This past week has been a rollercoaster of emotion, bookended by our marking of Abraham Lincoln’s 209th birthday on Monday the 12th and our remembrance of Lincoln and founding father George Washington on President’s Day, Monday the 19th. Between them, we had Valentine’s Day on Wednesday celebrating love and friendship, followed all to soon by the tragic attack on a Florida high school that resulted in 17 fatalities, reminding us of our mortality and continued disconnection.
In the midst of all of this, on Wednesday many Christians marked the beginning of Lent, a period of repentance often interpreted as turning around or turning away from whatever in our current circumstances needs to be pushed in another direction. It is often accompanied by a time of fasting and self-reflection when people give something up or engage in a thoughtful practice as a reminder of the change they need to make, ending at Easter (but hopefully implementing that change well beyond). Many other religions also observe a period of fasting and evaluation followed by a celebration of renewal, including Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism among others.
I hope we can all admit that there are things we could turn away from to make ourselves and the world better. In light of yet another mass shooting, it seems that we need to do more to prevent the circumstances that allow such tragedies to continue to occur – and I don’t claim to have the answer, but I want to be among those who are working toward one, because what we’re doing now isn’t working.
I think that we can all find situations or statements from our past that we wish we could turn around as well. Unfortunately, we can’t erase them, and we have to be accountable for our words and actions. But what we can do is admit any harm that we have caused and work to do better.
Over that last couple weeks, some may have wondered if I might “turn back” from my endorsement of JB Pritzker for governor due to the tapes of his conversations with Rod Blagojevich that have been released and discussed, seemingly non-stop, by both his Democratic primary opponents and struggling Governor Rauner, who is in the middle of a fight for the GOP nomination and is looking for anything that he can use to distract from his failing term as governor.
The first thing I want to say is that many of the accusations against JB are much ado about nothing, relying more on the words of the disgraced former governor than on what JB says.
However, there are some particularly unflattering comments that are attributable to JB that put him in a very unfavorable light in the African-American community and with all those who work for equality and diversity.
Now some people might hear that exchange and write off his candidacy, labeling him unelectable (among many other names that have been thrown in his direction). And there are some who have, including some in the African-American community, and I won’t deny their reaction because I am not them. But what seems interesting to me is the number of other opportunists who are taking advantage of his remarks for their own agendas.
I think it’s worth noting that Pritzker’s response has been one in tune with the ideas of repentance and turning around. He held an extended news conference, surrounded by African-American leaders who continue to support him, and apologized – not explained away – but actually said he’s sorry, stating that “On that call, I was not my best self. I can be better. I have been better and I can do better and I have.” And his actions bear this out, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has heard the taped comments and others’ responses to them and has looked at the entirety of JB’s work and had this to say:
“I’ve seen JB’s record and I know what’s in his heart,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “This is a leader who has been there for our communities. From expanding early childhood education and providing school breakfasts to low-income students, to supporting critical organizations like the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the DuSable Museum, and After School Matters, JB has done the real work to build opportunity in our communities. Right now, the only question our community should be asking is who has a record of showing up for us, and I truly believe that JB is that leader.”
I think she sums up her position well. And I can only add that on other issues I support, including many Progressive causes, JB has been at the forefront or has come to a position of advocacy for them. Often he has been on the right side of issues from the beginning, and when necessary, he has turned around and reoriented – not as a search for votes, but as where his soul-searching has led him.
And so, I will not be turning around my support of his candidacy. JB has – and will continue to – evolve on issues as we all do, while maintaining his core values that will help him in his efforts to improve Illinois government for the benefit of all who live here and seek to build opportunities. Because the thing we really can’t afford to do is turn back to four more years of the same failed leadership for the elites – or worse.