Cassie didn't hear Mayor Rahm speak about the shootings from Roseland to Ravenswood because there are no televisions on the street.
In a grey spring rain, walking head down pushing her shopping cart home right past the Mayor's house, Cassie missed the Mayor envisioning a Chicago where a child shot down in Roseland, to the south, will be mourned in Ravenswood, to the north. A city where the slaughter of a child touches every corner of the town.
Chicago was built on parishes and neighborhoods. Boundaries that stuck till they were changed, won or lost. An expressway slapped in over a neighborhood could change a boundary. But how do you break the boundaries to enable a shared mourning? What has to change?
There is of course no one answer to a systemic problem. But are their tiny clues Cassie sees as she makes her daily walk across the city?
Blaming the Victim
Cassie, the shuffling skeleton of the streets, pushes her cart across Grace Street north towards the Sulzer Library. If you were to ask her about shared mourning, she wouldn't answer. If you were to ask if you could help feed her, find her a roof, she wouldn't answer either. Cassie walks.
She passes a tiny street scene. A small group of rosy-cheeked blonde boys have taken sticks and are digging up clumps of tired grass on someone's yard. The kind of thing a little boy might do if no parent told them no.
The mother, a few doors down, stands against a fence chatting with another woman, ignoring the boys. The lawn owner steps outside, yells at the boys to stop. They do, but the mother then screeches at the lawn owner,
"Why are you yelling, Roger? I don't like the way you talk, Roger"
"The kids were digging up the lawn."
"The parkway is public property, Roger! And I don't like the way you talk, Roger." As if use of the name makes the absurdity of the conflict meaningful.
Cassie watches the lawn owner retreat. Baffled with the thought that he should be blamed for stopping kids from digging up grass in front of his house. The angry Mother seizes hard her victory. She's shown him. She blames him.
And Cassie walks.
This time directly in front of Mayor Rahm's house. Man with a dog approaches another man. And the dog like a bullet lunges for the other man's ankle. Saliva growl bark and ready to chomp till the other man calling on reflexes from decades earlier, kicks hard at the snout and the dog goes down whimpering. Then the owner screams, much to the amusement of the officers parked outside Mayor Rahm's house, the owner screams, "You monster! Look what you did to my dog! This is all your fault!" Once again, a tiny shred of blaming the victim nurtured by the same cold rain that falls on Cassie's bony shoulders.
Like rusty iron pellets embedded in the fabric of the street, the little moments of blaming the victim germinate and begin to grow. Cassie keeps walking. Down a street where pretty much everyone is different than she. Watching how blaming the victim begins.
Fear of the Other
Cassie winds her way north and west as the houses and the lots get a bit larger. Feeling, but not seeing because her eyes went bad years ago, the quiet stares of the parents on the porch steps, the scattered shouts of the kids. She makes out, 'what's wrong with that old lady?'
That cloudy eyed desolation ramping up as she senses a line along the sidewalk. People lining up for a Wednesday night meal at a food pantry. The closer she gets to the line, the harder the quiet stares from the porches of the big houses. Fear of the other like a mushroom cloud just waiting to explode.
Finally the Entitlement
Then Cassie turns a corner into an alley to avoid it all. There is a child on the roof of a garage and he shouts down at Cassie, "Hey crazy lady! Get away from my garage!
The boy, in fact, lives a block away. The garage belongs not to his parents, but to people his parents don't even know. But as the boy said, it's his. All that he sees, touches and walks on is his. Entitled, it has always been this way across all his eight short years. And it always will be.
So, the Mayor's Vision?
It's a walk of countless miles. 'Blaming the Victim, Fear of The Other, and Finally the Entitlement,' all standing in the way. All beginning with tiny moments, glimpses of street scenes that flash in an instant and then disappear: as they grow. Invisibly growing.
As Cassie keeps walking.
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