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Don’t ignore the humanity on our streets

Mark Kirk

Mark Kirk

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:15AM

Don’t ignore the humanity on our streets

I am part of the mass of people who surge through downtown Chicago, Monday through Friday, to and from work. Left foot, right foot, eyes straight ahead. I was barely aware of the people who are perceived as culturally marginal and who dwell on the street corners of this kinetic city, searching for alms and human contact.

Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the humanity that emanates from these street people. Their auras seem to shout out to me, “I am here, and I exist.” Many of these people are deeply devalued individuals who have been evicted from public health services and literally have nowhere to live. Among them are young people forced to leave their homes because of abuse or lack of acceptance for their sexual orientation, often forced to use their young bodies and to manipulate situations to sustain their lives. Others, lacking medication, funds and living quarters, are unable to achieve mental health and may be of danger to themselves or others. While caution needs to be exercised, when encountering such a person I will offer up a prayer that these brothers and sisters of mine find shelter and content.

It was not so long ago that one could hear someone yelling at these people to “get a job!” Were it only that simple. The issue of homelessness in our country appears to have become passe and, during tough economic times, these people have become shadows on our street corners. But I have changed. Some of these street folk have become companions on my walk to work — the legless man on the corner of Wells and Adams who calls me gorgeous every morning and tells me my smile lights up his day; the woman in rags on Wabash and Madison who has reminded me that universally we all share the same kind of pain (“Red, my brother died, he died . . .”), as she cries softly on my shoulder. There is the Streetwise vendor at Union Station who each day lets me know that the Creator loves me, softening the effects of a day’s stress as we point to each other in acknowledgment.

Make certain that your brothers and sisters know that you hear them and see them — that they are entitled to the birthright they share with each and every person born on this planet. How can we do this? By supporting more funding for halfway houses for the mentally ill, by growing in acceptance of the LGBT community, by zero tolerance for the abuse of children and by dropping 50 cents into an occasional cup seeking donations. Best yet, by recognizing the humanity that resides in each and everyone of us.

Gloria Tobolski Sendelbaugh, Riverside

We need two political parties

Our democracy demands a viable two-party system. So it is sad to watch the GOP drive off the cliff to political oblivion as it increasingly becomes the party of only the well-off and the well-armed.

Tom Siebert, Aurora

Kirk aide targets Hagel

I was disappointed after reading an article in a Capitol Hill newspaper titled “Has Kirk’s office been running a secret anti-Hagel campaign?”

The story said our senator’s deputy chief of staff has led a smear campaign against President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense, decorated war veteran Chuck Hagel. It went on to say what’s “notable [is] that [Richard] Goldberg’s first email was sent . . . weeks before Kirk . . . returned to the Capitol and well before Hagel was officially tapped by Obama.”

Notwithstanding questions on staff activity in an official office, doesn’t this just reiterate that Congress is broken? I hope Sen. Mark Kirk understands this type of politics is the exact reason why a recent poll revealed Congress has a lower approval rating than colonoscopies, head lice and root canals.

Andy Black, Lincoln Park

A right to arms vs. government?

Is it constitutional to take up arms against the government of the United States? I’m no lawyer, but I wouldn’t think so. It has been clear to me for years though that this is the underlying premise of a significant number of people who wrap themselves in an unqualified and absolute personal right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

I even heard Alan Keyes say so at the Chicago Club when he was running for the United States Senate against Barack Obama. His fantastic premise relied upon the First Amendment and the view that taking up arms against the government could be justified for its perceived “abrogation by the government of the free exercise of religion” that he said was going on even back then.

It beats me how these supposedly individual rights to stockpile guns and ammo square with the conditional language of the Second Amendment that sets up the right based upon the need for a “well-regulated militia” being necessary for the security of the state.

So the right to own a gun is based on a collective (“militia”) need to protect the state, therefore every individual who wants to can arm themselves with guns to bring down the state, if necessary? Uhhh.

Paul O’Connor, West Town

Good diet advice

As a physician and 27-year vegetarian, I was very excited to see Rahm Emanuel promoting vegan diets on a recent television program. The mayor got it exactly right: Eating plant-based foods is a great way for us to bring down health care costs and improve our overall fitness levels.

Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D., Oak Park

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