Jim Siergey: Guns `n Litter

April 21st, 2017

I went to the lakefront recently and the same thing happened to me when I went last year, I got depressed.

Chicago’s beautiful lakefront has become a garbage dump, at least the Montrose Beach area has. I hadn’t the heart or will to investigate the others.

There are cans and bottles strewn everywhere. Joining the ranks of these dead soldiers (the unfortunate colloquialism for emptied beverage containers) are empty plastic snack containers that once held chips, pretzels, cookies, Fruit Roll-Ups, etcetera. These visible IED’s (I may as well continue with the military metaphors) have turned the park and beach into a veritable mine field of debris.

And it was only the middle of April!

What has happened to the human species? The label of the 1970s as “The Me Decade” was way too premature. If any period of time is asking for a label of self-obsession, it is this one.

“The Fuck Everything” decade might be a more apt label. Just look who was elected president.


Clean it up!


A preening narcissist with a head full of emptiness voted in as president is the culmination of the “Fuck Everything” decade. We have had years of televised entertainment that promoted public degradation, humiliation and gloating. A sizable portion of the public ate it up and hasn’t looked back since.

Hence, Trump.

So, it seems, concern for one’s surroundings has, like litter, fallen to the wayside. Concern for one’s fellow humans has as well. Just look at the number of shootings.

Guns and litter. There’s some kind of connection there.

We seem to treat life as we do an empty can of Red Bull™ or a depleted bag of Ruffles™ —we toss it over our shoulder. The big diff being that the life is still full. The shoulder-tossing decision is what empties it.

I, like everyone else, have no solution to the onslaught of violence that has become commonplace in our society. So far, nothing has worked.

When I was a youngster back in the early ‘60s, litter had become a major problem. People thought nothing of tossing garbage out their car windows as they drove down streets and highways. Beaches, parks and neighborhoods were trash-filled eyesores.

People, as always, needed direction. They needed education. The follies of their ways needed to be pointed out but in a non-accusatory manner. Again, as always, it was children who initially took heed and led the way.

The government (that thing Republicans passionately hate) stepped up and instituted an anti-littering campaign using cartoon mascots like “Don’t Be a Litter Bug” and Woodsy the Owl with his “Give a Hoot-Don’t Pollute” slogan. These refrains filled the airwaves on radio and television as well as in print and on billboards and highway signs.

And it worked!

Adults, both from the onslaught of these PSA’s and through the incessant chastening of children became more aware and eco-friendly. Littering ceased to be a major problem and society remained ecologically vigilant…until recently, that is.

The time seems ripe for another anti-littering campaign. Some will argue that our modern society is too cynical for such an approach to be successful. I say, let the children lead us.

But, will it work with gun violence? “Give a Hoot-Don’t Shoot!”, “Don’t Be a Trigger-Bug”, an updated version of a tear-stained Iron Eyes Cody stating “People start gun violence, people can stop it”—will those simplistic approaches make any kind of dent upon society’s psyche?

Who knows? But, one thing I do know is that cartoons and children can work wonders.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Privy to the Privy



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