Lousy parents who treat their kids as nuisances instead of gifts hurt us all


  I compile the police blotter for The Reporter each week and review reports from six towns. I see a wide variety of incidents, including traffic offenses, retail theft, burglaries and drunken driving.
  But no report is more disturbing to me than “endangering the health or welfare of a child.” I don’t see them often, but when I do, the details are usually pretty disturbing.
  Bobs Column - The B SideLast week, for example, the blotter included a report about a 2-year-old boy who was riding his tricycle down the middle of a street and not wearing any pants or underwear. When police arrived, they found mom asleep on the couch in a disheveled home with dishes piled in the sink and garbage on the floor, according to reports.
  What a fantastic environment in which to raise a child. Mom speculated to police that her son got on chair in order to reach the doorknob. Imagine knowing that was a possibility and not taking steps to prevent it.
  Several months ago, the police reports included an incident about a young boy who was locked out of his apartment by his mother after the two argued. He was forced to endure the cold until he went to a neighbor for help.
  These reports are horribly disturbing. Children should be able to count on parents for the basics—food, shelter and education. Of course, mom and dad should provide a lot more than that, but in many instances, I fear, we’re talking about people who have no business being parents. Simply making sure that their children are safe is too tall an order.
  A horrible cycle is revolving in this country and unfortunately very little is said about it. Quite simply, too many children are born to moms and dads who have no business being moms and dads. There is no family structure, and a child is seen as a nuisance rather than a gift. The results affect us all.
  Often, dad is not in the picture, and a young mother is none to thrilled having a baby change the course of her life. Gone are the parties, the time with friends, the freedom that is tough to give up. Then again, why let a baby get in the way? Maybe there’s a grandmother or other family around to do the “parenting” while mom continues the life to which she was accustomed before a child became her responsibility.
  In other instances, a child becomes a pawn in a custody battle. Dad doesn’t truly want custody of his son or daughter, but he’s angry at mom and will do anything to push her buttons. That often leads to threats, orders of protection and domestic violence.
  And so it goes. The child comes up in this dreadful environment and learns early on that no is particularly invested in him. Kids aren’t stupid. They know when they’re a bother instead of a blessing. Consequently, they do poorly in school and often cause trouble to garner the attention they don’t get at home. They turn to drugs, get suspended or drop out of school, tangle with police or become parents long before they’re ready. Many never acquire the social skills needed to survive much less hold down a job or care for a family. The dysfunctional cycle continues.
  Think about any child or teenager you know that is doing well in school, hanging out with the right group of kids, taking on responsibilities, making smart choices. Chances are they come from a family with structure that emphasizes the value of education. That’s not to say good kids don’t get in trouble. It happens, but responsible families use the incident as a teaching moment. They make sure their children face consequences and don’t make the same mistake twice.
  Further, a responsible parent—even those struggling to get by—makes every effort to ensure their kids are clean, safe and have the basic necessities such as clean clothes and school supplies.
  Emphasis on family and education. It really is that simple. Sure, some sacrifices are required, but putting a child first is not that hard. The other option, of course, is to stop having kids. Quit bringing them into hideous environments they don’t deserve and putting them so far behind the eight ball that they’ll never have a real chance at a meaningful life. Children deserve the best we have to offer and in many cases they’re not getting anything close.


Black shoes? Selfies? Renaults? This pope acts like a regular guy

Bobs Column - The B SideI love me some Pope Francis.
How do you not like this guy? Even if you’re not a Catholic, it’s nearly impossible not to take notice of the Holy Father and appreciate his approach to the gig.
He’s only been Pope for about one year, but he’s garnered more media attention than any other Pope in my lifetime.
Pope John Paul II was a close second. He was beloved and will be canonized on Sunday along with Pope John XXIII, the pontiff when Vatican II started in the early Francis
I’ll never forget the millions of people who turned out for John Paul II when he visited Chicago in 1979. An estimated 200,000 people gathered in Grant Park for the Papal Mass, and he addressed thousands from the roof of Quigley South Seminary (now St. Rita High School). It was an exciting time and a moment of pride for the city’s Polish population. John Paul II was the second Pope to visit the United States and first to come to Chicago.
But Pope Francis has redefined the role primarily by doing away with all the pomp that accompanies being the head of the Catholic Church.
The other day in St. Peter’s Square, he let two young boys board the Popemobile for a ride through St. Peter’s Square. A few months ago, the Pope was addressing a large group of families when a young boy walked onto the stage and stood at his side. No one ushered the little one away. Instead, the Pope patted the boy on the head and continued his address as the boy hugged him and spent some time sitting in his chair. It was a precious moment.
The Pope rolls in a Renault with 190,000 miles on it and lives in a small apartment in Casa Marta, a sort of guest hostel in the Vatican, rather than in the Papal Apartments of the Apostolic Palace. He’s modest in every way and people relate to that. He mingles with massive crowds in St. Peter’s Square and routinely exits his vehicle to bless the followers and kiss babies.
Those who aren’t so modest have heard the Pope’s message loud and clear. He suspended a German bishop accused of spending millions on lavish renovations to his residence. It’s the absolute wrong time for a member of the church’s hierarchy to go on spending spree. Humility is in. Extravagance is out. Pope Francis has made that clear.
Even the little things the pope has done have signaled his desire to be the everyman’s pontiff.
He kept his black shoes rather than wearing the red ones customary for the Pope. He also is foregoing the red cape popes usually wear. He continues to wear the iron-plated pectoral cross he used as archbishop, and his papal fisherman’s ring isn’t gold but gold-plated silver.
He uses Twitter and has taken “selfies.” He’s not only modest; he’s hip.
He’s also a tad self-deprecating as evidenced when he donned a red clown nose after congratulating newlyweds in St. Peter’s Square who work as volunteers for an organization that assist the sick with clown therapy.
The beauty of Francis is that we have no idea what he’ll do next and all his actions are impromptu. Nothing is staged. He’s the genuine article and he’s arrived at the right time.
A couple years ago, a Catholic lay organization ran a series of TV commercials designed to convince fallen-away Catholics to return to the Church. The commercials were effective and likely convinced some people to return to the church.
But no commercial will hold a candle to the actions of Pope Francis. He’s approach to the papacy appeals to people. Catholics my age probably recall a very different papacy. I remember Pope Paul throughout my elementary school years, and Pope Benedict led the church for eight years before stepping down last year.
Neither of them seemed to connect with the people. They were distant figures who were revered, adored, exalted. They seemed more like symbols of the church than people. Francis has redefined the role. He stands among us rather than apart from us.
Young people are the future of the church and having a pope that connects with youth is vital for the church’s future. Francis understands this.
I doubt they use the public relations/marketing term “rebranding” in Vatican City, but that’s what Francis appears to be doing and it’s working. He always looks happy. It’s as though the guy no one expected to become pope is as comfortable in the job as he is in his black shoes and old Renault.

Math teacher hopes votes add up for Oak Lawn student needing car


Bobs Column - The B SideTeaching is tough profession. And those who babble on about teachers not working a full day and having summers off are misinformed and ought to be quiet.
I’ve worked as a substitute teacher and while that’s not comparable to working in a school on a full-time basis, it helped me appreciate the challenges and obstacles teachers face day in, day out.
No two days are the same, there are always a handful of problematic students and the work is endless. Of course, teaching is amazingly rewarding as well. Just ask Ellen Kruger, a math teacher at Oak Lawn Community High School.
I got to know Ellen a few years ago when I wrote a story about a holiday program she sponsors that helps the needy in the Oak Lawn community.
The program is simple. Ellen identifies the needs of underprivileged families in the area and lists those needs on ornaments that decorate a Christmas tree at the school.
Students and teachers select an ornament and purchase the requested items. The items are wrapped and sent to the homes of the needy families. Simple isn’t it? Kruger takes a little extra time to identify a problem and helps solve it. Not in the job description by a long shot, but going above and beyond is her passion.
Now the veteran educator has moved on to another challenge: getting a specially equipped car for a student with disabilities.

Inside the First Amendment - How loud should ‘money talks’ in politics?

  • Written by Gene Policinski


There’s little question that “money talks” as long as you can pay a bit more for a better service at a top restaurant or to get a first-class seat while traveling — but there’s an ongoing First Amendment battle over how loudly it should speak in politics.
On April 2, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to eliminate caps on total contributions. The 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission had no effect on a $5,200 maximum in a two-year federal election cycle on contributions to any one candidate.
Then on April 7, the justices declined without comment to review a long-standing ban on direct corporate contributions to candidates.
And all of this takes place against a decision in 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the court said the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech keeps the government from limiting independent political expenditures by corporations, labor unions or associations.
To sum up: In elections for Congress and the presidency, you and I face a limit of $2,600 in contributions to any one candidate in that year — but can give to as many candidates as we choose. Corporations, unions and associations can spend as much money as they want on issues or in indirect endorsements of candidates, as long as those actions are not coordinated with specific campaigns or candidates.
From two “spokesmen” for the differing views on McCutcheon and the issue at-large:
“There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the McCutcheon opinion. “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects.”

From pinstriped suits to Fred Flinstone feet — what is happening to our society?

Bobs Column - The B SideMy mom and dad didn’t go out to dinner very often, but when they did they dressed accordingly. I remember my dad wearing a sports jacket, button shirt and casual slacks, while my mom wore something fashionable—she had a knack for looking great without spending a lot.
  Walk into a casual restaurant today and take a look at the clientele. You see T-shirts, jeans, sweat pants and men wearing baseball caps. It only gets worse in the summer when shorts, sleeveless shirts and flip-flops make an appearance. I guess that attire is OK for a picnic or a barbeque, but in a decent restaurant? C’mon. I don’t need to see a guy’s Fred Flintstone feet while I’m eating.
  I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, some people have taken to wearing pajama pants outside their homes. They’ll only be in the car, they rationalize, or they’re just heading to the convenience store or running a few errands. In their pajamas?
  It doesn’t end there. People go to work, church, and other social functions looking like slobs. And as more people adopt the “look,” the easier it becomes for others to go along.
  I had a friend whose dad worked for IBM in the 1970s. He said you could identify the IBMers getting off the train from the “uniform” of pin striped suits, white button-down shirts, rep ties and wing-tipped shoes. The look was not unique to those who worked at Big Blue. Rather, it was the look of corporate America.
  In those days, if you worked downtown, you wore a suit and tie. That’s just the way it was. Somewhere along the way, things changed. Not overnight. It was more incremental. So much so that that it was difficult to notice at first. Eventually, men shed ties and sport coats, turned in dress slacks for Dockers and traded dress shoes for every causal imaginable including gym shoes.
  Casual Fridays became popular and soon gave way to Casual Every Day. Today, almost anything goes in the workplace. But it extends well beyond the office. Take a long look around the next time you’re in court. I always figured that if you’re going before a judge, a shirt with a collar and decent pair of slacks isn’t too much to ask. Ditto for attending a wake or boarding a plane.
  When I see the shirtless guy at a sporting event, I recall the old-time baseball photos featuring men at Ebbits Field or Yankee Stadium wearing suits and fedoras. It seems wildly out of place now, but there was a time when going to the ball yard was an outing, an occasion. Similarly, going downtown for the day was a big deal that required the appropriate attire.
  Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some snob who expects people to go and about as though they’re members of the Union League Club or a private county club. For me, it comes down to this: we’ve lost our sense of shame as a society. We’re more concerned about personal comfort than what’s appropriate in a given situation. We simply don’t care what other people think of us.
  I recently talked with a friend about this problem and he immediately recalled a teenager girl he saw in church wearing a pair of sweatpants that had the word “sexy” across the back. He routinely sees people texting in church. That fascinates me. Years ago, we were admonished for letting our butts touch the pew while kneeling at Mass. “No three-point stances,” our teacher, Miss Clancy, would tell us. We were taught how to behave and never forgot it.
  Of course, this scourge on society isn’t limited to clothing. Pay attention to the rude bumper stickers people place of their cars, the crude slogans on t-shirts or the “truck nuts” some pickup truck owners hang from the rear of their rigs. People conduct loud cell phone conversations wherever they please, and far too many folks are ready for a public confrontation at a moment’s notice. Others move through public places as though they are in a daze—unaware that they’re blocking aisles at a store or slowing the flow in a parking lot.
  I have no idea how this problem can be solved. I guess it’s easier to identify problems than solve them. My concern is, too few people see this as a problem in the first place.