One thing in Forest Park has gotten out of control: Political hate mail [Full disclosure: My husband, Ned, is an elected member of the District 209 school board].
I don’t mind a flier, maybe even a letter, with a candidate’s picture, a few bullet points of accomplishments, some goals; heck, maybe a few endorsements listed. That’s fine. I might put it in my recycling bin, but there is nothing wrong with the flier.
It is the 90 # stock, full color, 8×10-inch fliers, which are hate-filled, agitating, often issueless and character-defaming with direct intent to discredit or misinform, that I do not appreciate.
But I live in Forest Park, Proviso Township, an area that has become haunted by election cycles. For some reason, this has become “the way it is” in our small town, littering households with attack fliers, often with insultingly low and deceitful information. These “publicity” pieces are often ignorant, and they lower our community IQ.
I don’t remember it being so ugly when I moved here, but I have watched the gradual erosion of trust and decency over the past 14 years.
While I am not a red-blooded Forest Parker, born-and-raised, I am a decent human being who lives here. And so are my neighbors, so are the families my kids go to school with, so are the business owners in town, so are the families I see at the soccer field and at the library and, well, there are a lot more decent people in this town then there are jerks.
So, Forest Park, let’s take back the conversation. We don’t have to tolerate this corrupt infusion of hate every election cycle.
Let’s not become conditioned to think that it is “OK” to send out pictures of kids sitting vulnerably on porch steps, men in handcuffs, a history of home improvement projects, public figures with a cartoon bubble shouting inflammatory remarks. This is not normal; this is not OK. These bullying pieces discourage discussion, infuse mistrust, create division and stifle our town, our district, and deter good, decent people from taking part in democracy.
What to do with all this junk mail? is the question. How do we make the proverbial lemonade out of these lemons?
It would be juvenile (though tempting) to collect hundreds, maybe thousands of these leaflets and litter the front yard or porch of the candidate who benefits from the publication.
So I call out to our local artist community. People with an “esprit de corps” for these sorts of things. Think of it, a public art project made from hate mail. Here are some suggestions:
A giant paper mache statue, a field of origami cranes (made from hate mail), hundreds of paper airplanes (made from hate mail) hanging on display at the Community Center, something that marks the spirit of our town, of our district, of our neighborhood, of our families. Something that generates civic pride and community conversation.
We are now 64 days-free of political hate mail (since the last election). We must not look back, but forward. Now is the moment to challenge our local artistic community to creatively plan to stage a revolt to the hate-filled electioneering that burns our community cohesiveness and offends our pride. The medium will be available soon, fall of 2016 (the November election) and early in 2017 (local elections).
The fliers will come and they will be ugly.
Let’s make them beautiful.