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Mayor Daley wants to make one thing clear: it's my fault that he lost his cool yesterday and offered to sodomize and shoot me for asking a question about violence in the city.
A little while ago the mayor told reporters that he was merely trying to teach a lesson to me and the rest of the press corps about how dangerous guns are, since it was clear from my question that we don't get it. “I want to shock you, maybe scare you to realize, this is serious," he said. "I want you to be as passionate as I am."
Yesterday mayoral press secretary Jackie Heard put it more coherently, as she always does: "The person asking the question was missing the point that unrestricted guns are a devastating issue."
Actually, they're missing the point, and they're of course doing it on purpose. They want to miss the point. You don't have to fire a gun to shoot the messenger.
The point is that there's a critical discussion that needs to take place around here about gun control, violence, an understaffed police force, neglected neighborhoods, chronic joblessness, the war on drugs, failing schools, and the priorities of public officials. But Mayor Daley has shown no signs of being interested in it. He's decided what needs to happen, and we're either with him or against him.
There's no better illustration of his intolerance for debate, dissent, and transparency than his decision to hold a gun up and joke about shooting a journalist.
Make no mistake: this isn't about me. I just happened to be the guy who asked the question that set the mayor off this time around. On other days he's laid into other reporters, aldermen, or underlings. People have asked the mayor if he plans to apologize to me. I don't expect or want an apology.
But since he's brought up my alleged ignorance and insensitivity, I'll offer him just a couple of quick biographical details about myself so he can be a little more precise in his criticism the next time around. I know a bit about gun violence. One of my uncles was slain in a gun accident years ago. When I taught at an alternative high school on the south side in the 1990s, my students and I narrowly avoided being shot during a field trip when a gang member chased after us with a gun. One of my students was later executed in an alley for crossing the wrong gang lords. As a reporter I travel all over the city—by public transit, since I don't own a car or have a chauffeur—to spend time with people directly affected by violence. Like many other Chicagoans, I've seen people carrying guns on the train and witnessed attacks there before. Just last week I was at a CAPS meeting on the west side where people talked openly about the shootings, gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing outside their homes.
None of this makes me a saint, nor does it allow me to pass myself off as someone with special insight into urban violence. Here's the real point: like thousands of other ordinary citizens in this city, I have to confront the reality that Chicago isn't a particularly safe place to live.
What I asked yesterday was hardly a gotcha question: the gun ban simply hasn't stopped the violence in Chicago—that's a fact—so do you think it's been effective, Mr. Mayor?
If anything, it was a softball question. The mayor could have said yes, I think it helps get guns off the street even if it isn't the answer to all of our problems. In which case I would have loved to ask: OK, that makes sense—so what else do you think the city can do to counter its shooting and murder epidemic? Any other or new ideas?
But the mayor, for all his passion, doesn't give off any impression that he wants to talk about new ideas, even if he has some. This is his town and he and his friends know what's best. They don't want any guff from any of us. And when he gets questions he doesn't like he deflects them or gets angry.
I don't fear being shot in the ass by the mayor. I just worry that his antics are going to distract us again. We can't afford to keep missing the point.