Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crass vs. Vapid – Which is worse?

Some observers of the Illinois political scene are trying to make an issue out of Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., for the remark he made recently to a suburban newspaper editorial board that ostensibly compared abortion to the crime of murder.

Yet in my mind, the congressman from Wheaton has to take Second Place (at best) to the owner of a Minnesota-based company that manufactures a portable gun-rack – one meant to fit beside a person’s bed so they can immediately grab their weapon and start shooting if they think they hear someone in the middle of the night wandering around their home.

WHAT MAKES THE Back Up (the name under which the portable rack is marketed, implying that decent people have a main gun rack somewhere else for the prize pieces of their firearms arsenal) offensive?

The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that the manufacturer put out a press release this week promoting the product by saying that actress Jennifer Hudson’s mother might possibly still be alive, had she had a Back Up and a weapon in her bedroom.

“Could a Bedside Shotgun Rack Have Saved Jennifer Hudson’s Family from Tragic Death?,” the company’s press release asks.

The company’s president told the Tribune that he used the prominent slaying so soon after it occurred in his marketing effort not to be offensive, but to give people a “hit between the eyes” on the issue of firearms use.

FOR THOSE WHO weren’t paying attention (and it doesn’t matter where in the country one was because the prominence of the star of “Dreamgirls” meant that the fate of her mother, brother and nephew this weekend became a national story), Darnell Donerson and Jason Hudson were found dead on Friday at Donerson’s Englewood neighborhood home.

Police quickly figured out that a 7-year-old boy who was with the two was missing, and that resulted in the weekend-long search that ultimately ended when a Chevy Suburban van was discovered abandoned on the West Side, with the body of Julian King inside.

From various reports, Hudson is the Oscar-winning actress who has had to toughen up this week to cope with the loss of her mother and brother, and wound up having to provide the positive identification that her young nephew was dead.

In short, she is living these days through everybody’s worst nightmare.

AND HOW DO the manufacturers of the Back Up handle the situation?

They drag up her family name and image, and try to morph her mother into the notion of a “pistol packin’ granny” who could have defended herself, had she only been able to get to a gun.

That line of logic is one I often hear from firearms advocates, and it is one I question, since many people when confronted with a crisis are going to have a brief moment of not being able to think straight.

And all it takes for something bad to happen is that one lone moment. Who’s to say that if Hudson did have a firearm on her, that it would not have wound up being used against her?

FROM ALL INDICATIONS, the person who is not quite a suspect but a “person of interest” (in legal lingo) was a former in-law.

His arrival at Donerson’s home might not have been seen as a pleasant experience. But it was not like he broke in suddenly, thereby alerting Hudson’s mother that she was in danger.

There’s a good chance that she didn’t realize how violent the situation could get until it was too late.

I can’t help but notice that prosecutors have not actually charged the in-law, William Balfour, with any crime in connection with the slayings. The only reason he’s still in custody is because he was on parole – which makes his questioning in connection with the triple slayings a violation in itself (so he gets to sit in a cell in a state prison until Chicago police and prosecutors figure out how to handle this situation).

AND WHILE THEY ponder, some people on the outside will try to figure out ways to use the slayings to their advantage. I would expect the firearms advocates to make such a statement, but the idea of using the incident to try to sell a product is just so crass.

It is why I consider it to be the tackiest talk of the week, even moreso than what Roskam said when he subjected himself to an interview with the Pioneer Press chain of weekly newspapers in the north and west suburbs.

Now what he actually said is left to question.

The newspaper, in its attempt to squeeze a whole batch of information into a short story previewing the Congressional fight between Roskam and Democrat Jill Morgenthaler, paraphrased a lot.

SO WHAT ACTUALLY turns up in the newspaper is that Roskam, “asked in the Pioneer Press interview why women can have abortions if rapists cannot be executed.”

The implication being that a woman who is impregnated by someone because of a rape could not have suffered such a severe indignity to her person if the crime of sexual assault is not one for which the death penalty can be applied.

The newspaper later provided a direct quote from Roskam to the Springfield-based Capitol Fax newsletter about Illinois government that makes it appear Peter was trying to take the logic of former Rep. Henry Hyde (a long-time opponent of abortion services being legal) when he said (in part), “a rapist under the court doctrines can’t be put to death. (Hyde) said, why is it that the baby who is the result of that criminal behavior can be put to death?”

Such talk came off as crass when it came from Hyde’s mouth (it implies there are times when a woman’s life has to play second-banana to a potential life that was forced on her. That’s offensive). But now that we’re getting second-generation Hyde, it loses something in translation.

IT’S LIKE WE’RE getting a photocopy of a photocopy of what Hyde sent. Coming from Roskam, it’s not offensive as much as it’s just vapid.

Eventually, such logic is going to be repeated so often by those people who are just determined to think of abortion as a criminal act in and of itself that it will become absurd.

Roskam is not quite absurd, but his comments are taking the debate on abortion in that direction.

And if it comes to a choice between absurd or crass (which is what I think the Hudson gun rack appeal is), I consider crass to be more offensive any day of the week.


EDITOR’S NOTES: The “Hudson gun rack” ad (,0,264779.story), or “abortion equals murder” ( Take your pick.

1 comment:

Levois said...

I thought it was crass of Mayor Daley to seize this tragedy to chime in on his ideas on guns. I don't necessarily agree that too many guns is what caused this tragedy, but it certainly could be used as a scare tactic. Remember this basic fact, whether or not there are too many guns on the streets that two adults and one child were murdered one weekend. That's the fact!