Monday, April 14, 2014

Let's Take a Ride on the Bus

I don't like this bus. It's dirty and the driver is impolite. 
...Got it. Here's this cool, clean bus with innovative seating and newer PA systems.
There are not enough seats on the cleaner bus.
...O.K. Let's hold a public lottery to see who gets to be on the newer bus with the polite bus-driver. 
Umm. Excuse me? Sir? I'd like to be on a clean bus.
...Fine. Complete this fill-in-the-dot test correctly. If you only get 1 in 100 wrong you can step to the front.

I'm not particularly good at fill-in-the-dot.
...Please display some musical talent or throw a ball. 
I've never taken music lessons and I'm not very athletic. Is there any chance I can get on a better bus?
...No. You 'regular' people - - (holds nose) - - please step up to the dirty bus with the bad driver. 

That's not fair!
...Try being more open-minded to change. You're not suggesting I should only aspire to a dirty bus with an impolite driver are you? 

If we begin with the premise that the answer is not to clean and secure the first bus, the bus that everyone can take, we will always be at odds. The results will be devastating and here's why: all these buses end up in the same terminal. We will all be living in a society with people who've been subjected to these tests and filters and I can assure you there will be hell to pay in a community where the have-nots have had it with the haves. Check your early American history for a description of the hell. Don't fool yourself into believing that everyone will move on and forward, quietly swallowing the inequity. Eventually, this thinking always fails.

Charter schools? Not the answer. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sometimes It's Right to be Crazy

So you hold our citizens hostage for over a year and in response we don't give you permission to travel to our country. And you're walking out of that deal feeling offended? I'm not sure you should be a negotiator for a living.

The Chicago Tribune today reports that Hamid Aboutalebi will not be granted a visa to enter the U.S. Mr. Aboutalebi is the person Iran has named to represent their country as a United Nations Ambassador. He also happens to be a guy who participated in the hostage crisis that for 444 days kept 50+ innocent Americans trapped inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. OH! You're a diplomat now?

Sorry, Mr. Aboutalebi. There are consequences.

When you terrorize, brutalize and bully my brothers and sisters for over a year, ruining them and their families, and then continue a pattern of arrogance and defiance toward me, you do not deserve a soft admonition and a short attention span.

If Mr. Obama was even tangentially involved in beating, starving and terrorizing a group of Iranians for over a year would he be received with good grace and a handshake in Tehran? What message does Iran send to our country when this individual is selected to be their chief diplomat?

It may well be a violation of some rules to refuse this visa and there may be consequences to using legislation in this manner. That's fine. The first message that should be coming from this stance is: our commitment to justice does not mean you can use our rules to your benefit and our detriment. That would be crazy. The second message that should be coming out loud and clear is: we know crazy and you do not want to test our crazy.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Remember Your Mother

My old boss' mom just passed away. She was about a million years old, I think. (OK - almost 102! - but that's really, really OLD.) I hadn't seen her since the late 90s and, as luck would have it I was unable to join the family in sitting Shiva, a custom this old Catholic rather appreciates.

So I didn't get a chance to hug my boss and tell him how I love him and am thinking of him. I didn't get a chance to hug his wife or his daughters and I didn't get to share the stories or smile at others' recollections. I didn't get a chance to tell my boss: I remember your mother.

When I first started working for this boss he was at the very top of his game - young, ambitious, not a little bit cut-throat. You had to be in his line of work, and I was at once attracted to and a little repelled by the force with which he managed to shut people down or inject frenetic action into a room. A warrior, he was, fully armed and charged for battle every day.

That is, until his mother called.

You could almost hear the armor falling behind him, clanging like abandoned toys as he would turn and walk to his office.

'Ohhhkaaayyyy,' he'd heavy sigh and, head hung, trot off into the dark, wood-paneled room, casting aside piles of files and urgent messages to hear her admonitions, answer long, thickly-accented questions, and so on.

When he was in a particularly brave mood, my boss would ask me to ask her if he could call her back - never 'tell', just 'ask'. Over the years as she and I got to know one another, she'd sometimes rather prefer to speak to me than to him.

"Don't bother him. He's busy, I know," she'd tell me.

So we'd chat for a moment or two and without fail, most of her chatter was about her son - asking me if he was eating enough, in rain if he was carrying an umbrella, in brisk weather whether he had a scarf, boots to keep his feet dry.

Here was her son, just fifteen feet from me, talking to some of the greatest captains of industry, a stone-and-steel expression on his face, critical transactions being bandied about the office, stacks of importance against every wall and the constant ringing and clacking of a busy, busy operation...

And here I was, reassuring his mom that the boss had a sandwich and that I would send him home with warm, dry clothing. There was so much humanity and vulnerability in her need to watch over him even in that late stage of her parenting, and there was so much grounding in knowing that part of his life. I've sat across from millionaires often in my life since then, and always I smile to myself wondering if their moms call their offices to check on their well-being.

I'm a mother now and I have a son. I cluck and fuss after him and try to make sure he's eating well and staying warm. Every so often, as the winter months forge new generations of Chicago survivors, I pull my son to me and wrap a warm scarf around him and give him a kiss because I love him so, so much.

And, EB, I remember your mother.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Truth: Why I Am a Cub Fan And Always Will Be.

"I feel sorry for you," they say to me. "Why on God's good earth are you a Cub fan?"

Because I remember the truth.

I remember sitting on Ricardito's lap. He smelled like soap. I'd begin to doze, plays and pitches running softly in my dreams. And then UP, prompted to a full sit - sometimes an unintended stand - as a particular play might warrant.

"Mira eso chica!" would ring out behind a "Hey Hey!" or a "Holy Cow!"

I remember my mom pointing to her elementary school literally shadowed by the giant walls where, inside, our team played. "You were born a Cub fan," she'd smile at me, revealing sacred lineage.

Dave Kingman hit a grand slam at my first game. I can close my eyes today and feel the rush and roll of 30,000+ fans coming to their feet as he rounded the bases. I define exhilaration by that memory.

Every baseball fan has their memories, their moments that connect them to their team. In that way, mine are no exception. These are just some of my favorites.

The difference for me is that I believe the experience of being a Cub fan is a commitment to the truth like no other fan experience is.

The truth is I can't remember how many games the Cubs won when I sat on Ricardito's lap. I remember love. I can't remember if we won that game that Kingman slugged his way through. I remember jumping up and down, cheering him home, blurred with bliss.

The truth is, most days you're not the champion. You do not strut into the office, applause propelling you to great and further success. Most days you're mediocre, you're regular.

But you get up and do your job. You brave it, no matter the deficit you bring to the morning. You don't just do that one day. You do that every day. And you love through that and smile and celebrate through that and you feel joy. That, after all, is your life.

There is no great glory in the winner winning.  He is already cast in gold. The truth is, after a time, he bores.

But the day the faltering arrives - when tired and defeated he succeeds - oh joy! What love there is in that moment!

You can't be committed to the outcome if it's known to you. You have to struggle - even when you're beaten down again and again, you have to get up. Get up and get up with a full heart. Go at it full steam again. Today might be your day! That is why you live. That is living.

Most days I'm not a winner. I'm just plugging away, doing the best I can. But some days - some close-your-eyes-and-smile-just-before-the-tears-come days - some days I am a winner. A screaming, jumping, joyful winner.

That's why I am a Cub fan. In my lifetime I will be that witness. I will see that game and I will feel that thrill that only a Cub fan can feel and I will share it with all those who know, like I do, what the truth is. And if you're not like us and you're not committed to that truth...

The truth is, I feel sorry for you.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On The Drive

I'm not a patient driver.

I'm not a patient, driver.

I said this to myself once one way, once the other, over and over.

Oh for the love of spinning and sins MOVE your damn car!

I was trying to get out of a parking spot in a crowded little grocery store - it's ethnic and chaotic but it has the best fresh bread around and carries the neck- bones I need for my sauce (which they don't have at the big chain - bah!) so I had to go there even though it was Sunday midday and I knew the lot would be a mess because people who like good bread and neck-bones simply don't know how to drive, honestly!

The man coming into the parking lot had used the entire driveway to position himself into my spot after I left, without giving consideration to the fact that I couldn't get out whilst he occupied the whole space, fence to fence like a woman wearing a dress that had long passed the saucy and gone on to press embarrassingly against her seams.

Making matters worse, he was waving at me impatiently to move out of his way. I had words with the air between us, let's say.

Finally, I escaped!

As I passed, I saw he was an older, grandfatherly man. He smiled at me, tiredly, through the grey of our tinted glasses and I wondered what she'd sent him to the store to get and how many trips alike he'd made in his life.

Not three blocks away I was caught again. Slowly, painfully the silver tin-can-car in front of me plodded. Brakes for no reason. Stops. Stifles. Starts.

'Oh Peter!' I called in vain.

Finally, again, escape!

As I passed, I saw she was a middle-aged woman, clearly frantic, her husband seated patiently as passenger-teacher beside her. I could see she had even skin and a soft swoop in her hair, caught in a tidy bun behind her. She was dainty - not meant for Chicago streets.

And then, now, how brave she must be, to be learning something new at this time in her life.

I continued my hurry home.

To eat and enjoy the warmth of my family, reflecting all the while on the drive.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Just Unfriended You

It's a click now, instead of an uncomfortable phone call or an awkward date. Still, un-friending someone is an unpleasant affair. When you have to do it in person you have to look at someone, face them and express yourself. Often, especially if you are un-friending outside the heat of a rabid moment, you parse words, hem, haw, look away. But if I had to face this person I might not be able to quiet my anger over her disgusting attitude towards the president and his family.

In her most recent rant, one my un-friend borrows from someone else because she can't even inarticulately assert her own point of view, she "demands" respect for the office of the presidency. Irony abounds.

Few things, as we part ways:

1. The U.S. Constitution affords us the right to be disrespectful - even to the office of the president. In fact, that's kind of the point - so get your facts straight about how American you are. You're an idiot. Really.

2. I rather prefer respect for the office of the presidency too - we agree! - so stop your piggish, racist, ignorant and ill-informed condemnations. Mr. Obama is the President of the United States of America and the holder of the office gets to have a say on policy and spending. It's kind of the job. (See 'idiot' reference above.)

3. You and I went to Catholic school together. Maybe you ought to re-acquaint yourself with some of the tenets of our faith. Try "love thy neighbor as thyself", for one. Or "judge not lest ye be judged". Or "don't be such a jerk". That last one was mine.  (Dare I say it again?)

4. You make me so MAD! You don't want the country to change? We might become communist because we have -GASP- healthcare? So you think all property will become publicly owned and we will all work in grey uniforms in a vocation of the government's choosing? Because the government has imposed rules on one of the most decadent, wasteful and arrogant industries in this country? Yeah. That makes sense. You're more like Putin than Putin. The 80s called. They want your dated, head-up-your-rear foreign policy knowledge back. Upward mobility - a foundational pillar of the American capitalist system - has been crippled, SUFFOCATED, by our appallingly archaic healthcare system.

You should want the country to change. All of life is about change. If we don't move, grow, adapt, refine and continue to pursue our 'more perfect union' we are failing the purpose of our country. We'll wither and die as a force for good in the world. In fact, we are the elevated version - if you believe all the horse-crap about American exceptionalism - of societal organization. What organization can you think of that doesn't change in order to continue to succeed.  Are you still writing on parchment with an ink pot and quill? I give you too much credit. If you could think we'd be having a different conversation. Maybe you should get back in your carriage and go home. GRRRRRR!

But the truth is I didn't unfriend you - really - because of your political views. I suppose everyone's entitled to be an idiot, even me.

I unfriended you because of your personal attacks on the President and his family. Every President and his family serve us at great personal expense: there is no anonymity ever again - a child's privacy, a normal life, is never returned - they cannot err without ever an entourage of cameras and recordings broadcasting each misstep. Could someone listen to everything you say, take pictures of every outfit you wear, videotape every cough, sneeze and blink in exchange for insurmountable pressure, responsibility for billions of dollars in debt, millions of lives in your hands, nuclear weapons in your charge and others aimed at your neighbors, the possibility of an assassin at any moment targeting your babies, and the despicable ingratitude of racism focused at you personally and your young daughters by your own constituents?

You'd collapse under the weight after just a split second.

You are weak in mind and in spirit.You embarrass me, as an American, a woman and a human being.

So we can't be friends.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Peggy Noonan is a Fool

I just sent the following letter to The Chicago Tribune after reading its re-print of a Wall Street Journal piece by Peggy Noonan. You can read the snippet on the editorial page of today's Trib. The full WSJ article is here. I could not disagree more with the conclusions she draws or the reasoning she employs.

I hope you printed the Peggy Noonan/WSJ snippet in today's “What Others are Saying” section as an example of the faulty, foolish thinking of even the most worldly and well-read among us. The fact that Ms. Noonan believes the “very existence of charter schools is an implicit rebuke to the public schools” is evidence that she is still, quite, missing the point. A rebuke? Reducing the conflict here to a schoolyard-esque trade of institutional insults is embarrassing. The stakes are a bit higher. 

Public education is the foundational pillar upon which rests the democracy; someone ought to tell Peggy. One need not be ideologically aligned one way or another to understand that undermining public education by diverting resources, both financial and human, to the “something new” that she insists must be tried is a travesty of the highest order. This, not because we should ignore our problems with education, but because we cannot sacrifice public education on the altar of change without thought as to consequence. How many steps is it from ‘charter’ to ‘branded’? The recent TIME article about the six-year school where IBM has been a key partner in developing the curriculum should give you a clue - and great pause. 

Will public schools, where the filters of selective enrollment, IB, private-partnership and charter have already been applied, become the dumping grounds for neglected and ill-cared-for children? What if your mom and dad just don’t understand the system? Don’t speak English? 'Give us your tired and your poor, so we can segregate you from the rest of us!’ we should say. Is that what we want public schools to become? It certainly seems so. 

Shall we then seat those children on crappy, old and broken CTA buses and put everyone else on special public transportation because “something new must be tried”? 

I don’t care one whit what Ms. Noonan’s opinion of New York's mayor is but I do care that this nonsense about schools continues with lukewarm challenge, at best. “[T]here’s something to the wisdom of crowds,” Ms. Noonan tells us. Really? There were crowds at public hangings at one time in our history, crowds at purchases of other human beings for slave-work at one time, crowds in Nazi Germany. “The wisdom of crowds” is how Ms. Noonan would tell us to measure the value of charters? She’s a dangerous fool.