Chicago Neighborhoods: Constructive, Corrosive, Communicative?

I. INTRODUCTION

Election Day in Chicago, and the candidates are out there. What are some of the topics on which they speak and on which they attempt to cater to the voters? There are the usual issues of taxes, TIFF’s, having an elected school board, transportation, the roads and bridges, and business. There is another issue that crops up in their ads: the neighborhoods.

It seems that the word “diversity” is a new concept to people of modern America, but it was not news to me when growing up in Nashville. There was not even a need to mention the word, as some kind of cajoling to get me to think of others who were different, to think of others in terms of some kind of census related terminology, or to see others for what I could get out of them for statistics, tax dollars, business funding, etc.

II. NASHVILLE NO – BOUNDARIES

The area of town I grew up in was about as low – crime as a part of a major city can be. There was no need to even think of anything dangerous happening. Police patrols were regular and it was good to see them, but they were just doing their jobs, that I knew. I just watched and went on with activities. Everyone kept their homes maintained and their yards neat, their lawns mowed, their mailboxes painted, and their noise levels down. There were no shootings, none of the “if it bleeds it leads” junk on the news networks that plagues us these days, and no talk of drugs around the area that would cause us to be on the watch for dealers/ pushers, and certainly no mention of gangs such as make parts of Chicago notable in the national scene for violence.

Not at all; our part of town was quiet, comfortable, and about as “diverse” as can be. I went to school with children who, thank goodness, did not all look like me or speak as I did, or dress as I did. They were interesting and different and my classmates and my teachers, pure and simple. We were there to learn, to play together, to interact on projects and to come and to go every week. We had no need for uniforms; we were there to do what students do – no metal detectors or security guards or metal bars needed, thank you. They might have been around but I had no need to take such heavy notice of them. I felt safe and that is what mattered to me and my parents.

The same applied to the churches I attended: it was a church, and everyone was welcome. Everyone sang, participated in Sunday School, baptisms, christenings, parties, etc. We came and went, one and all worshippers of the same God. The message was the same and we understood it.

People were people in my eyes and for my folks, who worked around the doctors and nurses and staffs of at least three major local hospitals as their careers progressed. They saw every patient, everyone who needed help, no matter who they were. I was fortunate to interact with the brilliant people who were friends of my parents, who came to our home and to whose homes we went. Compared to how people think today, my folks were ahead of the time in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and thank goodness I was not subjected to the terrible talk of what separates whom from whom and what this means to “the government statisticians” and the Census Bureau.

I traveled after high school for international vacations and the world broadened. Because I had not been so mentally restricted early in life, I had an open mind to these exotic cultures and languages, foods and attire and jewelry and histories that greeted me like the pages of an open book coming to life. I was not worried about it at all, the influence of these diverse and amazing cultures on my mind and spirit. Gone were thoughts of being separated by some imaginary line that ended at a certain street or city limit or ethnic boundary. Travel and the benefits that came with doing that made my world a better place. It was grand – the world became my neighborhood

It was marvelous.

Then I moved to Chicago…

III. CHICAGO: SIDES, DISTRICTS, and… NEIGHBORHOODS

Those candidates we will consider in this election today have spoken to and berated each other on their work with and in and their experiences with and funding of Chicago neighborhoods. They talk about how safe or unsafe “their neighborhoods” are; they talk about the closings of schools, the disrepair of roads, the lack of or the concentration of development for residences and businesses. They talk about diversity… not about unity.

We need a mayor who will break down those barriers and remove the roadblocks to progress, a friendly and open – ┬áminded mayor and the aldermen who will work with him. As Shakespeare might put it, we need someone who will “dispel these inconveniences”, which is part of a speech from the play Henry V, when, towards the end, King Henry and Princess Katharine are listening to the Duke of Burgundy speak on restoring peace.

Our mayoral candidates might have a lot of money and influence and power when the cameras are around for campaign photo opps, but they seem to forget something, that Chicago is and always has been a diverse city, and always will be.

From its inception to right now, Chicago is made up of people who interact every day with others who do not look or talk or speak as they do, people who need help and who give help and who are glad to help in their lines of work, every day. These are the retailers, the first responders, the doctors and nurses and administrators, the airport ticket agents, the airline crews, the television studio camera operators, the bus drivers, and the furniture salespeople.

Diversity is nothing new, and we just need to leave off this census -oriented thinking and make progress. Interaction is easier when we just simply treat everyone with respect and courtesy. Represent yourself as a person, a special human being, an American citizen, plain and simple; represent yourself as someone who is one of those people out there to help and to work with everyone. Close down the prejudices, and bless yourself with the qualities of peace.

We just need to do that.

Divi Logan, Chicago, 2015.

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