I hold grudging admiration even for the politicians I most despise. They may be attempting to do the most egregious things imaginable, but one must admire their determination.
Right now I’m sure there are plenty of people hating on Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. He was re-elected recently but the city has plenty of problems with gun violence, budget messes and apparent police corruption.
Welcome to America, I say.
I got to see Mayor Emanuel in person a few months back. While doing some PR work on the Chicago plastic bag ban, I attended the City Council meeting where the Mayor leads the proceedings. Alderman Ed Burke got up and told a story about how the Special Olympics was originated in Chicago, and that raised some controversy with the chairman of the real Olympics, Avery Brundage.
Brundage threatened to block use of the “Olympics” name by Special Olympics. Back then, so-called amateur athletics were a power-hungry game in which generally wealthy men lorded over the careers of unpaid athletes who were only trying to grab a touch of glory and a chance to make a name for themselves.
But Chicago’s Mayor Daley heard about the power play and gave Brundage a call. “You know, Avery,” Daley intoned. “We’d hate to have someone go over and inspect that building you own in Chicago. How about you cut this Special Olympics thing some slack?”
And that was how the Chicago Way came to protect and promote the organization now known as Special Olympics.
I hate Good Old Boy politics as much as the next person. This little story turned out alright for the world. But there are just as many corrupt deals going on in this world.
Some still accuse the Chicago Way of all kinds of mischief. President Obama is accused of acting that way. His buddy Rahm Emanuel is in hot water for possibly covering up documents related to the Laquan Mcdonald shooting in the city. That’s where police pumped 16 bullets at a kid in an aggressive attempt of arrest. Mcdonald died. But the report of the shooting was delayed well after the election. And people are mad, mad, mad about that.
I get into the City of Chicago fairly frequently. Compared to twenty or thirty years ago, the city is neat, clean and well run. It’s more expensive than ever thanks to for-profit parking policies and elimination of simple metered parking in many places. But overall the city looks and acts world class.
I had the chance to compare Chicago to the city of London earlier this year. London actually felt a bit more like New York than Chicago. But I studied how London worked, and kept an eye in particular on the manner in which bicyclists are treated.
There are bike lanes everywhere, and commuting by bike is well respected. That’s a very European dynamic, and a sign of a somewhat advancing notion of what it means to live in a civilized city. Accommodating bikes shows that a city respects the human beings occupying its streets, not just motorists.
That’s happening more in Chicago thanks to Rahm Emanuel’s administration. Sophisticated new bike lanes are being installed in a “loop” through the Loop. That will make it possible for cyclists and the buses running alongside the bike lanes to proceed more safely through the city. This holds potential to reduce conflicts between cyclists and motorists by more clearly defining the roles of each on the road.
It would be great if that were done throughout the Chicago region and beyond. The real reason why motorists and cyclists clash so often is that American roads are essentially a free-for-all when it comes to who owns the lanes and what is allowed within that space. I believe every road in America should have a minimum three-foot shoulder on every road, so that cyclists can move outside the white line when traffic is approaching from behind. Those lines should be dotted so that cars do know bikes have the right-of-way to move into the lane for regular riding. Cyclists could learn to show courtesy and intelligence by communicating and moving off the main road surface when needed.
In the City of Chicago, the bike lanes are covered in green and the bus lanes in red. This is a clear indication of how things are going to proceed. Perhaps that would be a wise move in many areas of the country.
The bike lanes in Chicago are an indication of the commitment by the Mayor to make the City of Chicago a safer, healthier place to live. It’s a shame that these efforts are counterbalanced by a gun-happy society on both sides of the law. Both criminals and cops are at fault for putting guns before the law. Men like Rahm Emanuel want better controls on both fronts, but the twisted interpretation of our Second Amendment has prevented any reduction in arms. As a result, cops feel obligated to open fire at the sign of any threat. And criminals and zealots and terrorists and the disenfranchised militia in America all recognize the only real way to get what they want is to open fire and ask questions later.
It’s stunning that we can advance the cause of so many good things in this world and still be forced to live in a society that is still basically dependent on tribal instincts and vigilante notions of justice to govern ourselves. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fairly begged America to get control of its guns. Yet he’s ridiculed by gun lobbies as being out of touch and impractically convinced that gun control works.
Of course, gun controls don’t work in Chicago when people can go outside the city and stock up on weaponry like they are going to war. The city is a war zone in some sections. It’s an economic problem resulting from 50% unemployment in many urban areas.One could logically argue that America’s long, fruitless War On Drugs is useless and has been a failure. The profitability of drugs as a revenue source has always had a lot to do with street crime and shootings. Some advocate legalizing drugs like marijuana to reduce street crime and needless incarcerations.
Good and ill
It’s a strange dichotomy to see a Mayor trying to do good things on everything from recycling to urban sustainability and be faced with the ugly specters of street crime, gun violence and a generally aggressive and dissatisfied society that loves to blame the government for all these problems.
Concealed Carry proponents love to claim that opening the City of Chicago on that front would reduce gun violence. But virtually every act of gun violence in America begins with an act of concealed carry. People whip out guns and begin shooting. There’s nothing heroic or patriotic in the fact of hiding or even displaying a weapon as an act of citizenship. That is not a well-regulated militia as the Constitution clearly states and conservatives love to claim. That is an unregulated militia given clear passage to commit violence at will. And that’s what’s happening daily in America, and with frightening regularity in mass shootings in which four or more people are killed our wounded. No matter how you measure these events, they are taking place every damned day in America.
And the gun nuts insist that more guns will put a stop to that. Well, the math just doesn’t work on that.
Those Concealed Carry laws passed in all 50 states did nothing more than justify the practical methods of thugs, terrorists and angry shooters already seeking opportunities to attack other innocent people in public. Be honest: Concealed Carry actually has nothing to do with self-protection and safety. It has everything to do with hiding intentions until someone chooses to whip out a gun and shoot someone else in public. It’s calculated lawlessness.
And, it’s actually a cowardly way to live. Depending on guns for self-protection is a full-on admission and acceptance that the ills of society cannot be addressed in other ways. It’s no coincidence that the same brand of people who claim to hate government also tend to credit guns with keeping the peace. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s also the Republican platform in a nutshell. Think about it. It’s true. And it’s very sad for America that this unethical approach to government has been allowed to take hold.
Taking the blame
So we should not blame men like Rahm Emanuel for being unable to contain gun violence. That problem is a direct product of conservative policies preventing rational gun controls and it always has been. If we cannot prevent automatic weapons from being used for mass shootings and we cannot govern prodigious amounts of uncharted guns from flooding our society, then our government is a failure. Again, a self-fulfilling prophecy. But it’s a highly profitable prophecy for gun and ammunition manufacturers.
The excuses given by conservatives to justify this self-fulfilling prophecy of government failure are old, lazy and tired. “It’s too much trouble and an infringement of rights,: they maintain, to do what the Constitution actually says and effectively regulate guns and the people who use them. “This is my America,” gun proponents love to claim. “And you are infringing on my rights even if 30,000 people a year have to die for them.”
It’s the same lazy, sick logic some motorists use when encountering cyclists on the road. Those who absolutely refuse to budge or move over for another human being on a bike are selfish jerks. And, So What if people get killed as a result of refusing to separate hazards or give right of way to cyclists as dictated by law.
Instead, they point fingers at a minority of cyclists and build the hate meme by pointing out mistakes made by cyclists in traffic. This lumps all riders into the same category.
And in a fit of fantastic irony, these are the very same strains of logic that gun proponents protest when their rights are questioned when violent gun owners ruin the rights of law-abiding gun owners by committing crimes. Indeed: a small minority can ruin opportunities for a majority. It’s the responsibility of the majority to educate and control that minority. It comes with the territory with respect to rights. So cyclists need to assert themselves in this category and teach fellow cyclists as all levels to behave better and ride smarter on the roads. That’s absolutely true.
But that should serve as an example that gun owners must also accept the responsibility for getting gun violence under control. The gun lobby absolutely must work with the government to prevent guns from falling into the hands of terrorists, or making it easy for people to get their hands on weapons capable of mass killings.
It’s an absolutely parallel comparison.
So it’s interesting that in Chicago Mayor Emanuel is making progress in one category by building safer bike lanes and making zero progress it seems, when it comes to curbing gun violence.
We’re all getting run over by that. And until the gun lobby and its beneficiaries grows to understand that right-of-way, we’re all at risk of being flattened by the next mass shooting.