As the mystery over Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s whereabouts continues, some residents of his south suburban district are clearly getting restless.
"For the most part, we’re appalled," said Bishop Lance Davis of the New Zion Christian Fellowship in Dolton. "We are totally clueless as to where he is, and we are equally clueless as to what we do now."
Jackson’s office issued a cryptic statement a week ago, saying only that the congressman was taking a leave from his duties due to exhaustion. Then Thursday, another statement said that Jackson’s condition was worse than even staffers had been led to believe, and that he "has grappled with certain physical and emotional ailments for a long period of time."
The statement said he was undergoing treatment at an in-patient medical facility and that he would need to receive extended treatment for an unspecified period of time. Jackson’s office refused to say where he was being treated.
Jackson’s father, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., issued a written statement calling the congressman’s condition, "a source of unspeakable pain." But like his son’s office, the elder Jackson did not specify the nature of the congressman’s illness, or where he was.
"Who represents us?" Davis asked. "And if he has a personal issue, then let us hear about it. Let us know what it is. We at least deserve that."
The pastor said he once counted himself as a Jackson supporter, but now believes he should step down.
"We’ve had little or no representation for two decades," he said, noting that Jackson’s district includes some of America’s poorest communities. "If they ever needed a representative to have their ear to the ground politically in D.C., they need it now."
At the nearby Shaun’s Fades barber shop, patrons in the noontime crowd said they also wanted to know where their congressman really is.
"We want to see what we were voting for," said proprietor Shaun Moore. "We elected him for something, and he’s nowhere to be found."
"I think he needs to appoint somebody to speak for him," said customer Derick Jones. "If he’s really sick, then just a little proof to his neighborhood."
With the clippers buzzing around him, patron Paul Heller agreed.
"As a congressman, the people do deserve to know where he’s at, what he’s doing," Heller said. "Sometimes people got to drop out of sight, sometimes it is a part of life. But the people do deserve to know where he is at."
On the sidewalk outside, LeMont Scott, a staffer at Davis’s Church, took the question one step further.
"I’m extremely suspicious," Scott said. "Everyone should be suspicious. If you’re not suspicious at this point, then you’re not paying attention to the situation or you don’t care about the situation."
During an appearance on WVON radio Friday afternoon, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan stopped just short of saying that Jackson should reveal more about his condition. Calling on listeners to pray for Jackson, Farrakhan noted that when he suffered from an extended bout of cancer, he tried to be totally open.
"For me, I feel as a public servant and as a man who has many who follow me throughout America and the world, I owe it to them to know about my health situation," Farrakhan said. "I don’t think my health should be a secret."
"I’m your servant," he said. "And if your servant is not feeling well, you must tell the people that you serve that you’re not feeling well. But I leave that to Jesse Jr. When he feels the time is right to say what he wants to say about his health condition, I’m sure he will do that."