Friday, June 17, 2016

Keep Talking. At Your Own Risk.

How do I do it? Magic mom, right? Nope. Regular mom. Magic kids! Nope. Regular kids.

Set aside for a minute that my kids work damn hard for every bit of their success. They practice, read, write, blow off their friends to work, and keep their eyes on the prize. Nobody here is a genius, but we do have some darn hard workers and I'm prouder of that than anything. But no matter how hard they work, and how much we support, none of that goes anywhere with out one thing.

Public school. Public school does it. Same as the other 34 kids who were at UC with Lucy. Same as all the kids on the math team circuit who are headed to some of the best schools in the country. Same as the other two children from our neighborhood - not magnet, not selective enrollment, neighborhood - elementary school who received full-tuition scholarships for university this year alone (and those are only the three I know about). My kids are friends with children whose parents come from all over the world, who have all kinds of income levels and no income levels, who have extraordinary abilities and disabilities, who sing, paint, write, compute, design, dream.

Who do you think is going to public schools? Some of the most wonderful, interesting, ambitious, hard-working kids ever go to Chicago Public Schools.

My kids, like all the city's kids, deserve and are eager to take advantage of outstanding public education. When children are given the opportunity, and teachers are supported in their efforts to teach children, the possibilities are endless. To borrow a phrase,  public education is what makes America great.

So when my public school is threatened, I am threatened, my children are threatened, all our children are in danger. Word to the wise on this issue? It's a dangerous thing to threaten a person's children. That's the kind of thing a fella might think twice about before he keeps talking.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Replace the Word

All you have to do is replace the word, or words, to test whether or not it sounds ok.

The people responsible for certain crimes are part of radical 'Christianity'.

We need to employ a temporary ban on visitors from countries with a proven record of having 'men' engage in acts of terrorism against us or our allies.

'Men' are the only ones who have engaged in these acts of terror, so it stands to reason they have a problem with America.

It's important that we look more critically at people from the 'U.S.' who wish to impose their way of life on others.

Does this make sense to you? It does not to me. Still, to be fair, I continue to question whether I'm making a grave mistake.

If I am, this American daughter and granddaughter of immigrants goes down believing that the country that allowed me my great fortune and set the stage for the bright futures of my own children, did so on the risk that those who came before me were different, but not inherently bad.  My country was right. And that's what made America great.

Last night, I sat for my daughter's graduation from a city public school and listened to names called - Ashley, Emily, Haydon, Abbey - and Roshandeep, Muhammed, Pablo, Roble - there were roars and cheers for names like Marhuq and Bidemi and Chris. These are the names that make America great. These faiths, languages, colors. These are the instruments of greatness in our country and they only work when they are together.

What we're doing now? Makes America _________. You replace the word.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Wonder First.

Before we go too far let's remember that Dillinger was not Muslim, and for his crimes we did not persecute all Christian men.

Let's remember that Capone did not speak for all Italians, although he's been the poster for too many.

Timothy McVeigh. Is he your ambassador?

Did the Uni-bomber speak your thoughts?

Hitler was white; for his crimes should we all be called to account?

We would do well to remember that most of the men and women responsible for the recent, and prior, economic collapses of this country did not come from overseas. We birthed them here, at home.

Our guns are manufactured by white men, in factories owned by white men, in supposed service to a second amendment written by white men.

Is it any wonder we are so furious with all brown Muslim men for the few who commit crimes?

We might do well to wonder about just that before we speak our words of hate.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sorry I Tricked You, Ma

I tricked my mom into going to Gospel Fest last night. We’d been planning a night out and I wanted to set up an evening picnic at Pritzker, a lingering affair under the twinkle of my favorite city, is what I had in mind.

But ma was not having it. She was convinced it was going to pour rain, and insisted she could not picnic at her age, couldn’t sit on grass, couldn’t be so far from a bathroom - a litany of ‘nos’. I protested, but you know how that goes. So I tricked her.

I arranged an early dinner at the Park Grill, a restaurant tucked under ‘The Bean’ at Millennium Park, just a few steps from the pavilion. As we were leaving, she heard a rumble and said, “You see? It’s going to rain.”

I looked up at the cloudless sky and smiled.

“That’s not thunder, ma.”

We led her around the ramp just south of the restaurant and while she toddled along, cane in one hand, my hand in the other she kept looking up, trying to find the source of the bass.

“That’s music!” she discovered.


“From over there!” she looked back at Michigan Avenue.

“No, ma. From over here,” and I pointed toward the picnic area just south of the Pritzker stage.

Slowly we made our way closer, and as we did, a sway of  people drew us in. Arms outstretched, eyes closed, all ages, a poster for the case against all divides, compelled by the man on stage exhorting everyone to ‘BE GRATEFUL!’

We couldn’t help but sing along.

At one point, we were all encouraged to turn to a person near us and say, “I have a reason to be grateful to God.”

We did. Everyone did.

A few moments later we sat on a ledge nearer to the stage to rest, but ma stayed on her feet, dancing, electrified.

A tall, handsome older man approached her and smiled, saying something I couldn’t hear. She answered and they both laughed.

He came over to where I was and asked, “This is your mother?”

“Yes,” I smiled.

“I’m having a very hard day,” he intimated. “But your mother’s spirit. I could see it. It’s so bright. I just had to come over. She’s beautiful. Her spirit.”

“Yes, I know,” I thanked him.

We chatted for a bit. He is Sioux-American, and had spent the day attending a funeral service for a young friend. He’d come downtown for a walk to clear his thoughts and had been drawn into the park by the music, and drawn to my mother by her glow. He was warm, and kind, and taught my children a few words in his language, among them the term for ‘until I see you again’ before he left. There is no word for ‘goodbye’ in his tongue.

As the music ended, the song that carried us out reminded us that God makes all things better, better, better. Indeed.

We made our way to the car accompanied by a parade of concert goers in bright colors, laughing, chatting. 

My mom beamed, “I danced under the shadow of the Bean!”

“I know,” I squeezed her hand.

“That was grand,” she said softly.


I suppose she’ll forgive me for tricking her this time.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Yes, You Are

I attended a commencement ceremony yesterday. It was simple, less than 40 graduates and their families, a few professors and administrators. Among the speakers was a young woman who rose to provide remarks as a member of the graduating class. I happen to be a bit of a public speaker myself so I always attend these things with a probably-too-critical point of view.

But I was impressed. This young girl was articulate, poised, grammatically correct (very important!), and succinct. All that, and I actually loved the content of her address.

As she concluded, the young woman recalled for the audience a conversation she'd had with one of her classmates. This friend, trying to console her during a difficult time, told the young girl about a time when he watched a rocket launch with his grandfather. The young man had been devastated when the base of the rocket had fallen off, he was sure the rocket had broken and all was lost. His grandfather had reassured him that all was as it was intended, and the young man now reassured the girl, "Some things are meant to get you to a certain point, and then they just fall off."

I smiled at the bittersweet of this.

And then our daughter - our daughter who we had launched with the force of a million tiny pushes, and countless dreams and prayers and wishes, our daughter who had been propelled by our own hands, the hands of a thousand other people in her life, and the most important hands, that come from a much higher place, our daughter, this elegant, refined speaker - our daughter smiled and turned to her graduating class of Collegiate Scholars at the University of Freaking Chicago, and said, "We are the rocket."

And I'll be damned, Lu, you really are.