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Free the Word
Open To Thinking, A recurring column
by Nick Patricca
2017-02-01

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When I was a youngster, I wanted to be a writer for a newspaper, or a U.S. Senator. I avidly read the papers I delivered to my clients and passionately participated in the politics of the times, reporting on Adlai Stevenson for president rallies for the Kingsley House paper ( like Chicago's Hull House ) in my hood—an Italian and Black ghetto in East Liberty, Pittsburgh.

I wanted to write because I experienced how the columnists I read opened up whole new worlds for me, how they raised issues that mattered to the well-being of my community, how they allowed me to participate in the civil life of my country.

I wanted to be a U.S. Senator because I truly believed that the U.S. Senate was a 'club' in which principled people discuss matters of great import in a rational, dignified way for the benefit of the entire nation. My favorite senators were Wayne Morse of Oregon and Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, both Republicans, who adamantly opposed McCarthyism and maintained their principles in the face of all types of bullies even from their own party.

In 1952, to protest Nixon and McCarthy, Wayne Morse brought a folding chair to the Senate floor and sat in the middle between the two parties to physically demonstrate his independence. Margaret Chase Smith won my heart forever when she announced that she would never vote for a bill that she had not read or understood.

I revered words. Did not the Christian Scriptures declare that we are created by the Word of God?

I no longer want to be a U.S. Senator because I do not judge that I could keep my sanity in an institution so severely handicapped by partisan factionalism, sectarian fanaticism, and MONEY. I admire and praise the senators who have been able to survive and do some good for us all.

When I told my brother that I had joined Windy City Times to contribute a monthly op-ed, he quipped: "leave it to you in your final days on earth to commit to a dying art."

The art of journalism and of the essay is not dying because of new media. Our art is not being destroyed by technology: it is being killed by dishonest and incompetent writers and by lazy readers who only want to have their prejudices reinforced.

I had been aware of the avalanche of fake news that contributed to the disgrace of our presidential campaign, but I had not really appreciated the sinister depths of the problem until I read this article in the NYTimes: 'Fake News Masterpiece,' Jan. 18, 2017.

According to the article, a young man used his writing skills to make money by creating fabrications of voter fraud against Hillary Clinton. He successfully marketed these false accusations to those who wanted to believe that Clinton could not win a fair election because they believed Trump's assertions that the election would be rigged. ( CNN tally of the popular vote: Clinton = 65,844,954 = 48.2%; Trump = 62,979,879 = 46.1% )

Historically, debasing a nation's currency foretells the impending destruction of its economy.

For me, devaluing writers and debasing language foretells the impending destruction of our civil society.

This type of fraud gravely injures writers, especially writers who suffer persecution and exile because they are true to their vocation. My colleague, Unoma Azuah, has been forced to leave her home in Nigeria because of her writings on cultural freedom for women and sexual minorities. My colleague, Osama Alomar, has been forced to leave Syria because of his writings on human rights and dignity. When I see these good writers struggling to survive and practice their art in their new homes in Chicago, I remember why I still believe in and revere WORDS.

Help us MAKE SPACE for writers to create. Come meet Unoma and Osama on Sunday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m., Piper Hall, Loyola University Chicago Lake Shore Campus.

Help us FREE THE WORD for its true purpose: to discover, to inform, to entertain, to enlighten, to help us know and do the good.

© nicholas.patricca@gmail.com

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.


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