Hot Air: Driving You To Drink

Dig: I know there are plots and cabals afoot here and across the globe. It’s in the nature of human beings to gather together and strategize how to fleece and/or jam their heels into the collective necks of the rest of their sisteren and brethren. But the micro-second I hear or read the words “connect the dots” my eyes, ears, and brain turn off.

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Big Talk, Big Type

This week’s Big Talk‘ll be boffo, I’m tellin’ ya. I had beloved actor and drama teacher Francesca Sobrer (pronounced SUE-bray) in the studio yesterday afternoon, recording this week’s feature that’ll air Thursday at 5:45pm on WFHB 91.3.

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Sobrer

And, hey, my big story on Bloomington’s drinking water is finally out on the Limestone Post.

Funny, LP publisher Ron Eid assigned me the story way back early last winter, just after I’d gotten the news about My Olive Pit™. I told him and editorial boss Lynae Sowinski I’d write the piece in between chemotherapy and radiation sessions. “Don’t worry,” I said, “you’ll get it in a couple of weeks.”

Shows what in the hell I knew then. I turned the article in last month and, at last, it’s out in the world. So, pour yourself a cool, refreshing glass of B-town tap water and settle in for a good read, okay? Okay.

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Godless Gadfly

Now comes news via Neil Steinberg that professional atheist Rob Sherman has been killed in a plane crash.

I did a lengthy profile of Sherman in the Chicago Reader, dated July 5, 1990. I’d spent a good amount of time with him and his then-little boy Ricky. The gist of my story was the relationship between godless daddy-o and kid. I’d always been a bit of a fan of Sherman in his efforts to get suburban Chicago towns to stop erecting crucifixes and creches on municipal property — his reasoning being, simply, the separation of church and state.

One town near the Wisconsin border, Zion, had a huge crucifix painted on its massive water tower, visually proclaiming for miles its Christianist slant. One night in the spring of 1986, Sherman attended a Zion village council meeting for the purpose of asking the group to look into the constitutionality of the cross image as part of the town’s ID. It was a simple request and the council agreed to do so. But Sherman had notified reporters from all the area’s newspapers and radio and television stations, quite a few of whom showed up. Lo and behold, the Chicago NBC O&O, Channel 5, led with the story that night and the Arlington Daily Herald had it on page one the next morning.

Sherman discovered a welcoming committee at the next Zion council meeting. I wrote:

The Zion council chambers were filled with over 400 angry citizens, several hooded members of the KKK, and reporters from the dailies and dozens of community papers. Deborah Norville, too, Sherman adds proudly. Police officers with dogs in tow floated around the perimeter looking for signs of impending mayhem.

Sherman found his life’s calling that night. He went on to become a top dog in the Illinois Chapter of American Atheists and a nationwide spokesperson for the godless. I admired Sherman for his dedication, for his refusal to bow before the powers that be, for his guts in challenging that most precious of our human fancies. But, it wasn’t easy admiring him, as Neil Steinberg’s headline in his blog post this AM posits clearly and coarsely:

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“It was easier,” Steinberg led, “to sympathize with Rob Sherman’s cause than to sympathize with Rob Sherman.”

Sherman loved speaking in sound bites: god is make-believe, life after death is a fantasy, I am the Jesse Jackson of atheists, and so on. Sadly, neither atheism nor the separation of church and state was ever the story; Rob Sherman was.

I’d written the Sherman profile in my normal breezy, smart-assed style. An example:

Sherman is here to explain to housewives in Morton Grove and farmers in Winnebago County why he wants to destroy the Boy Scouts. It’s a tough sell, of course, because for years Sherman and his cohorts have been trying to stop people from praying in schools, from erecting creches in village squares, from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, from worshiping, for Christ’s sake!

Of course, he by no means intended to destroy the Boy Scouts, to stop people from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or even to worship, for Christ’s or anybody else’s sake. But that’s how his opponents painted him. That subtlety, though, escaped Sherman. After the profile appeared, he invited me to appear on his television show. Our phone conversation was friendly. I expected the appearance to be a mutual back-scratching.

It wasn’t. The minute the red light flashed on, Sherman tore into me. He accused me of doing a hatchet job on him. He speculated that I was in league with politicians, law enforcement officials, and high muckety-mucks from all the major churches out to destroy him. He claimed there were nearly 200 inaccuracies in my story. (Hell, I doubt if there were nearly 200 assertions in toto in the story.)

Sherman, sadly, was paranoid. Descriptively, that is, as opposed to diagnostically — just in case he’s up in heaven, as we speak, taking notes about inaccuracies herein.

Funny thing is, in battle you need assholes on your side. How lucky this holy land was to have Patton on its side during World War II, for example. By philosophical inclination, he’d have been more comfortable commanding several dozen Wermacht divisions. Sherman was the atheists’ Patton.

He ran for public office a couple of times — for Buffalo Grove village clerk once and another time for US Congress from Illinois’ 5th District. Last month he announced he’d run again for Congress as the Green Party candidate for Illinois’ 12th District seat in Congress in the 2018 election.

This past weekend, while flying alone in his small plane, Sherman crashed into a field near Marengo, Illinois. He died at the scene, apparently.

Is Rob Sherman no more or is his eternal soul is now facing god? When he was alive, he swore he knew the answer.

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