Chicago in a Turbulent Spring

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NBC Chicago: The first shooting of the weekend happened at 4:45 p.m. Friday, when a 1-year-old girl was shot in the neck while riding in the backseat of a car with her family. Her aunt and cousin were in the car in the 5400 block of W. Le Moyne in the West Side Austin neighborhood when someone fired shots at the car from a silver vehicle, police said. A bullet went through the trunk and back seat, striking the baby in the neck, though authorities originally said she was hit in the head.

On Friday evening, a still chilly night that blithely foreshortened a pleasant lakeside walk, my wife and I went to a get dinner at a restaurant we had never been, on the far north side, where Chicago begins to blend into Evanston and Skokie. It was a neighborhood joint, a burger and pizza place, with a bar area but also filled with families. During dinner, Allison started to talk about the damning report on Chicago police, the endemic racism that course through it, and the casual brutality employed by far too many of its members. It’s a report whose outline comes as a surprise to few, but whose depth has shocked many. What was blithely assumed can no longer be ignored, and the Mayor, the venal Rahm Emmanual, is racing to appoint the finest blue-ribbon task forces to study the problem. I looked around the bar, and a few policemen, and realized that this was a cop bar. Not a grim and hard one, but for police and their families. There was the motherly camaraderie of dealing with tough jobs, that faint hardness mixed with the middle-class comfort of one of the few strong unions left. We decided not to talk about the report, for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, or making a scene, and just being seen as outsiders. We sat back and watched the Hawks win, exchanging high-fives and jokes, with new friends, and never gave it another moment’s thought.

“C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force wrote. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again.”

Saturday dawned beautiful, and taking the 7:00 train into the city to meet friends for a softball tournament, you could feel the city stretching out, coming alive. At the beautiful park, with its old clock tower outlined against the endless lake, hundreds of people jogged and rode bikes, played tennis, and relaxed in the morning beauty of a city freed from winter. The human form, long since hidden in winter fastness, re-emerged, unstretching lithely across the long lakeside track that hugs Chicago from north to south. We won a game, lost a game, but mostly just enjoyed being out, drinking some beers and busting chops. It was illegal to drink at the park, of course, but so what? No cop would ever give you trouble unless you were being obnoxious about it. There wasn’t even a reason to hide our cans or shade the minor scofflawing. Our thoughts were as untroubled as the infinite blue sky.


  • At about 8:15 a.m., a 28-year-old woman got into a fight with another woman in the 6400 block of S Langley in the city’s West Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side. The woman pulled out a gun and fired shots, striking the victim in the right knee before fleeing. The victim was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center where her condition was stabilized.

  • Less than 15 minutes later at 8:28 a.m., two men were in the 6100 block of S Bishop in West Englewood when a white SUV pulled up and a person inside the car fired shots before fleeing. A 23-year-old man was shot in the right ankle and a 27-year-old man was shot in the left thigh, according to police. Both were taken to Stroger Hospital where they were in stable condition.

  • A 30-year-old man was in the 2000 block of E 71st St in the South Shore neighborhood at 11:20 a.m. when someone fired shots from inside a passing white SUV, police said. He sustained a gunshot wound to the ankle and was taken to Christ Medical Center, according to police.

Sunday broke with more of the same; a cloudless brunch and a picnic along the lake at the Northwestern campus, where college students, who could sense the end of the year with every degree the day got warmer, ran around in various stages of frisbee-flinging undress. Our wine still illegal, but the understated assumption is that we are invulnerable, protected by the brightly-lillied day and our unremarkable skin. There was a brief and friendly argument about upcoming CTU strikes, and whether they are agitating for real progressive change, some of the last real defenders of the public sector, or if they were pushing for unsustainable benefits. It was a lively and friendly back and forth, until it died down, with nothing agreed upon, and no reason for there to be.

The sun is not the luxury of the comfortable; it shines on everyone. The whole of the city unfurled in its glory, after a dull winter and a spring that feinted in frustrating fits and starts. Jackson and Washington Parks, on the south side, were as full as anywhere. But there is a trap, a grim pallor that conspires to occlude. The sun is the same; life is not. There is always the awareness, one that I can’t even comprehend, that life can change so quickly, whether from a stray bullet or a badge. It’s privilege to be unconcerned by either, except in extreme situations, privilege that is far more valuable than any that are merely monetary. Being able to take cloudlessness for granted is a Chicago- is an America- that is alien to so many people.

The wine eventually ran out, and with it, the weekend. Walking home I reflected that throughout the days spent, I had never seen nor heard a wave. There was a windlessness that belied the rough power of the lake, the endless storms caught inside it, ready to roar. There was a dishonest calm, made truthful only by its impermanence. The waves will come back.



4 thoughts on “Chicago in a Turbulent Spring

  1. Pingback: New York Times Chicago Survey: A Broken and Bitter, but Better City | Shooting Irrelevance

  2. Pingback: Shooting in Chicago: The Times reports on a violent city facing the brink of summer | Shooting Irrelevance

  3. Pingback: Chicago’s “Police Lives Matter” Mini-Rally | Shooting Irrelevance

  4. Pingback: Friday Good Reads and Quick Hits – Shooting Irrelevance

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