Mark Drobnick
Mark Drobnick

High Mortality!

I ran for Waukegan City Clerk in April 2013, and came in second.  The odd, tragic, unexpected, event which has happened since, impels my comment here.  My opponent, at only 54 years of age, he who placed first, passed away suddenly, last month, on March 19, to be exact!  Who could have foreseen?

My condolences go out to his family and loved ones.  He and I both participated in the debates of that campaign for the ultimate good of the municipality.  That was the complete extent of it. 

Certainly what happened to him does not fit within any elected official's job description.  We all may be soldiers of fortune, striving to weave a tapestry of good luck for our supporters, ourselves, and the public at large.  But we are not soldiers in the literal sense.  One's health should not have to be in jeopardy, connected with discharging the various duties of a politician's job.

Aggravated, acute illness was the cause of his demise, evidently.  And, I only think out loud now, about how we could make less likely these tragedies, in the future.  In his memory, contributions to combat heart disease and cancer, have been solicited.

Local politics here, in the northeast corner of Illinois, peculiarly and lamentably, suffers a weirdly high, mortality rate.  [What's] The solution?  For one, Waukegan-area politicians have got to be nicer to one another, for the sake of literal survival, first and foremost.

Look at what I've seen since our family acquired our present residence in 1999.  The Waukegan area has lost, way too prematurely, five public servants:  D. Drew, Police Miguel Juárez, school board's Pat Jones, E. Washington, and now, A. Yancey.  Who else am I omitting?  Other fallen policemen; other(s) from other branches, too?

The only parallel I can think of, is one, sole, Chicago politician, some 27 years ago.  That is, His Honor, Harold Washington.  Why must Waukegan politicians fare so much worse?  [It] Doesn't have to be that way.  Wouldn't we all agree?

In this connection, I think of what happened to the Polish government recently, in April 2010, in Russia.  There was a plane crash that took the lives of all the top officials of the country.  All its top leaders were wiped out, simultaneously.  Surely, this would have been partially avoidable, by putting the various officials on several, different flights.

Statistically, air flight is much safer than what we're habitually used to in automobile travel.  But, with air, the stakes are much higher.  It's often all-or-none as to outcome, with hundreds on board. 

Fender benders happen frequently enough with car travel.  But, air accidents are often catastrophic.  So, that doesn't explain why sometimes my entire family has flown together.  I don't have any cold logic to explain that away.  But, where an entire country's body politic is concerned, there has to be a safer way.

I recall seeing our U.S. President's plane land in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when he visited in June 2011.  I remember it very well.  His jet's path flew directly over the cafeteria where we were lunching on its approach to Muñoz Marín airport.  It was a mere several hundred feet over my head when I walked out front to see it better, having gotten preliminary details from the television inside. 

So close, one could see so much detail.  For the forty minutes previous, there had been total aircraft, radio black-out and no other planes allowed to take off or land, within the entire, island territory.  Here was effective security in action, expressly to safeguard our elected head of state.  So, it can be done.

Our nearby, NYSE-traded Abbott Laboratories, Inc., in Lake County, Illinois, has written policy in effect to safeguard against what happened to the Polish government.  Its president, CEO, and elected Board members are expressly prohibited from traveling on the same flight. 


It is precisely to obviate the exact same risk, that their corporate policy is so drafted.  And, I might highlight that the Abbott policy was implemented and in effect, long before the Polish air tragedy ever happened. 

Here, you could say, is a publicly held corporation of the private sector, which has better foresight with insuring against air fatality consequences, than the collective resources of the modern, Polish government combined.  This is notwithstanding that the latter corpus serves for the well-being and advancement of all entities, natural or legally formed, existing within its jurisdiction. 


One inference is that the most extensive, corporate entity should be the smartest in the land.  Which implies what, about the rest?  That they are possessed of less brain power?

Maybe Poland will learn from its experience to do better in the future.  To maintain more security for its citizens in all endeavors would not be too much to expect.  Good luck can be realized, but it takes focused, intelligent ingenuity to nurture it. 

When I was a kid, in our neighborhood of Polish, Yugoslavian, and Lithuanian (Lugan) descent mix, I used to hear "Polish jokes", but never from other Poles.  Still, there was a message to be captured here, if one interpreted attentively, and successfully overcame angered emotion in favor of objective analysis. 

This was in the neighborhood which continues to be home today, to those recently and newly arrived in the USA.  The only evolution presently is that other ethnic groups have come to take the Europeans' place, latinos primarily. 

But, in my time, it most certainly was harbor to suspecting and fearful Eastern European immigrants, who had been fleeing persecution from their homelands.  They had come here for a better life, to this melting pot, as promised in fact and fable.

"The children have grown older, and the cops have gripped us tight.
There's no spot 'round the melting pot, for free men in their flight."

{ Don McLean - "Homeless Brother" }

My relatives called some of these unfortunates, D.P.'s (displaced persons).  They looked like they had just gotten off the boat.  [They were] Misfits trying to make a go at a better life in a less threatening environment.  They often shed names and identities, severed ties to their past, and strove to manifest invented, Americanized identities in their nouveau milieu.

It's an historic fact that Poland ceased to exist from the times of our first President, George Washington, year 1795, thru the country's re-establishment by the victorious Allies, in the wake of World War I, year 1918.  That is, there lasted some 123 years while someone else ran Poland's business.  Neighbors to the west and east were the usual, suspect villains.  But, Poland, in my view, had to have let this happen, at least to some extent.

So, when I see Lech Walesa proselytize Polish Solidarity in the 1980's, I reflexively declare, "bravo."  What it takes to form a solid country:  a flag, ideology, culture, language, olympic champions, military presence, democratic participation, national pride, advances in the arts and sciences, industry, education, courage, a unified economy, equality, and a never ending quest for light and truth, collective achievements and successes, these, I think, Walesa hinted at, with his drive to make Poland independent of communism.

I must note, that when my mother's parents immigrated to the USA from
Warsaw, there didn't exist any "Poland".  To anyone who's ever wondered at their own ancestry or roots, it is of no help in life to lack identity. 

I think even in modern society here, there are enough citizens who know more about the pedigree of their AKC pet canine, going back to great grandparents and before, than in the case of their own, human family.  How paradoxical!  How pathetic.

Then there's the sad circumstances of World War II, where the Russian government took out twenty-two thousand (22,000) of the top Polish, governmental officials to be executed in the Katyn forest, in Spring 1940.  What a sad trajectory, has suffered Poland over its history! 

Something like the Holocaust, what could Stalin have been thinking?  That the rest of the world would suffer collective amnesia and denial, in furtherance of his aims? 

Apparently, to some extent, yes.  It wasn't until the next decade subsequent, that the truth began to filter out, when U.S. Senate investigators and their agents, like Chicago politician Roman Pucinski, demanded that the truth be illuminated and revealed; that this diabolic atrocity be exposed to the world.

I note that Chicago contains the largest Polish population of any city in the world, outside of Poland.  But, in my lifetime I don't recall any noteworthy, Polish, Chicago politicians other than Roman Pucinski, alderman, who ran for mayor, and Dan Rostenkowski, congressman, who was ousted in disgrace. 

There are some others who have functioned adequately well, so I'm not saying there are no exceptions, e.g. Chicago area congressman Dan Lipinski.  Further, Pucinski was always of good repute.

So, who would another of my Polish heroes be?  Why it would have to be musician Frederic Chopin.  Yes, admittedly, half French, here is an artist who has given me many hours of enjoyment:  ballades, etudes, nocturnes, mazurkas, waltzes, and concertos, etc.  I am particularly fond of his piano preludes.

As luck would have it, I was first introduced to this last body of work, by way of Irish/Italian actor, Jack Nicholson.  The character he played in Bob Rafelson's (of "The Monkees", TV series fame) movie, "Five Easy Pieces", had me hearing for the first time, its E minor segment. 

Was Chopin another tragic Pole, too?  Unfortunately, yes. 


[Turns out he] Succumbed to tuberculosis at age 39.  But, he was able to accomplish so much good for us during his brief lifetime.  I am surely thankful for the legacy he has left us.


Mark Drobnick


Waukegan, Illinois  USA


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