I had wanted to do our usual Friday thing during the summer, and write some smartass preview of Sunday’s Euro 2016 Final and a wrap of the tournament. I can’t find that note within me. I thought about other things I could do to stick in the “Friday Foofaraw” category. I can’t find that either.
I know a lot of have been annoyed and disappointed with us over the past year, not that we addressed serious things that needed addressing, but that we let our anger spread into other posts that had nothing to do with those. I understand. Distraction, at times, is important. Laughter is always important. That’s what some of you have come here for for years. And I’m mostly happy to provide it. Today, it’s just not there.
The events of the past few days have left me with a terribly ill feeling that we are a society on the verge of collapse, if we haven’t flung ourselves over the edge with arms spread already.
Since the news broke of the atrocity in Dallas last night, I keep coming back to a quote from Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch (the book, not the two movies–one of which was mediocre and the other downright terrible). It was him describing how the authorities handled crowd control before the Hillsborough Disaster, and it feels like it applies on a much larger stage here:
“But the thing was, I trusted the system. I knew that I could not be squashed to death, because that never happened at football matches. The Ibrox thing, well that was different, a freak combination of events; and in any case that was in Scotland during an Old Firm game, and everyone knows and these are especially problematic. No, you see, in England somebody, somewhere, knew what they were doing, and there was this system, which nobody explained to us, that prevented accidents of this kind. It might seem as though the authorities, the club and the police were pushing their luck on occasions, but that was because we didn’t understand properly how they were organizing things. In the melee in Avenell Road that night some people were laughing, making funny strangled faces as the air was pushed out of them; they were laughing because they were only feet away from unconcerned constables and mounted officers, and they knew that this proximity ensured their safety. How could you die when help was this close?
But I thought about that evening nine years later, on the afternoon of the Hillsborough Disaster, and I thought about a lot of other afternoons and evenings too, when it seemed as though there were too many people in the ground, or the crowed had been unevenly distributed. It occurred to me that I could have died that night, and that on a few other occasions I have been much closer to death that I care to think about. There was no plan after all; they really had been riding their luck all along.”
It’s not exact, but what is clear is that those who guide and lead us, their luck ran out long ago. And like that quote, there is no plan to bring us back from the brink.
Oh, I’m sure our president and many in Congress at the federal and state level have plenty of ideas and policies they’d love to implement or at least have discussed in the halls where things are supposed to get done. But they are outflanked by representatives who stripped of their staffers and talking points wouldn’t be able to find their own asshole their heads are shoved up with eight hands and a flashlight. People far more concerned about holding onto their free golfing getaways and hookers. We have created a system where that can’t happen, and though we may have leaders it has shuttered any sort of leadership. In the void of any leadership, the frightened, the angry, and let’s face it the ignorant will flock to anyone who even remotely sounds like they can provide it, no matter how false an idol that might be. I present to you Presidential Nominee Donald Trump as evidence.
We see it as the Federal level. We see it here at the state level where Mssrs. Madigan and Rauner have been engaged in an 18-months pissing contest to see who can enrich their own business interests more while this state slips into the abyss. We see it at the local level with a city council so in lockstep for 30 years with two mayors who only had the select few’s interests at heart, out of fear or greed or both. And now this city lies broke an broken.
We may deride the events of the past few days to those on the fringes, the truly deranged or “bad seeds.” Not that we do anything to help them. But they will be used as yet another excuse for us to run to our separate corners, out of fear and hate, and not come together as we promised we’d do 15 years ago. We will abandon understanding and compassion as quickly as we can. We’ve been doing it since 2001 when we declared we could do better. Did we? You know the answer.
We have always been a frightened and reactionary people. Our wars and attacks have only begotten more of them. And what have we here? Two people running for president who only promise more of them, when they’re not being corporate shills that just continue to wash the reasonable and right out to sea.
Our friends in other places no longer laugh at us. They don’t even pity us. They are genuinely frightened of us. And they should be. We are disgusting. We are grotesque. And moreover, we seem happy to be so, scoffing at their ideas and concerns because they don’t understand, even though they long ago passed us and have the peace and learning our society can only dream of.
We have “Live Shooter” drills in our schools, and rarely does anyone stop and think about how monstrous that is. And even when we do, I bet all of you with children probably appreciate that these things happen, because there must be times when you send your kids to school and wonder, “Is today the day it happens here?” That’s beyond monstrous, and yet we accept it as the price of living here.
Because it has become that. I still believe that most people are good and that’s why these events remain scattered. But we have lost out to the noisy, well-funded majority who act out of fear and hate with the better lobbyists. And there doesn’t seem to be a way back until everything breaks and we have to start over. Even a massive change just within our city seems near-impossible. How many councilmen would it take to overthrow the Emanuel/Daley Machine? Where would they come from? Who would fund them? How much money would it take? Does anyone have it? And even then we’d still be partially handcuffed by the state.
It is important not to wallow in a mood like this, even if the good fight seems futile. It is still worth fighting. Most will still label the kills of black men by police and yesterday’s slaughter as just a “lone nut.” But the distance from the fringes to the middle is getting shorter every day, and it feels like we’re hellbent on making the two meet.