support of the many charitable organizations reaching out and doing good in our community this holiday season. You can find the list of organizations that you can offer your gifts of time, talent and treasure in our annual Spirit of Giving guide beginning on page 24 of this issue. Please be generous and make a difference in the lives of your neighbors in need. If every Gazette Chicago reader (there are some 40,000 of you) helped out just a little, we could make Christmas brighter for area families. There is strength in numbers!

We seek your help in supporting our advertisers. It is through their advertisements that we can serve the community the way that we do—providing you with award-winning news that makes a difference in your lives and in your community. So, when you go out shopping this holiday season, stop by your Gazette Chicago advertisers first and tell them thank you for supporting our newspaper and spend locally, with them. We very much appreciate you doing so.

Finally, we seek peace in our community, in our nation, and in our world. These remain troubling times. We cannot sugar coat it. But, all is not lost. We have hope as newly elected leaders are coming into office locally, statewide, and nationally. By staying together, we can ensure that goodness and righteousness will prevail. It’s been a trying year. Find the time to relax over the holidays and put your feet up for a few moments. Read a good book. Watch a warm, uplifting movie with family and friends. Enjoy some holiday cheer (but do so responsibly). Go to church—the church of your choice—and say a prayer that all will be well.

Like the Magi, wise women and men still seek Him.

Like the Magi, follow your shining star—your moral compass. Go out there and do good. Resist wherever necessary, but do so with kindness and a compassionate heart.

Have a blessed holiday season. From all of us here at Gazette Chicago, we wish you peace and joy, good health and happiness in 2019. Let’s work together to better our community, our nation, and our world.