Many Chicagoans took time out earlier this week to celebrate the 83rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As usual, our elected officials tripped over each other in their annual attempts to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to the late Dr. King and the principles he championed.
Our mayor spent part of Monday morning speaking at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Interfaith Breakfast. And like any good parent, he probably went home Monday night and checked to make sure that each of his three kids spent at least part of the day learning something new about Dr. King and his life's work.
I'm guessing the conversation with the kids went something like this...
Rahm: I hope each of you used your day off school today to learn something about Dr. King.
Child 1: Dad, did you know that Dr. King went to Memphis in April 1968 because he was going to march alongside union workers in a protest?
Rahm: Yes, I did know that. But before you get the wrong idea, just remember that the union he was going to march with was AFSCME, and that's the same group that is now forcing me to close all the libraries on Mondays.
Rahm: It's complicated -- listen, enough with the union stuff already. What about Dr. King?
Child 3: Dad, did you know Dr. King took part in a number of sit-ins?
Rahm: I did. He was a man dedicated to fairness and equality.
Child 1: Do you think Dr. King would have joined the sit-in that those low-income Mexican-American moms staged in Pilsen about a year ago when they were trying to get a library for their kids' public school?
Rahm: Who knows? There are a lot of CPS schools without libraries. Why do you ask?
Child 2: Well, like you said, Dr. King fought for fairness, and those moms said it isn't fair that 141 of the 160 CPS schools that don't have libraries are located south of North Avenue.
Child 3: Yeah, and those moms wanted to talk with you about that when you were campaigning, Dad. Why did you skip out on them during your "listening tour" in Pilsen?
Rahm: I was very busy with Mr. Rangel that day.
Child 1: Mr. Rangel doesn't like unions either, does he, Dad?
Rahm: It's not that simple. Mr. Rangel is trying to make public schools more affordable for the city by making sure we have young teachers who are able to work long hours.
Child 2: For less pay, too. Right, Dad?
Rahm: Listen -- public school teachers make a lot of money.
Rahm: That's different.
Child 1: Do you think Dr. King would have joined those protesters from Bronzeville who staged a sit-in in front of your City Hall office a couple of weeks ago?
Rahm: No idea. And we're done with the sit-in questions.
Child 2: Why didn't you let those older African-American mothers and grandmothers use their portable chairs on the second and third days of their City Hall sit-in? It didn't seem right to make senior citizens spend ten-hour days sitting on a tile floor. I bet Dr. King would have given them chairs.
Rahm: You know how much damage a collapsible canvas chair could cause if one of those grandmas decided to heave it across the room?
Child 3: Seriously, Dad? Save the scare tactics for the City Council when you try to get them to pass your crazy new parade laws. You just didn't want those grandmothers protesting, did you?
Child 1: No kidding. I saw those protesters on TV. They started and ended each day of their sit-in by holding hands and praying.
Rahm: I know they did, but we had no real idea what they were praying for.
Child 2: Weren't they just praying that you'd listen to their plan to improve the schools in Bronzeville for a lot of low-income African-American children?
Child 3: But they say CPS and City Hall have been closing down schools in their neighborhood for years, and things aren't improving.
Rahm: Well, it may not have worked before, but now we have a new team with new ideas, and we're not going to make the mistakes that the old team made.
Child 1: Who made mistakes? You mean Arne Duncan's team?
Rahm: I'm not going down that road. Next question.
Child 2: Is Mr. Vitale on the new team?
Rahm: You bet he is.
Rahm: Yes, but things are different now.
Child 2: Why?
Rahm: They just are. And I'm cracking down on protests. Nobody's going to bother Mr. Vitale and his neighbors.
Child 3: Well, since you won't meet with those Bronzeville mothers and grandmothers who participated in the last sit-in, what are they supposed to do?
Rahm: Well, they should participate in my Facebook town hall meeting on education on Monday, January 23.
Child 1: But, Dad, you know that by scheduling your Facebook town hall meeting on a Monday, when all the public libraries are closed, it'll be hard for low-income people who don't have computers to participate.
Rahm: What's your point? It's bedtime. Upstairs. Time for everyone to go have a dream.