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Beavers proud of his code of silence

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers speaks after being found guilty all counts Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse Chicago Ill. Thursday

Cook County Commissioner William Beavers speaks after being found guilty on all counts at the Everett M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, Ill., on Thursday, March 21, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 26, 2013 6:14AM

Frame of reference is everything.

The rusty metal bucket that looks fine on the floor in the garage is startling in the center of the dining room table. The blanket that goes well on the foot of the bed is just wrong covering an old chair in the backyard.

For a long time, the murder epidemic that now so shocks Chicago was just the price of how the city rolls — if anything, the toll had gotten better than in decades past. We winced and moved on. It certainly wasn’t a crisis anybody was going to do much of anything about — not until, I believe, Chicagoans began to notice the uproar over mass shootings around the country and wondered why other parts of the nation can get worked up over something happening rarely but all at once on a large scale, when the same thing happening here on a small scale every day gets shrugged off.

It can be difficult to view a situation you’ve become used to seeing in one light from a new perspective, but that is where insight lies. For instance, Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, found guilty on four counts of tax evasion late last week. Everything about Beavers that needed to be said had, I felt, already been said. I particularly appreciated my colleague Mark Brown’s column on the “small, sad,” incestuous world of corrupt Chicago politicians. Nothing to do but wince and turn away.

“I’m not a stool pigeon, never will be,” Beavers proclaimed, in his defense, as the mitigating factor he offered — the only reason the feds went after him in the first place, he claimed, was because he refused to wear a wire and help them gather the goods on John Daley.

That made him a hero, in his view.

My only thought was a dry, legal one: Who cares? Questioning the feds’ motives doesn’t erase the half million bucks lost at the casino, does it? That defense might work if you’re in a car pulled over for no good reason. But there were plenty of reasons to look under the rock of Beavers’ bookkeeping. His claims otherwise were just pitiable. It was a typical politician’s dodge.

But there is something more to add.

I wish I could claim this as my own genius insight, but it was an alert reader, Robert L. Johnson of North Clark Street, who pointed it out.

Beavers, he wrote, had been “a police officer, a city councilman; and now a county commissioner. ... In each position Beavers took an oath to uphold the law. In each position there is the expectation of adhering to a higher personal standard of honesty, integrity and trust.”

And here Johnson put a new frame around the Beavers’ defense. “Now we have the tragedy of the murdered infant and the matter of not snitching within the community which may include her father and his alleged gang affiliation leaving the police stymied,” he wrote. “So, Beavers, a former police officer and current government official and presumably a recognized leader in the very community under siege makes a statement as to his personal standard about not snitching. Does anyone wonder why this city is so ................? (fill in the blanks).”

Indeed. Beavers was holding up his refusal — his supposed refusal, in my view, it’s safe to assume it’s another lie — to help the feds as a justification, as a credit to his name that should counter-balance whatever ugly facts were subsequently uncovered. He wasn’t even bright enough to be ashamed but invoked the honor-among-thieves clause. And we — with the exception of my savvy reader — didn’t even think to notice and be horrified. How can we expect gangbangers or their terrorized neighbors to help the police when our own elected officials are proud of their refusing to assist the authorities, and we are so numb to it we don’t even notice?

And yes, Stanley still shouts ‘Stellla!’

Speaking of frames of reference. One topic that readers often bring up is opera, which to many seems like some kind of strange and fantastical world separated from them by an uncrossable gulf. It’s as if I’ve been to the moon.

I always tell them opera is more accessible to the average Joe than they might imagine, which is doubly true for the upcoming production of André Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” an opera in English, starring diva Renée Fleming as Blanche, which anybody, no matter how humble a station, can hear for free, at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday ,by spinning their dial to WFMTFM (98.7) — (or by going to

But merely listening to opera is like trying to breathe through a straw — possible, but constricted. It doesn’t come close to being there. The ideal is to see it, live, and here the Lyric is shrewdly sowing the seeds of its subscriber base for the 2027 season by inviting high school and college students to attend a special “Streetcar” performance April 5, primarily for students, semi-staged and featuring an alternate cast (i.e., no Renée Fleming). Admission is just $20 for high school or college students with ID, and since the four subscription performances are sold out, non-students can also attend at a special discount, $29 for balcony tickets, $49 for main floor. Give it a try.

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