Hyde Park had a strong Jewish presence in the early to mid part of the 20th century, in some respect due to the fact that the University of Chicago had a large Jewish faculty. But as times changed and the surrounding neighborhoods deteriorated, bringing with that event an increase in the amount of crime in this middle class neighborhood, many of these people relocated to the north side of the city, particularly the area known as the Gold Coast.
There had been any number of delicatessens which catered to this part of the population but with their migration north, by the early ’70’s there was only one left – that being The Flying Lox Box on the very east perimeter of the neighborhood, a few blocks from the residence of the city’s first black mayor, Harold Washington. The “Lox Box” as we called it, attracted a lot of us on a Saturday late morning for a delightful lunch, replete with outstanding dill pickle slices and an ample supply of insults from the proprietors, Rich who heaped disparaging comments on the diners as fully as he piled on the pastrami and corned beef on our sandwiches. It was a bit reminiscent of growing up in Manhattan to me – and I reveled in the food, the company and Rich’s well meaning barbs. I think that deep down, he had a repressed desire to appear on stage at Chicago’s Second City comedy club.
One of the regular patrons was a Chicago Police Department Sergeant, Adolph who was a sort of gentle giant. Adolph could put away a sandwich with ease and frequently would order a second half sandwich to wash down the first one. He was a delightful raconteur who would regale us with stories of life on the force.
In his earlier days with the CPD he was assigned to a different district – one that included Chicago’s second most dangerous housing project, Cabrini-Green, which now has been demolished. He told us that the worst calls were ones coming from the project which involved domestic violence. Emotions ran very high in those sorts of calls.
One day when he and his partner had nearly finished their shift, they were dispatched to Cabrini on just such a call. Queenie Johnson had called 911 to report that her common law husband was drunk and was beating her. Adolph and his partner were only a few blocks from their apartment and responded promptly.
When they reached the Johnson apartment, they knocked on the door. A timid voice answered from behind. They identified themselves and Ms. Johnson opened the door. It was immediately clear from the large cut and welt under her left eye that someone had indeed been hitting this woman.
On entering the apartment, Adolph asked, “Ms. Johnson, do you know where your husband is?”
“He be in the bedroom. He be drunk and I think he passed out.”
“Do you want us to arrest him? If so, you will have to come down to the station and file a complaint against him?”
“Oh, no, no, no, don’t do dat,” she replied. “He be drunk and didn’ mean no harm.”
“Well, ma’am, if you don’t want us to arrest him, what exactly is it that you would like us to do?”
Adolph paused for a moment. Despite his large size he really was a big teddy bear. He then told us what Ms. Johnson asked him and his partner to do on this visit.
She said with an almost childlike innocence, “Could you go in the bedroom, wake him up and make him say, ‘He love me’?”
I was about to join the others at our table who laughed at this woman’s request, but then it occurred to me how sad and pathetic her situation – and how terribly low her self-esteem must have been that she would willingly endure this sort of physical abuse. And I could see that Adolph had not delivered her statement as the “punch line,” pardon the expression, of a joke. He went on.
It was about six months after this visit when 911 got another call from Queenie Johnson. Again, she was suffering a physical attack by her husband. And once again, Adolph and his partner were dispatched to respond. But this time, there was no soft voice behind the door. They could hear the sounds of a struggle and when they broke in the door, they found Mr. Johnson holding a bloodied baseball bat on his shoulder, over the lifeless body of Ms. Johnson whom he had just murdered.
You could have heard a pin drop in the deli. Even Rich, who had been eaves-dropping on this story, was uncharacteristically quiet. All of us finished our meals without enthusiasm and went our ways, sobered and chilled by this account.
There are many reasons that I could advance for my unchangeable decision not to vote for Hillary Clinton. I could argue that, despite the fact that she has never been arraigned or convicted for many of the past scandals which seem to circle her like a buzzard waiting for a wounded animal to die, she seems to be a magnet for controversy and activities which might or might not be legal but certainly raise questions of morality – a higher standard than what might be proven in a court of law.
I might argue that she exhibits all the pathology of a serial liar; that she arguably endangered this country through her slip-shod handling of emails; that she lied to the victims of the families of the Benghazi attack and to the American public; that she through the aegis of her and her husband and daughter’s foundation accepted money from governments which are among the worst human and female rights offenders in the world; that there may or may not be some quid pro quo from countries and individuals during her tenure as Secretary of State which enabled her and the former president to acquire vast amounts of wealth, far beyond even their excessive speaking fees would have produced.
But I do not need to argue any of that in formulating my decision because there is something far more profound and fundamental which in my mind disqualifies her from holding the highest office in the land and having ownership of the nuclear launch codes. That pre-eminent factor is her disposition and temperament.
Have you ever been involved or known anyone who has been involved in an abusive relationship? If so, you know that the only alternatives open to that person is to terminate the relationship or to continue in it and continue to be abused. Both choices are difficult – but the second one might be fatal as in the case of Queenie Johnson.
And the simple reason that people persist in abusive relationships always comes down to the same thing – lack of self-esteem.
As a friend, I’ve counselled any number of people who found themselves in situations where their spouses cheated on them or mentally or physically abused them. My advice has always been the same. I laid out the two alternatives that were available and suggested that the decision about what sort of future they had in life was totally dependent on how they went forward.
Some continued in those relationships and their abuse went on as before, as predictably it would have. Some smaller number decided that they had value as a person and took the daring step to find that better future for themselves, though this decision resulted in a great deal of immediate pain and self-doubt which they were only able to overcome through the support of friends and family and their discovery of an inner strength.
Ms. Clinton obviously has chosen the first path. Apparently her inner strength is so minimal that she is wiling to accept the very public knowledge that she is the “other woman” in her own marriage. And it amazes me that for someone who purports to be a “champion for women” she is such a poor example for women or, for that matter, people of either gender.
This post is dedicated to Queenie Johnson – and to all the other people, living or dead, who have suffered from abusive relationships. And while I feel a great deal of empathy for them, pity is not a valid reason for entrusting the future of the greatest nation on earth to a person who allows him or herself to be a victim.