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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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I get a relatively steady stream of emails from complete strangers. Much of them are angry, poorly spelled hate mail; nearly as much are compliments from people, which aren't nearly as fun. Occasionally, I get a letter from someone asking me to write a short article on a particular subject, based on the assumption that I'm going to be especially cruel. Besides the fact that it makes me feel dirty, such a request also speaks to the laziness of the emailer, so generally I don't comply.

Recently, the venerable captain of our Gapers' Block ship posted a link to an article by Dr. Robert Klein Engler, a four part series about segregation in Chicago. Before I came across it, I received an email from an acquaintance bringing the link to my attention asking me to respond to Engler's "history." The Captain suggested letting him hang on his own words, but after taking a look through Engler's oeuvre on ChronWatch, a conservative media watchdog based out of San Francisco, and reading some of his poetry, I decided that responding to Dr. Engler would not only be fair, but fun.

Robert Klein Engler is Gay, and christian. Or rather, he is Christian and gay. And a conservative. And a poet, actually, possibly a poet of genius since he has won several awards from the state of Illinois. He also holds degrees from the University of Illinois-Urbana and the University of Chicago, in divinity. He lives in Chicago and is probably reading this right now, because he seems like the kind of guy who does searches for "Robert Klein Engler" AND "poet of genius."

In his four-part series on segregation in Chicago (entitled "Fifty Years of Segregation" -- apparently, Chicago was integrated in the 1930s), Dr. Engler proposes an interesting "Daley Did It" theory of social organization. Daley and his father, whom the author annoyingly refers to as the Clan of Bridgeport -- just like that, in caps, the way you would write La Cosa Nostra or Ghost Shadows Triads -- apparently decided to segregate blacks from whites and then perpetuate this segregation in order to better collect votes for Democrats. Never mind, of course, that white voters turn out for Democrats in equal numbers to blacks, and that segregation as a guiding policy for development started not under Richard J. Daley, nor his predecessor Kennely, nor any Democrat, actually, but under the reign of William "Big Bill" Hale Thompson, a Republican.

Further irony, it has been demonstratively shown that segregation on Chicago's South Side was exasperated by two groups -- white ethnic neighborhood organizations and the University of Chicago -- Engler's alma mater. Apparently, Engler was happy to attend that wonderful institution in Hyde Park, probably resting comfortably with the knowledge that blacks were being evicted and thrown into the street by the U of C and its partners in development, like the New York Life Insurance corporation.

Although Engler never comes out and says it, he doesn't necessarily object to segregation because of what it does to the segregated -- with the exception of saying that there would be no single black mothers if the Roman Catholic Church educated them -- but rather what it is doing to the white ethnic enclaves. To wit:

The Clan of Bridgeport could not put up a fence around the minorities, so they did the next best thing, it built the Dan Ryan Expressway in 1962 to act as a border. Yet, even that did not work, and the ethnic strongholds of the southwest and northwest sides of Chicago are feeling the press of another invasion. Just as in 410 A.D. the walls of Rome did not keep Alaric out, the Dan Ryan Expressway will not keep back the Mexicans.

Dr. Engler, the sensitive poet who writes so wistfully about birds and his grade-school Latin class, has no trouble comparing Mexican immigrants who come to work and live in Chicago to Alaric, the barbarous invader of Rome. Engler is taken to these flights of fancy: he declares the New Soldier Field, which critics have been raving about due to its comfort and amenities, to be the Clan of Bridgeport's Arch of Constantine, a monument to the Daleys' power. That would be haunting if Daley hadn't opposed the renovation of Soldier Field and even tried to delay it until his hands were tied. After reading Engler's factually vacuous and flowery diatribe against -- actually, I wasn't even sure what to be upset about. What was Engler's problem, anyway?

That's a running theme throughout Engler's 19 lengthy essays on ChronWatch. He never says anything. Remember, he's a poet, and poets don't have to tell you anything. All they need to do is evoke images. He does plenty of that -- in an article about the "Chronic State of Public Education in Chicago," he introduces us to a fat "affirmative action bureaucrat," has us imagine young Richard M. Daley going to school with armed guards (while poor Richard Klein Engler had to go to a much-less-nice school, poor thing), and muses about how "they" -- black people, that is -- want to play basketball instead of go to school, and the Mayor agrees because he doesn't care about education, he cares about votes.

He offers no solutions, figures, or arguments. All he does is blame everything on Daley and the Democratic Party. Yet, he seems harmless. After all, a lot of people hate Democrats. And everybody is at least afraid of Daley. But the more I thought about it, the more infuriating it became. Dr. Engler isn't writing these articles because he's concerned about the education poor black youth are getting. He doesn't write them because he's worried about Latinos getting segregated (especially considering he felt no pity for the 18 immigrants who perished in a truck this summer). He writes them because he's a Republican, and he knows by evoking stereotypical images of poor black youth, he can make it look like Republicans give a shit about educating the poor and integrating the city, while the "Clan of Bridgeport" only cares about getting more votes.

Dr. Engler would do better to stick to writing asinine poetry about being a homosexual Christian (his gimmick, of course) than fretting about how colleges are beginning to lock out whites, as he does in his outrageous article "Diversity or Segregation at Daley College?" He protests the fact that a website advertises to Latinos by saying they can get a two year degree from Daley College while being around people that "share their heritage." What a minute! But that's not diversity! That's segregation! Why do Latinos get their own school when we whites have to share!? That a grown man who purports to be so sensitive to the plight of the marginalized -- after all, he is a Christian and a homosexual, remember; both of 'em -- can possibly object to a single community college in Chicago appealing mainly to its second-largest minority group showcases the monumental -- nay, epic -- ignorance of a bigot and crybaby.

But there is a wonderful centerpiece to Engler's sublime banquet of bullshit. It comes in his article, "Poetry in Chicago: Scarce, And Totally Dominated By Liberals." Honestly, the title of this article was promising. Nothing would thrill me more than if poetry in Chicago and the infernal reading and xeroxing of it would become more scarce. However, Engler spends little time dwelling on the "Scarce" part and, as can be expected, focuses on "And Totally Dominated By Liberals."

Poetry, he says, is dominated by the Chicago political machine. Poetry in Chicago serves the "moribund liberal" establishment and functions as propaganda. He actually compares it to poetry in the Soviet Union under Stalin and China under Mao. This is impossible for many reasons, the most important of which is: Whereas people did indeed give a shit about poetry in the USSR and China, nobody does so (i.e., give a shit about poetry) in Chicago. This is not because poetry is liberal, as he would argue, but because poetry is poetry. This is obviously the ranting of a man who has gotten one too many rejection letters.

Do you hate him yet? Because you'll definitely hate him now: "Th[is] nation will pass in the wind like the dry leaves of November. In its place, a hodgepodge of do-rags, fu-dogs, and taco stands tend the mongrel souls of the new Chicago." (My italics to emphasize Engler's blatant anti-Latin racism.) Obviously, Engler was sitting in his bedroom-study and really going at it when he wrote this. He's been scribbling away for a few hours, sweat is starting to collect in his collar, and he's really you know, feeling his power as a poet -- I'm sorry, his power as a Christian AND Homosexual poet. Can there possibly be anything more ridiculous than arguing that the United States is going to blow away in the wind -- which presumably means it will be destroyed -- because lots and lots of pencil-chewing girls in tight jeans and ironic t-shirts with 1950s throwback glasses are scribbling liberal poems in a journal they made at a book-binding workshop? What the hell is he even talking about? And what does this have to do with Mexicans? And why is the presence of Mexicans going to make us all "mongrels?"

I was right, this is fun. And it keeps getting better. Because not only does Engler take cheap shots at all Democrats, Mayor Daley, poets, poor blacks (who like crime and basketball more than school), and Mexicans, but also children! This article practically writes itself. To wit:

At this rate, Chicago will need a separate land fill just to hold all this mediocrity, along with the garbage churned out by its student Gallery 37.

That's right. The 14 and 15-year-old inner city kids or kids from bad homes trying to make something of themselves while being creative? Engler thinks they're garbage. For you mongrel do-rag wearing taco-chompers, that's basura. What a sweetheart.

Sources indicate that Dr. Robert Klein Engler is a no-account, an angry "fringe" poet who has little voice except when talks to people about how he's both gay and (get this, you'll never believe itóready?) CHRISTIAN, TOO! Well, good for him. I'm sure its easy to sleep when he writes the poetic equivalent to "Keep The Spics Out!" and then gazes on the portrait of the man who said, "Love Thy Neighbor."

Dr. Robert Klein Engler is a professor emeritus at Daley College in Chicago.

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Andrew / September 17, 2003 10:24 AM

Wow, little did I know that post was going to spawn such vitriol. Then again, I didn't read Engler's articles as closely as I should have before posting them here. What a troll he is.

waleeta / September 18, 2003 8:56 AM

I must concurr with Andrew. Engler is a troll. A gay, Christian troll.


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