River Town Chronicles: When satire fails, reality wreaks havoc

By RICK HOLINGER - editorial@kcchronicle.com Published: Friday, June 16, 2017 7:31 a.m. CDT

Ten years ago I wrote about about the new 640-bed jail being planned for the Kane County Judicial Center. Nearby Fisher Farms homeowners – angry, frustrated and scared – railed against the intrusion on their safety and possible decrease in property value.

When NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) protests failed and the jail burgeoned within sight of outdoor-playing kids, the audacious circumstances invited satire. My tongue-in-cheek column suggested not disastrous drawbacks, but imagined benefits of having thieves, rapists and murderers lodged close by:

• Dinner invitations to join the jail for “block” parties where inmates’ baritone voices welcomed diners with, “Whassup? I’m 25920572, and I’ll be your server,” throwing down a metal plate, spork and fried bologna sandwich.

• Kids might enjoy play dates with incarcerated orange jumpsuits frolicking in and out of isolation cells playing hide-and-go-squeal, followed by cutting out paper snowflakes with newly-minted shivs.

• Babysitting felons could offer Fisher Farms couples a Parents’ Night Out, their large-screen TVs and children safe in the hands of men ripped better than Vin Diesel keeping the house secure as Macaulay Culkin.

The hyperbolic verbal irony (saying the opposite of what is implied) attempted to entertain through absurdity, while also suggesting, if not prognosticating, possible horrors; any laughter elicited would choke on the ill-advised nature of such a venture.

Last month, on May 13, a version of my decade-old vision turned brutally palpable. However, according to the Kane County Chronicle, instead of houses broken into, Northwestern Medicine's Delnor Hospital suffered a prisoner’s escape. Attorneys for the alleged victims have indicated an inmate physically and mentally harmed four nurses due to three entities that failed in their duty to protect the hospital employees: Kane County; jail correctional officer Shawn Loomis; and Apex3 Security LLC, the hospital’s security firm.

It’s disheartening when satirists’ warnings go unheeded, especially when the predicted disasters come to pass. My feeble attempt to illuminate what could go wrong locally pales in comparison to George Orwell’s global vision in “1984.” The novel forecasts today’s "fake news” and “alternative facts,” resulting in a perverse ideology based not on fact and science, but on feelings. In Orwell’s dystopia, “The word bellyfeel means a blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea. The word likely comes from the idea that any good [citizen] should be able to internalise (sic) Party doctrine to the extent that it becomes a gut instinct," according to Wikipedia.

Most scary, as scientists and satirists presage the most disastrous future event of all, the horrific results of climate change (already evident in extreme weather, melting ice caps, rising water levels, etc.), bellyfeel believers resist incontrovertible researched, peer-reviewed analyses. If bellyfeelers continue to contaminate U.S. and world policy, when caution turns into catastrophe no one will be around to say, “I told you so.”

I can’t say, “I told you so,” regarding the hospital’s hostage crisis; I didn’t see it coming that way. But perhaps the nurses at Delnor did.

May fathers everywhere, especially the one in the White House, be given for Father’s Day the gift of foresight, along with the wisdom to prevent the preventable.

Rick Holinger teaches English at Marmion Academy and facilitates a local writing workshop. His poetry, fiction, essays, criticism and book reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.