When my mayor launched his presidential campaign, a campaign everyone I knew had casually anticipated since he deployed to Afganistan in the first year of his mayoral administration, I had to tone down my absolute certainty that he is some sort of crook.
Everyone loves him here, but also, there’s disliking Pete for reasons, and then there’s a group of people in South Bend who take it to a level where any indication of dissent against the commonly considered ‘good’ begins to look like a symptom of something gone undiagnosed. And in that way I relent, sure.
But I didn’t always relent, and tonight I’m reminded of why, as some very serious and shady things have happened in Iowa and it’s not like I care, I had written Pete off a lost cause and felt some relief that he’d be using his vast array of talentless ambiguity to go blur lines at some private enterprise in the next few years, but this new head of steam changes the calculus and I’m compelled to revolt because, he is as an individual, revolting.
I’m going to prattle on about old shit everyone knows already but like there’s a lager point at play about the good sort of productive imagination towards the bottom so hang in there, reader.
The foundations of my suspicious about him had formed much earlier. than his election, I think? The timeline blurs together and I forget what year he was initially elected, but probably after I came home.
In 2010 I had returned to South Bend after moving around the country for the sake of an adventure to share during my twenties. Wyoming, to California, California into the Great Recession, unemployment, tax returns and desperations lead me and my girlfriend at the time to Georgia, and the realization that I didn’t know what my life should look like left her near her family there and me running back to Northern Indiana looking for some way to start over.
A few months after being home, the Tribune continuously published story after story regarding a public private technology partnership between the University of Notre Dame and the City of South Bend. There would be this great revitalizing 6 billion dollar public investment fund. One that would invest in developinga nano-technology industrial base that would transform the region’s economy into some sort of beacon, a city on a hill. Shortly after Pete would win a mayoral election seizing the opportunity afforded by an emerging political landscape that for a while would be defined by youthful optimism. We had a future again.
Pete would move to demolish parts of the old Studebaker plant that people in this town for decades hoped would reopen like every rustbelt castaway. The future was bright but it’d never come. And least of all for us.
The dream of a nano-tech industry that no native to South Bend possesses any training within was telling. A certification was offered by the worst for profit college in town, but then I dunno I haven’t followed up on it since then, but one things for sure this wasn’t done with the people who live in the city in mind but cities aren’t the people living there anymore, you see. And most of South Bend hasn’t figured that out yet because we’re too poor to scale our existence to anything other than place sometimes.
But also the jobs never came. But then the houses were bulldozed, and Smart Streets, an idea I saw verbatim explained on Public Access television when a proffessor of civic engineering from Harvard or some ivy league operation gave a lecture about a philosophy of revitalizing pedestrian foottraffic to storefront real estate in commerically zoned parts of the city, a whole 14 years earlier.
His recommendations included reorienting store fronts and the theater and the 100 Center, a complex of ambiguous purpose but partially an art… museum? constructed for the 1987 special Olympics, add a little road side parking and chefs kiss you’re a city again. LIke old days.
Pete implemented maybe half of it and doubled down on roundabouts or something, and then would use data about crossing town without mentioning what time of day that data was collected, in order to suggest the new two way lanes on our one way thoroughfares were faster than before. They weren’t, the light timings were bad, and his time estimates he used to respond to critics of the plan, only worked at about 3-4 in the morning, an experience I know first hand.
I just think it sucks that his mayoral political strategy was to implement half of a commercial revitalization effort and then bulldoze low value properties after most of the rental market had been purchased at post-recession prices by a handful of rent-to-own businesses in town. In 2012 I paid 750 for a two bedroom two story house with a basement on the South Side, and by 2016 you’d pay 700 for a one bedroom home on the city’s west side which is the most poorly organized and serviced area of town, and I think they were all just gambling on pushing all of us out and giving it to the kids of Notre Dame Alumns or something. I mean that’s pretty cheap if your dad works for Chase bank or something, I guess.
Upon his re-election, specific political agents whose track record has consistently lent itself to acts of self-aggrandizing contrarianism leaked Pete’s sexual identity on Facebook. In response, the former local head of the South Bend Democratic Party instigated a three day provocation to one of the ring leaders of this local political group, capitalizing on the mental instability of the man to draw out the controversy long enough for most locals to have noticed and for a few of us to be threatened with gang violence for daring to question his interpretation of parables found in the gospels.
Despite this blinkered unwillingness to emphasize with our neighbors, whom most of are social conservatives, we perhaps should have been more wary of someone deliberately omitting a character trait from the public record that would have resulted in greater resistance to his initial campaign. If anything, it betrayed a snide and faithless contempt for South Bend voters. Or perhaps shame, some human quality that he otherwise fails to possess? Does it matter? Isn’t it cynical? At a time when this was mainlining hard? I dunno maybe it’s more complicated than all that, the uncertainty of it all. What is certain is that when it came to light Pete deftly used the attention it brought his way, as an indictment of bigotry by members of the black community by refusing to dignify it with responses, and by refusing to react to them, cause their protests to intensify to lampoonish levels.
It’s hard for me not to find that cynical.
What perhaps confused this even more was his alignment with the University of Notre Dame, and his supposed pedigree that proved confusing to voters. And the University’s silence about his sexuality despite the Catholic Church’s on average resistance to changes in culture which undermine it’s authority.
The Catholic diocese of Ft. Wayne and South Bend under Bishop Kevin Rhodes had gone so far as to begin including contracts for any teacher or administrator within that system to not only forego the boilerplate right to birth control, contractually, but also to deny affiliation in their personal life with any LGBTQ+ persons entirely. And while it may seem unenforcible, there is a growingly militeristic presence within the church, one that would cast out it’s Jesuit contemporaries for attempting to subvert the body of Christ into the hands of the enemy, or something.
I have mixed feelings about the University. It is a safe harbor in many ways. It is an occult gravitational lensing effect, bending light around it like a neutron star, and cutting into the local landscape with dangerously esoteric precision on the banks of a river that runs both east to west and north to south. It is purposefully carved into the landscape as if a monument made of stone and time, and it’s ability to generate leaders, intellectuals, and academics is renown. I’m frequently pilfering the library for rare finds, waving a fist at an invisible library god who is obstructing my access to checking out it’s offerings, and it’s great.
And it’s this vague mysterious library and it’s holdings that in some way ameliorates my dull aching disappointment that the institution that would protect the vulnerable betrays them almost at every turn. But I’m shallow, in certain important ways and that’s probably okay. There’s nothing more to it than that, and maybe a love of gothic architecture that I find rapterous and comprises most of the buildings on campus.
They provided steady work for my father for over two decades, and hopefully, if I remain in the area will eventually extend the prospect of a long term financial arangement to me one day, provided I ever get good at whatever it is that I think I’m doing.
They will become a necessary part of ensuring my continued stability because I believe history will prove, no one is coming to save us. What the past week has made clear is the people who can will stop at nothing to rob us blind while accusing us of our own failure, instability, or motive. And worst of all, our local Mayor used our city as a step to get to this moment tonight
From the stability ND provided, my father rose to the ranks of service in the society of St. Vincent DePaul. They are a charitable network in our region who provide food to anyone who asks, measured out with deliberate care to provide two or three weeks worth of meals depending on the family whose called us for help.
This social work appealed to my own need to be unbothered by a dizzying array of narratives about whose deserving and who isn’t. That didn’t matter. The service did. No questions asked. Unfortunately it’s a charity service that’s aging out of our voluneteer rolls into the directories of local Catholic seminaries.
And it sucks. Because the fact that Dad went to such lengths to build a digital architecture and database backbone to coordinate our efforts, to track repetition that suggested a deeper need then we could provide in some cases, isn’t great. It’s not even good. It’s part of the most basic needs and it’s the most dignified thing we’ve done and it’s literally contemptibly lame but this is what good men must do because they are good, and this good is debased by the cynicism Pete has routinely displayed, his millennial rage barely cloaked behind his clintonesque sense of destiny.
I suppose what’s frustrating about Pete and this globalist, leftist part of the University that never distanced themselves from him as a leader, even after the banalities that they usually crusade and march against came to light, is that with all this wealth that charity isn’t there.
But the charity doesn’t matter. The social responsibility isn’t what i’m trying to get at.
I’ve had many reasons to contemplate my Father lately, but he is a patient kind and selfless individual who gave himself to these ideas without fanfare or ego because on some level that escpaes me, he is genuinely kind.
There is no opportunisim in him where help is concerned, but I wonder how that help might have been applied if these bare basic and simple human needs had just been met without the expectation of intervention by private citizens who for many years struggled to find a location to store and refrigerate their food bank inventories while politically jousting with whatever new parish Priest came rambling into town, either supporting or withdrawing favor from our efforts to just make it so a single mom who just left an abusive relationship with her three kids in tow could have one or two nights where her kids going hungry isn’t one of the concerns she’s wasting her energy worrying about.
I don’t necessarily trust the archetypes of Jung, but the wounded healer has some sort of anecdotal merit I can’t explain, and our sense of charitible instinct, or medical professionalism, so often arises from the havoc written into times where a litany of equinoxes tipped towards cursing rather than blessing. A wounding in a world that tacidly implies the system is fair by calling the poor and the vulnerable, and therefore, those who must possess motive, as criminals. As cheats. Welfare queens. Lazy. And we all drink from this firehose of bullshit every single fucking day and aren’ you tired yet?
Within Peter Buttigege is a strange satanic vein.
I won’t conjure images of Girarde the way Bishop Bob did last year refering to our collective enraged response to the images from that Covington Catholic thing. I mean like the superficial, 1970s demonic sort of devil The high art cinema of the that fetishized a debasement of the sacred. The kind that threw priests out windows or burnt churches to cinder. That drove mother’s insane and put baby in the corner.
Where a child, or a virtuous person, unironically and sincerely would be destroyed piece by piece through an infestation of sickness that would consume them until the horror would emerge that these virtues, these innocents, were not sacrosanct to begin with.
That the best of us, men like my father, spent their time trying to tinker and solve and relieve the suffering people who shouldn’t have been suffering is a debasement of what a man possessing both kindness, dignity, and imagination might have otherwise cultivated. Our highest ideals devoted to the barest response to a hierarchy of needs. It has cheapened our highest ideals, our holiest places within our hearts and ensured that we would be ensnared in a pitiable self doubt that our virtues were not enough, because, as we can see, they aren’t.
At the heart of a neo-liberal, protestant project is a vile literalization of everything.
I am, personally convinced that evangelicalism, Christian Dominionism and this strange resurgence of a militant Catholicism that you see in men like Mike Pence or Jerry Falwell totalitize the world by compressing it into a singular bandwidth of meaning. They’re all unwitting atheists.
Whatever playgrounds words might find themselves sliding down, these ratfucks are there to bulldoze them.
Whatever contradiction, which spreads itself open like the pause between shuttering breaths, or unshuttering windows,for us when gazed into,— with awe and admiration,— is extinguished by this rote school yard arithmetic.
We live in a country dedicated to enshrining those who are strong, ruthless even, and this is considered the politics of hope. On night’s like tonight, I pray that this hurricane of a death drive swirling through our culture finds expression through some other means than to concede to someone so unscrupulous, so middling, indecisive, and virtueless, no one but the most myopic would blame you for questioning every narrative surrounding him as a manufactured and calculated ploy to capitalize upon a moment.
If he loses now there’s never any reason we’ll see him again, not for decades at least on this sort of stage. Which is why I worry.
Men like Pete see us as Stakeholders, as utilitarian branches of his corrosive madness that places his ambition before the lives of the weak and vulnerable. To men like him, there isn’t a story of ours that isn’t his to call his own. I worry that we are all only ever one thing to him at any given moment. Maybe the thing changes, but not harmoniously, just as it would seem to.
And my anger isn’t unjustified madness. It is a depression. It is a silence. It is a sorrow of loss one carries with absent thought as if they a tooth had been pulled and not replaced.
There are so many who might have had found courage to stand up to this shit, who probably will relent, all so Mayor Pete could have his god damn day. And I’m sorry. These vanity projects of power are just so much apocalypse. And it is too much and not enough winter for things to be this stark. But sometimes someone puts it well, and you feel less lonesome for it.
Triumphalism is a psychosis. Believing yes we’re gonna win! I’ve been a socialist for like 15 year, when people ‘say yeeeah we’re going to win’ I’m like, I’ve never won, so calm down. But Pessimism is childish, and it’s fucking lazy. Because there’s no fucking excuse. Even if you believe you’re gonna lose you do it anyway you do it anyway you do it anyway you lazy fuck.Amber A’Lee Frost ,
Mild shadows walk hollow behind us. And wait for the moment we turn away.