This has been quite the weekend to live in Chicago. A NATO protest even made its way to North Center, close to where I live. It wasn't really a NATO protest; NATO was just the megaphone, the reason to be out now, when the world might be watching. This protest had passed Mayor Emanuel's house, speaking out against the closure of six mental health facilities in Chicago. They sat down in the middle of the street for their mic check, to rally for a moment before moving on. They were just south of the grocery store where my sister and I were headed to buy supplies for a barbecue, and we joined them for a minute to listen and take a few photos. (This sort of thing doesn't happen in my neighborhood very often.) Outside the store, we heard three men talking under their breath about the group headed their way:
Sure, it was a motley crew…but I loved them for being out there. Speaking their minds. I always have. What are you doing, you bystanders who are so quick to judge? Does a mohawk make someone's argument invalid?
Bottom line, officially: I'm sick of all this. This weekend — hell, this whole movement and everything about it — has become all about black and white, and I'm sick of it. The normal, hard-working folks and the jobless freaks with nothing better to do than wear bandanas and make a ruckus. The police and the protesters.
You're either with us, or you're against us.
I'm tired of seeing otherwise reasonable people — people I would ordinarily call friends, people I usually respect — driven to black-and-white rejections of this movement essentially because they've been inconvenienced by their big-city protests. I've never heard my Spinning teacher rant about a Tea Party rally he saw on TV. But when an immigration rally downtown got in his way during a delivery last week, he was six kinds of annoyed and couldn't wait to turn his bike into a soapbox.
But guess what: Change isn't convenient. Change will probably involve you missing a deadline or having to wait to deposit that check tomorrow. The world's a big, fat shitstorm right now, and most of you aren't doing anything about it.
I'll take an impassioned group of people holding up signs for any cause over the Twitter masses kvetching about them for not having a unified message — for being worthless, unwashed hippies who should go just go home — any day.
This has turned me into a ranting freak, too, and at times, I'm not even sure of what I'm saying. Maybe that makes me part of the problem.
I guess we all think we're right.
But I know this and will state it for the record: I don't like violence. At all. I don't like NATO because it's a big, four-letter vehicle for the most powerful countries in the world to perpetuate war under the umbrella of "defense." (Horseshit.) I don't like the police who show up wearing gas masks, holding billy clubs they're not afraid to use. I don't like the protesters who hide their faces behind Guy Fawkes masks, throwing bricks and starting a bunch of nonsense.
I'm tired of police in riot gear; I'm tired of protesters provoking them. I'm tired of reading live streams of protests like the one today at Michigan and Cermak, scared of what I can't see, fearing the worst. I'm tired of cringing at sensationalized television footage, wondering who will draw first blood and whether I'll see it.
I know that change isn't pretty. Change gets violent. But I hate that it has started happening so close to me.
Still, I'm more than a little embarrassed that I spent the day eating brunch, window shopping and starting fights on Twitter — from Starbucks, for God's sake — instead of actually getting involved. What does it mean to get involved, though? Is this "getting involved"?
Who can say?
These are complicated times.