In these days of Chicago being the center of the universe, the Chicagoan takes away a certain pride in knowing that we created the most powerful man on Earth.
The million or so who hung out in the cold to watch Obama’s historic acceptance speech were a manifestation of that certain euphoria that takes hold of a city that has attracted the limelight. For the first time since the reign of Michael Jordan, Chicagoans had a reason to party together in the streets.
Now that the world understands what Chicago is capable of, I would like to add a little color to people’s understanding of the Second City: the capital of the heartland, the glue of the country, and the birth place of the freshwater people.
In order to understand what Chicago is and what its place is in the world, one must understand the “Other Chicago”: the Chicago that the political and business elite of the city would rather ignore than cherish.
The Other Chicago is the majority Chicago: the artists and writers, the revolutionaries and anarchists, the laborers and immigrants, the actors and musicians, the citizens of substance and the people of principle.
These are the people who are disparaged by the corporate press, and who are ignored by the politicians that the press coronate. In his oratory at the scaffold, October 1886, Chicagoan Albert Parsons denounced the same corporate press that plagues our democracy today. He said:
I hold that you cannot dispute the charge which I make, that this trial has been submerged, immersed in passion from its inception to its close, and even to this hour, standing here upon the scaffold as I do, with the hangman awaiting me with his halter, there are those who claim to represent public sentiment in this city, and I now speak of the capitalistic press-that vile and infamous organ of monopoly of hired liars, the people’s oppressor-even to this day these papers, standing where I do, with my seven condemned colleagues, are clamoring for our blood in the heat and violence of passion.
Albert Parsons was murdered by the state: convicted on trumped up charges of disturbing the peace and inciting riot. This is despite the fact that the historical records demonstrate clearly that the riot was initiated by police, who fired into the crowd of workers so as to provoke a bloody response. Parsons was chosen as a scapegoat because he was a leader: actively organizing for the 40-hour work week that would put the brakes on the rate at which wealth was accelerated upwards from workers to capitalists.
Ultimately, his grand cause prevailed, as the United States became the first country on earth to institute the 40-hour work week. This legislation became an international norm, and is now considered inherent to the international body of human rights. It is an indispensable part of any democratic society, and yet this man was murdered for his fight to make it happen. We, the people, owe this Chicagoan a debt of gratitude, for he gave his life to make the lives of all humanity more just and equitable.
And yet today, the crooked ruling elite of the country have figured out every way imaginable to circumvent the 40-hour work week. The number one way is paying a wage that does not produce minimum living standards. Even the government’s own poverty line, which is far below the just standard of a living wage, shows more than one in ten Americans living in poverty. Many of these people must work multiple jobs to make ends meet and to obtain minimal benefits for themselves and their family.
The level of precariousness in this country is unsustainable. The people are un- and under-employed, un- and under-insured, and indebted to banks who paid for their college in exchange for a life of debt servitude. It is especially bad amongst my fellow young adults: those who have been given a country where we dogfight to get ahead instead of march in solidarity for a better and more just Republic.
We are told that our vital functions are production and competition, we are made to meddle in menial tasks in our schooling years and then brought into empty office jobs in our adult life: never encouraged to be an individual or a creative member of society. You are to never question your teacher, never demand answers of your elected representatives, and are made to be subservient numskulls by the prison-police state.
If you question the status quo, you are treated as foolish and weak, even though we know that it takes great courage and strength to stand up to tyranny.
We know that Albert Parsons had to take his life to question the crippling working conditions of the late 19th century. We know that the Other Chicago has been sidelined and beaten down by the media and political machine of this city.
We remember when Daley I sent the goons after peaceful anti-war demonstrators outside of the Democratic Convention of 1968. We remember justice being served by a show trial, which made a mockery of democracy and illustrated to the world what a bunch of crooks run this city.
The Other Chicago has had to endure the goon state, the heavy handed weight of our dictatorial law enforcement community, the criminally corrupt nature of Chicago’s mob political elite, and the cold and windy winters to boot.
The crooks-in-charge originally decided to memorialize the Haymarket riot by constructing a statue at the site for the policemen who died that day. They perpetuated the re-writing of history by treating the goons as heroes and the heroes as provocateurs. And what happened? The Weather Underground blew the statue up. Then the city re-constructed it, and the Weather Underground blew it up again.
Today at the Haymarket site stands a statue that gives mention to the movement, and at least tries to be somewhat balanced in the commemoration of those sacred events in Chicago’s history. It’s a sign that we have taken baby steps. Much like with the election of Obama, we have taken baby steps.
Nonetheless, the majority of this country lives in a state of precariousness. Median income is currently at $32,1403, a figure that fails to keep up with the disastrous increase in the cost of basic necessities such as food produce, heat and electricity. Meanwhile, Americans are shackled by student debt through much of their professional life, preyed on by credit cards, real estate companies and other lenders, provided poor alternatives for cheap and efficient public transportation on the average, and offered little if any job security.
In order to get a job, the average American is increasingly employed through an intermediary for the first several months or years, in order that the workers’ subservience is evidenced before the company or organization risks giving them real employment. People in situations like these, where they lack health care, where they lack humane sick and leave time, where they lack just job security, are not rightfully employed. They are enslaved by a society that has been run by crooks within the Capitalist class for far too long.
I sense this feeling coming from the Other Chicago, especially from my fellow young adults: that we cannot sit idly by any longer and allow the thieves on Wall Street together with the criminal political class to decide the direction of our city and our country. While Obama may amount to some amount of change, he is not the whole-hearted manifestation of the Other Chicago. He is an attractive and intelligent man amongst thieves and the morally backward. He is a well-spoken gentleman in a political class that generally produces imbeciles and charlatans. He is change, but not the change we can all believe in.
Americans voted for peace in 2006 and 2008; they voted to stop having their substance eaten out by the military industrial complex. Dwight Eisenhower once commented: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”4 We have arrived at that hour: the hour where the government stops starving its citizenry in order to pay for perpetual war, and the perpetual construction of armaments that we don’t need. Even the Pentagon is asking for its own budget to be cut: when will a sense of reason return to Washington’s ruling elite!?
I have decided to launch a campaign to steal Rahm Emanuel’s soon-to-be vacated seat away from the crooks that have called it home for time immemorial. This is a district that covers the heart of Chicago’s north and northwest side: a district that is nearly half immigrant, that is a majority working and middle class, and that has been pummeled by years of war and decreasing social protection. They are a manifestation of the Other Chicago, of Upton Sinclair’s Chicago of enduring workers and immigrants made to navigate a treacherous political and environmental landscape.
In the words of Upton Sinclair, let us give voice to the Other Chicago: “we shall organize them for the victory! We shall bear down the opposition, we shall sweep it before us-and Chicago will be ours! Chicago will be ours! CHICAGO WILL BE OURS!”