Bakewell help wanted march2017

These are serious times.

Try as we may, it is impossible to ignore the news as it filters into our small corner of the world.

  Tom Houlihan

We see photos of members of Congress laughing after approving a dreadful proposal that would take away health insurance from tens of millions of our fellow citizens.

We hear testimony about how a former high-ranking national intelligence officer might have been open to blackmail by a foreign government.

We try to make sense out of one official version ― then another and another ― explaining why the nation’s FBI director was ignominiously fired.

The list goes on. We hear about the White House sharing top-secret intelligence with our adversaries. About requests to put the kibosh on an investigation into tampering with an American election. And another request for personal “loyalty” that might take precedence over allegiance to country.

Angry yet? You should be.

You should also be asking about common virtues that we rely on to make society work in a free country. Honesty. Courage. Decency. A rejection of bigotry. Where the heck are any of these admirable traits in a political landscape dominated by “alternative facts?”

After last November’s election, I wrote about how my father raised me to follow certain rules – work hard, play by the rules and keep plodding ahead. About how I’d tried to pass them along to my own three sons.

Several of you responded positively and said your parents taught you similar lessons. That didn’t surprise me. I’ve lived in the H-F area for nearly 30 years and know the virtues listed above are in plentiful supply.  Patty and I bought our house in Flossmoor 14 years ago and have always been impressed by the kindness and goodwill of our neighbors.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I would have helped start the Chronicle if all these wonderful characteristics were not present in our two towns. I’d already gotten a great deal from my community and was ready to give back.

At times like this, though, I wonder if what we are doing is enough. How exactly are we supposed to react to a woeful lack of virtue in the highest offices in the land?
Ultimately, we are supposed to stand for something. Aren’t we?

To be honest, I am not a person who gives a great deal of advice to elected officials. But here’s what I think our towns should do.

I believe our elected village boards in Homewood and Flossmoor should pass resolutions proclaiming these to be communities where discrimination is not allowed on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, disability or political beliefs. I believe our towns should go on record as being communities that welcome all people of goodwill, despite their differences.

I also believe the H-F community — perhaps our two towns, acting together ― should take steps to establish a center that is dedicated to the advantages of living in a diverse environment.  I encourage Homewood and Flossmoor to pursue grant money from corporations, foundations and government agencies so we can spread our message about diversity.

It would be a very important endeavor. And it would tell the whole world that we are different.

We all know that diversity works in our H-F towns. We should take steps to let other communities, in the Chicago area and around the country, know why it works.

I think about a meeting in Flossmoor that I attended in February, and a statement by Perry Hoag, a village trustee since 1995. I take notes on yellow legal pads and store them in a couple of boxes overflowing with Chronicle-related materials. I had to rummage through a pile of pads to find his comments from three months ago.

Hoag, speaking at a “State of the Village” special meeting, talked about why he loves Flossmoor.

“It’s an exceptionally unique community, and not just in the Chicago area,” he said. “It is a community with true meaningful integration that will work for the future.”Hoag said Flossmoor is similar to other Chicago-area communities … that take pride in their diversity. But there’s a big difference between Flossmoor and those other towns, he explained. In the other towns there is a noticeable economic disparity between white and black residents, he said.

In Flossmoor, Hoag said, African-American community members are just as successful as the town’s white residents.

Hoag said he has witnessed the benefits when children grow up in a diverse community.

“I see the difference that diversity makes,” he said.  When a diverse population of young people interacts, “they and their friends judge each other by character, not by the color of their skin.” 

Hoag said his children and their friends “think racism is laughable.”

What’s happening locally is “a small seed of hope,” he said. “And it will grow.”

Hoag’s comments, I believe, are just as applicable in Homewood. In our H-F towns we have watched our children thrive in a diverse community.

But, as I said earlier, these are serious times. Fear and hatred are loose in the land.

I believe that the future is alive and well in our towns. We cannot, however, allow that small seed of hope to wither away. We need to share our hope with others.

After all, we are supposed to stand for something. Aren’t we?

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