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The Collapse of Chicago and How it Can be Revived

Before thoughts…

What am I missing? We are creating Chicagos from sea to shinning sea.

The media has their heroes. Their celebrities. They allow them to walk on by the nightmares they create and recreate. There are a lot of good people in Chicago. Why do they tolerate behavior that kills the soul of a man?

Chicago is not a story well told. It is a story of heroic triumph. And a story of daming failure and betrayal. A story that Obama has a part in.

Who and what are going to call the hand of the radical Left. Trump got us a start. But baby look at us now.

What’s going on at the boarder is a reflection of dark beliefs, attitudes and values. Corrupt politicians. A corrupt media. And a people that have forgotten who we are, why we are here and where we are headed. This perfect storm has produced institutional failure at all levels of government.

Justice is no longer found at the Justice Department. The FBI is no longer the premier law enforcement agency in the world. Solomon is no where to be found in our courts.

I write to talk my way out of despair. Yesterday seems so far away…

My Kind Of Town

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Once upon a time–Chicago– represented the best of who we are.  Chicago was all about opportunity and a second chance. But not anymore.

I love Chicago. To me she represents much more than sports, the arts and a destination for great food. I don’t get out much these days but if I could pick a place for a last meal it would be Gene and Georgetti. Then again, it’s to good to be a last meal. I would hunger for one more time. Again and again and again.  

Chicago was once the destination for those hungering and thirsting for a better life. She promised harmony and healing.  

As a teenager I had a dance band…Mood Indigo. Cubby Checker and the Twist were not part of our repertoire. Instead, we kept company with Nat King Cole, The Twelfth Of Never, and Sinatra, Strangers In the Night. 

I first got to know Chicago through the songs of Sinatra. Back then, Chicago wasn’t a lost city. It was a destination where folks went, in hope of getting found. And that includes Frank Sinatra. It was in Chicago, at the Palmer House, that Sinatra asked Tommy Dorsey if he could join his band. Dorsey gave him a staring role with his band. With Dorsey, Sinatra secured his footing as an entertainer.

Beyond Hoboken and the Las Vegas strip, Sinatra felt at home in the Windy City. Chicago is my kind of town, came from the belief that the life a guy like him enjoyed, could only happen in a town like Chicago.

Chicago was his kind of town because of its people. The kind of people that welcomed a stranger with a smile. And the music heard came from the resiliency and certainty that built the Union Stockyards. In those days, Chicago had the determination, entrepreneurial spirit and community values that not only inspired a Region but a Nation. A city that welcomed 500,000 Blacks seeking a home. Neighborhoods and community leaders that brought folks together, instead of driving us apart. Back then the Southside and artist like Muddy Waters gave birth to a new sound…urban blues. And the Maxwell street market became the stage for emerging artists. None better than Ruby Lee Gatewood. Anybody that was somebody or wanted to be somebody came to The Gate’s to sing. The sound they created brought dignity and purpose to America’s music. 

Chicago became one town that won’t let you down.

Today, visitors to Chicago can stillsavor the shoreline that inspired men and women of vision and determination to raise some of  America’s first skyscrapers. But the city that once inspired us to live, learn, work and play together– has lost her way. Buckle up Chicago, you have thousands more coming from our southern boarders to your neighborhoods.

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The Second City

There is more than urbane neglect on the Southside of Chicago, there is human neglect. Thinking that degrades the heart of a man. We must imagine more than the politics of welfare with education that restores a persons soul and acquaints them with the world of art, science, religion, philosophy, wit and poetry; a world that transcends the swamp that is now their habitat.

The children on the Southside of Chicago are not the children of a lesser God. We care for them as if they carry an incurable disease.

Why do they lack the skills, the knowledge and in too many instances the will to compete? Why do we insist on medicating the symptoms of the disease that has overwhelmed them?

Ignorance is a lonely and debilitating illness that destroys. The children on the Southside of Chicago are no less able than the children who live in Manhattan. They bare the stamp the signature of their Creator and dignity is their birthright; but we treat them as if they are the preamble to the human experience. Our interventions must acknowledge their humanity. Our interventions must be brave and preventive. A good place to begin, schools that are built on experiential learning.

Life that lives in the swamp and only in the swamp lives there because it has adapted to live their and nowhere else. The Southside today, creates boundaries that prevents exploration and discovery. It is time we look to things above. A person’s zip code should not define them. Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for noble things, for they shall be filled. 

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America Is No Place For Small Ball

Our Founders put their faith in both the community and the individual. They taught that our freedoms and resources have been given to us to serve and to share. And they expected us to be thoughtful custodians of our resources and our talents. 

The pinch point to much of life is found in these words: We are to love our neighbor as we love our self. Getting out of the old neighborhood that denies one’s humanity begins by loving the person in the mirror. Without self-respect, one’s life is stalled. We run in the circle of our own perceptions. Prisoners of their power. Our fears, prejudices– if they are not overcome– will define where and how we move. Apples drop from trees. Gravity, inertia, velocity, the forces of life in a Newtonian world take hold. And if left, unattended, on the ground, they will rot.

But we all have a special power. The power of will! This is the heart and soul of a creator. A fighter. The will to love. Without love, people find traction in all the wrong places. Becoming a person eludes them. They drop from life like an apple drops from a tree, unless they are nurtured and harvested. 

You can remove the asbestos from a tenement building but what do you do to nurture and enrich the temple not made with hands. Logic tells us to repair the brick and mortar but imagination inspires a different vision for fixing things.

Holding on to our freedom requires responsible living. If we can’t feel another person’s pain and demand the best of ourselves…we have stopped being human. 

One place to start, experiential education. A baby doesn’t learn to walk when they are captive to their crib.

It is not the old that are wise or the aged that understand what is right, it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty that makes him understand.

John Tammaro