Politics & Gerrymandering in Illinois

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The problem in Illinois is that Mike Madigan, the head honcho of the Illinois Assembly, has held power for 49 years. This evil mastermind figured out that the way to wield power forever and to make millions is to win elections in a state district. All he has to do is win a small state district and through his Machiavellian tactics he can control whoever we elect as governor. He can also probably control the mayor of the biggest city in the state. Moreover, he can see to it that his party dominates in congressional winners for Illinois.

By determining the congressional districts’ boundaries Madigan controls who wins in congressional. Take a look at District 4. This should be the image used in any dictionary defining Gerrymandering. The green area is the oddest designation of a district. The communities it covers are oddly situated so that no rational person would consider them a unit, but they insure that Madigan can get the winner he wants.

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Compare Illinois’ and Iowa’s congressional voting districts. Iowa’s makes sense to anyone. Illinois’ is an image that shouts corruption, a trait many of us are sick of.

Iowa v IL Map

Gerrymandering isn’t Madigan’s only sin. He’s created rules of governing that give him as Speaker of the State House imperial power over what laws get voted on. It’s impossible for a law that isn’t approved by Madigan to even get a chance at getting passed. Furthermore, Madigan has complete control over which committees a representative can be on. There are no checks or balances in Illinois’ politics.

Yesterday the citizens of Illinois had a terrible choice for governor: either a billionaire who never held a job and was taped by the FBI as he trashed African Americans in conversation with an imprisoned ex-governor or the incumbent billionaire who couldn’t get a budget approved in two years and scoffed at his base with bills against their values. We elected the former, J.B. Pritzker who certainly has no character to win against Madigan, the real power of the state. It’s a pity that J.B. wanted the job, because his sister, who worked for the Obama Administration is probably truly qualified.

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The Breadwinner

For the final week of the library’s Fall Film Challenge, I received three DVD suggestions. The Breadwinner was the first of these that I watched. Set in Afghanistan prior to the US bombing and war, The Breadwinner tells of a country ruled by the Taliban. Here a young girl goes to the market daily with her loving, progressive father who’s taught her to read.

We see the Taliban’s violence through the harassment Parvana, an 11 year old, girl and her learned father receive when she’s with him in the market place. Females are to be inside, hidden and cowering, but Parvana’s father believes in educating his daughters.

When the father’s unjustly arrested, he’s incarcerated with a trial or even a charge, Parvana, her mother, older sister and baby brother are unable to earn a living. There’s no one in the home who can legally leave the house to earn a living. Once their food is gone, it’s clear to Parvana that she must act. She chops off her hair and dresses as a boy to put food on the table.

Outside she must blend in and find work. She sees the Taliban beating women in their burqas who’ve left their homes. They terrorize men who don’t act as they dictate. Parvana is able to take her place in the market undetected, but every day is a risk. At home her mother sees the family’s only hope in marrying off her oldest daughter in an arranged marriage to a distant cousin. This is typical in Afghanistan.

Parvana lucks out when she discovers a former classmate, who’s adopted the same strategy and dresses as a boy to save her family and her life. The two cleverly find work, make money and evade the Taliban’s brutality, for the most part.

The film interweaves an Afghan folk tale of a clever, plucky hero with Parvana’s story to accentuate the film’s themes thus giving the animators another way to show off their mastery. The film was made by the same team that gave us The Secret of Kells.

The Breadwinner reminded me of the tragedy of life in Afghanistan, which I admit I’ve forgotten. The animators capture the war-torn, bleak Afghani landscape. Though it’s an animated film, it’s not for children under 13. There are scenes of parents getting beaten by the Taliban, the imprisonment of a father, depiction of people missing limbs so it’s authentic and may be hard for young children to take in.

My only quibble with The Breadwinner is that I found the ending abrupt and left some questions in my mind. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for this recommendation and think it’s well worth watching.

Abraham’s Well

I just finished my friend, Sharon Ewell Foster’s Abraham’s Well: A Novel. Since I know Sharon and have enjoyed her books set in modern times, Ain’t No River and Ain’t No Valley this work of historical fiction was a departure. I can’t pretend that my review is unbiased so don’t say I didn’t warn readers.

The story reminds me of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as it consists of an elderly woman looking back on her life during a significant historical period. Armentia, the main character, is African American and Cherokee. She lives in the 19th (and I suppose early 20th century) experiencing tribal life, slavery, the removal of Cherokee and other native Americans during the Trail of Tears and eventually freedom. It’s the story of an imperfect character, rather than a superhero, finding strength and courage to surmount injustice and hardship. I’m a sucker for such stories.

For me historical fiction succeeds by teaching me and entertaining me and Abraham’s Well does both. Although I’ve read a little about the Trail of Tears and knew that some African American’s are part Native American, I had no knowledge of African American involvement in this chapter of American history. Sharon includes an explanation of why she decided to write about this topic and her family heritage as it relates to the themes of the novel. I found that quite interesting. I could see this making a good movie.

The book reads very fast, as Bridget points out. Bridget’s also right about the chapters on the preaching but there’s probably less church-going in this story than the others I’ve read so I had a different view of that aspect. I didn’t mind it. I realize that Sharon’s fans will be looking for Christian fiction when they decide to read this novel.

Election Judge, 2018

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Monday night I met my team of election judges when we set up the polling place. I was lucky to get a good team of congenial organized peers. Of the five, four of us had experience and the one newbie was cooperative and on the ball. Some polling places had no one with experience. That’s tough because there are details not covered in training that help things move along smoothly. For example, since we have to account for every ballot, used and not, one judge knew to tell us to count the ballots in each package we opened. There should be 50, but often there were 49 or 48. At the end of the night if you thought there were 50, your count would be off.

Getting up at 4 am is never my idea of fun, but all the judges do so. Some if they live far from their assigned location was up earlier. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but thousands of citizens do so so others can vote before work. In Illinois polls open at 6 and it takes an hour to do the Election Day prep.

There’s a lot of clerical work to get right and I’d say we did a fine job. It was satisfying to get all the thank you’s we received. Americans, by and large, are a grateful people. It sure helps to hear that “Thank you” when you’re trying to do your work or putting a bandage on your fifth paper cut.

I enjoy seeing all the people who bring their kids to the polls to show toddlers or teens how the system works. One woman brought the ten kids in her at-home day care to the polls. At that time we had about 5 other kids under age 5 in the cosy field house that served as a polling place. That was a surprise. It worked and no one complained about the squealing kids so I have to say our voters are able to do their civic duty without complaining about noise that just comes with sharing a public space.

I was happy about the many first time voters. Usually, they weren’t young, but were just compelled by a family member to do their part.

We’ll get more analysis, perhaps too much, in the days ahead. Some races you’re probably happy with and others you aren’t but I’m happy that we get to go through this process. That’s not to say, I don’t welcome a respite from campaign ads, I suppose we all are.