Last week’s ignored posts*
Sub-titled: I didn’t intend a treatise on diversity, but here you go.
Today the newest CTA train line, called The Pink Line, begins service, bringing more folks from the west side into the swirling mix of commuters known as The Loop. Chicago is a diverse city of course with hundreds of neighborhoods and ethnicities, but the truth is that the white collar bustle of the Loop doesn’t really convey that sense. Even the L trains offer only a glimpse: tubes of demographic diversity snaking through relatively homogeneous neighborhoods on their way to the business district. The best way to get a sense of the diverse makeup of the city is to visit the beach on a warm summer day. The urban beach is the ultimate public space. It isn’t owned by anyone; it overlaps community boundaries (enforced by the street grid which obviously has no relevance on the beach); it is basically a blank slate with no dilapidated buildings to convey a sense of blight or McMansions to convey the other sense of blight. But most of all, everyone loves the beach. It’s just human. When you’re frolicking in the water it is hard to care about which block someone else is from. I’ve never seen such a harmonious amalgam of nationalities, languages, and habits.
Last week Team USA lost to Ghana in the World Cup. This didn’t occasion much soul-searching among regular Americans beyond the “hey world this is what you’re going to have to do to make us care about this sport” silliness. Luckily I had a unique window into fans who really do care. Our former nanny and many of her friends who’ve babysitted for us are all first-generation Ghanaians. During the match her husband called me a few times. You’d have thought every Ghanaian in the city was in a single room, shouting deliriously. It was infectious. I won’t say I was rooting against my countrymen, but I know I cared a lot less (than not much at all, admittedly) about who won. The better team should always win, of course, but sometimes it just feels right when the team with more devoted fans wins. Onward Black Stars!
We live near Boystown, a section of the Lakeview neighborhood that today hosts the flamboyant Gay Pride Parade (and will be ground zero for the Gay Games that come to Chicago in a few weeks). Boystown is festooned with rainbow flags of course so as we were driving through (home from the beach in fact) my four-year-old son asked my wife and I what the the flags meant. We stammered a bit, started to explain, rewound, then just sat there thinking of all the ways this conversation could spiral out of control. Finally I said “The flag means that in this part of town there are no rules on who you can love.” As soon as I said it I realized the fatal flaw in the line. If he asked me what the rules were we’d have a thornier conversation on our hands. He didn’t ask, thankfully. It was the best I could do no the spur of the moment. Ah parenting.
[*] Cleverly sprinkled with references to today’s events to seem more timely.
Your flag story made me plug the following string into a search engine “explaining the rainbow flag to kids”. Very interesting what crops up. One is a story from the Daily Hampshire Gazette “Ugly acts, beautiful responses” by Laurie Loisel.
Good luck with the future conversations.