The bullying of Sharon Brannigan
Sharon Brannigan, a suburban Township politician who made some improper comparisons while arguing about immigration policy has suddenly become the target of the protesters against anti-Muslim, anti-Arab racism. But in their protests, they have turned into bullies who yell, scream, and disrespect the image of what Arabs are all about. And the protests are being waged in the shadow of a more sinister politicization of racism in a battle by failed Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to get even with her much more politically adept rivals
By Ray Hanania
(Published in the Southwest News Newspaper group) — Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan made some mildly offensive comments on her personal Facebook Page way back in January 2015 about “Middle Easterners” that were less about racism and more about the fears many Americans share.
It took two and one-half years for Brannigan’s critics, mostly Muslim activists, to accuse her of “anti-Muslim” racism.
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The timing looks suspicious to me. Something else is going on that the protesters are not addressing.
Brannigan is Republican. Palos Township is Republican. The Township leadership has openly defied the tax policies of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, a do-nothing former Democratic Machine alderman from the Chicago’s South Side.
Preckwinkle, and several Democratic officials, have provided support, both financially and politically, to some of the anti-Brannigan protesters.
Preckwinkle had reason to target Brannigan. She hoped Brannigan’s comments would stymie the opponents of her oppressive 1 Cent soda pop and sweetened beverage tax.
In fact, it was the combined support of the Palos Township Republican Organization, including Brannigan and others, who were the foundation of the campaign led by Cook County Board member Sean Morrison that blocked the Preckwinkle tax. It’s something I will write more about soon.
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Ironically, the protesters began targeting Brannigan at the same time, in July.
It is true. Muslims in America, and Christian Arabs like myself who most Americans “think” is Muslim – I’m Orthodox Christian from a Bethlehem family raised and confirmed Lutheran – do face racism and bigotry.
But none of Brannigan’s comments came even close to the intensity of the racist hate that faces Muslims in this country. Brannigan was legitimately concerned about this country’s failed immigration system, one that Democrats like Preckwinkle and Congressman Luis Gutierrez have exploited for their own personal benefit.
If the immigration problem were ever resolved, many of these do-nothing elected officials would have nothing to “champion.” They really don’t want the immigration problem resolved.
Preckwinkle knows Brannigan, and she immediately bullied Brannigan to step down from her volunteer position on the County’s Woman’s Commission.
And the word “bullied” is very appropriate in this controversy.
Since July, protesters have crowded meetings of the Palos Township Board screaming, yelling and making threats, demanding that Preckwinkle’s foe, Brannigan, resign.
Videos of the meetings showing protesters yelling and screaming are disturbing. I know some of the protesters and most are good people. And they are being pushed by extremists who hope to disrupt the Township which spends most of its time providing badly needed services to seniors and homeowners.
Despite the disruptive conduct of the protesters, Brannigan and the board have politely allowed each and every protester to speak, even allowing them to takeover the meeting.
Brannigan issued a very strongly worded and sincere apology to the Muslim and Arab community in September. The protesters called it “too little, too late.” The truth is, it was her 3rd apology, that they rejected. She had apologized back in July, too.
Many of the protesters don’t care about racism. They don’t care about the Township’s seniors. They don’t care about good government. But they do care about politics and avenging Preckwinkle for the shaming she received from Palos Township officials who led the fight to defend the rights of Cook County Taxpayers.
Muslims and Arabs in this area continue to face discrimination, including the adoption of a State law recently that punishes them if they criticize Israel’s abuses of Muslims and Christians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
That’s an issue they should be fighting. But you won’t see any of them in Gov. Rauner’s offices, at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s offices or even Preckwinkle’s offices. They might not get those precious government grants and support they are used too.
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at email@example.com.)
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
Email Ray Hanania at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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