Friday, October 2, 2009

Guess We're Not Real Americans Over Here...

Fuck the Weekly Standard. The Olympics would have brought jobs to Chicago, which is currently being hit slightly harder by the recession than most other large cities in America. But we're all a bunch of corrupt liberal bastards. And Obama's the antichrist. So I guess we can all just go rot. Oh, and this guy can go fuck himself,* too. Chicago didn't "deserve" the Olympics because they have bad schools and a kid recently got beat to death? Really? Okay, it's time for a bit of education. A couple of kids die at the beginning of every school year in Chicago. There are a spate of articles and commentaries on the local news asking if violence is an epidemic among teenagers. As I recall, last year was the worst its ever been. These stories never make the national news. Or if they do they're a footnote on a CNN crawler somewhere. Yet this year a single death made it on to the national news cycle right before the IOC's vote and all of the sudden there is a wave of killings in Chicago. Look, one unnecessary death is one too many. There's no way around it. But in the grand scheme of things this is not out of the norm for life in Chicago or any other major city. In fact, it's probably better here than it is in Rio, but that gets conveniently ignored. If you drive out of Chicago to the suburbs, meanwhile, you'll find bright, new schools where top-notch teachers are getting paid up to six figures a year to teach in classes with all the best equipment. There's a reason for this. Illinois schools are funded according to property taxes paid by the town (I'm sure it's slightly different in Chicago itself, and the schools are funded according to the taxes of whoever lives in that school's footprint or something). Rich towns have good schools. Houses in those rich towns are then sold partially because the realtor says, "Move here and you'll get to send your kids to Wheaton Warrenville South/Nequa Valley/New Trier." So the people with the means to live in the good communities with the good schools move to those communities. And money pours in to schools that already have plenty. There is a very easy solution to the problems of Chicago's schools. Send them some of the money from Waubonsee Valley or Oak Park. But no. That would be Communism. And we can't have that. So instead we can cluck at how nobody's helping those inner city kids. But it's okay, because they're inferior to us rich suburbanites. Look how they go and kill each other on the playground after school. It's horrible, truly horrible. How can people be such animals? Of course many of the same people who are fake outraged at the tragic death of a teenager in Chicago are more than happy to send other teenagers to the other side of the world and pay them to kill poor people in Iraq or Afghanistan. But that's different, because it fulfills America's goals or something. And imagine how the family of Derrion Albert is feeling. His tragic, pointless, disgusting death has been thrown around as a political football. His legacy may well end up being, "Oh, yeah, Derrion Albert. The kid who cost Chicago the Olympics." It's completely untrue and completely unfair. For all the hype the odds were stacked against Chicago. It seems like the Olympics are in America every other time around and they've never been in South America at all, so Rio has a leg-up there. And the IOC has been quite angry with the USOC for many, many reasons, so Chicago had negative marks against it through no fault of its own. I'm not actually surprised we lost. I'm most surprised that we got knocked out first. I mean, who even remembered Madrid was in the running? And who expected Tokyo to get it on the heels of the Beijing Olympics last year? The hypocrisy and stupidity of this whole thing is astounding. The right was cheering the failure of an American city to do something that would have brought jobs and money. They spent the last two news cycles holding up the death of a single person as a reason to avoid Chicago in 2016 while complaining that Obama isn't sending enough people over to Afghanistan to die. Of course last week the big scandal was that the President was leaving the First Lady to lead the delegation and she'd be out-powered by the Spanish, Japanese, and Brazilian heads of state who would be in Copenhagen. But when Obama decided to head over himself it was terrible, since he shouldn't be wasting his time with such trivialities while Americans were losing their jobs. You know, some Americans that could have gotten Olympics-related jobs. Honestly, I'm appalled at all of this. Chicago was shocked when we were the first knocked out this morning. But we'll be just fine. It's probably already business as usual all over the city and suburbs. What's appalling, though, is the glee with which so many are piling on and attempting to kick the city while it's (not actually) down. I don't get any of it. ------------------------------------------ *He's on HuffPo, so he's probably a liberal, proving that reflexive anti-Chicago stupidity is truly a bipartisan stance. Maybe we can bring Obama and McCain together in shared hatred of Chicago. Maybe we can get Bachmann and Franken to join hands and sing a rousing chorus of "Sweet Home, Chicago," ironically while plotting the destruction of the city. Let's bring this country together the only way we know how: through mutual hatred.


apthorpe said...

I agree but I want to add one note: Chicago is a city crumbling under its own dead weight. Sitting in the 'posh' demi-burb of Oak Park, I can only shake my head at the logistical nightmare that is Chicagoland, this sprawling exercise in rust, potholes, and spalled concrete. I returned to Chicago a year ago after a 17 year hiatus, 13 years of which were spent in Austin, TX. There's no comparing the two cities, and try as I might to remind myself of the treasures of Chicago, I'm worn down by the logistics, the constant nickle-&-diming, and the lack of vitality, fresh thinking, and local community. Some of this is a function of working in Burr Ridge, living in Oak Park, and taking improv classes downtown. Given the constraints of job and the desire to maintain carless access to downtown and spend less than 2h in a car each workday, I'm not sure I could live anywhere better. At least Forest Park is open after 6pm and has more than two bars.

I can't say I'm surprised or even disappointed we lost the Olympics. Chicago needs to get off its collective sclerotic ass, modernize its 19th century rail topology (fuck the Loop!), and fix up the place so it doesn't look like an abandoned rail siding. I'm not holding my breath; too many have too much invested in keeping all but a sliver of Chicago miserable, dragging, and expensive. To hell with the Olympics - fix Chicago for Chicago's sake.

jessa said...

I was glad Chicago didn't get the Olympics, but apparently for different reasons than the smug people you are talking about. I just found it disgusting that Chicago was so easily able to raise tons of money and energy for an Olympic bid, but won't put that energy into actually investing in its own people. They wanted the Olympics to PROVE to the world that they are a world-class city, but now is the time to BE an world-class city and put that energy into helping their own people. I doubt that will happen. I'm not saying that every city doesn't have their problems or that a city has to be perfect before it can bid for the Olympics, just that the disparity here is shocking. People are always asking, begging for a lot of the kinds of improvements to the city that the Olympics would have required, but those requests go unaddressed until the possibility of the Olympics requiring them.

Sniffnoy said...

A bunch of the people I know in Chicago are happy about losing the Olympics because they figure it'll finally get Daley out of office. Any thoughts on that?

Geds said...


I think that idea is preposterous. I guess it's slightly more likely that Daley could get voted out than, say, Obama, but it's still bloody unlikely.

It's not like the Olympics was an absolute slam dunk that Chicago lost because at the last minute Daley got caught threatening the daughter of the leader of the IOC. Everyone has known that Chicago was a long-shot from the start and Rio's been the favorite. The funding for the bid was private, and I haven't heard anybody bitching about how Daley's been throwing public funds at a failure.

So basically, unless Daley pissed off a large number of aldermen or the top people in the Chicago Dem Party, I don't see him getting voted out over the Olympics alone. And, honestly, not getting the Olympics is less politically risky than getting the Olympics and fucking everything up.

As for the other two points: um, that's gonna be a longer response...

big a said...

"Chicago didn't "deserve" the Olympics because they have bad schools and a kid recently got beat to death? Really?"

"But in the grand scheme of things this is not out of the norm for life in Chicago or any other major city. In fact, it's probably better here than it is in Rio, but that gets conveniently ignored."

It's funny you mention this, since the Brazilian government has hired Mercenaries to murder dissident and otherwise inconvenient members of their own population for over 20 years - but hey, that wasn't on ABC News, so it doesn't count.


let me get this straight, you spend 17 years away from Chicago, including 13 years in Austin - pretty much THE college town of America and then you return to a city not dominated by the largest university in America and accuse Chicago of lacking "fresh-thinking".
Furthermore, Austin hasn't had enough population to warrant major-city status since after WW2, or roughly 50-60 years. Chicago has been a major city for over 200 years, so yes it's going to look a bit older. Visit Austin in 150 years and tell me what you think.

Chicago's fine, it's your perspective that's warped.

apthorpe said...

Oh bullshit. UT is a large university but by no means is Austin just a college town. Look at the rate of growth over the past two decades, the burgeoning tech economy, the ratings on livability, etc.

Yes, Austin is a tenth the size of Chicago, the climate and state government are wildly different and it's obviously not fair to make a one-to-one comparison of the two cities. I am focusing specifically on attitude, infrastructure, basic civic pride, livability, and upkeep. The fact remains that Chicago is a fucking pain in the ass to get around in, it's inordinately expensive even if you don't consider taxes, and the infrastructural decay goes far beyond something that can be addressed by a coat of paint. But even the coat of paint isn't forthcoming (unless it involves putting some politician's name on a city sign) - that's more an issue of attitude than money.

Look, I'm not trying to be a hater here. I moved back up here for a job and I have fond memories of the upper midwest. There are some great things about Chicago but they are really overwhelmed by the unavoidable two-hour-and-twenty-dollar inconvenience toll for doing anything here.

Maybe you could address my criticisms of Chicagoland rather than trotting out some college town strawman. With so many more people and so much more resources, what keeps the bulk of Chicago so broken, unlivable, stressful, and dumpy? Why do people live like this?

Geds said...

Y'know, apthorpe, I'm terribly sorry that there isn't a convenient rail line between Oak Park and Burr Ridge to help you and the five other people who would greatly benefit from it, but you should probably take that up with the municipal governments of Oak Park, Forest Park, North Riverside, Riverside, Brookfield, La Grange, Western Springs, Indian Head Park, and Burr Ridge, not to mention the Cook and DuPage County governments and probably a half-dozen townships. You might notice that all of those towns have something in common: none of them are Chicago. So if you're going to hold your inability to get from one suburb to another easily against Chicago itself then there's no discussion here.

Let's give a sense of scale here. Chicago is about 20 miles long north-south and takes up 234 square miles. The entire metropolitan area is nearly 11,000 square miles. Chicago's population is 2.8 million, which is about a third of the entire metropolitan area. Chicago's population density is 12,649 people/square mile.

Austin is actually slightly larger than Chicago, with a footprint of 296 square miles. But its metropolitan area is a bit over 1/3 the size. Austin's entire metropolitan population is 1.6 million, which means it's just over half the size of Chicago itself and has a population density of 2,400/square mile.

Now do you think that it's even remotely possible to compare the two cities? Chicago's weather swings are terrible and do far more damage to the infrastructure in a year than the weather does to Austin in a decade. So I don't know if you want all nine million people to move out of the city for about five years every decade or two, but that's pretty much the only way the Chicagoland area could look remotely like you want it to. Until then streets will have to be shut down a block at a time to repair potholes brought on by six months worth of freeze/thaw cycles while an infrastructure that was never designed to handle the daily movements of nine million people does what it can.

Geds said...

Oh, and seriously, if you're going to attempt to make any argument against Chicago based on a lack of civic pride then you automatically fail. Unless, of course, your definition of "civic pride" is, "The city does everything exactly to my wildly unrealistic expectations." To be fair, I strongly suspect that's your working definition, so whatever.

apthorpe said...

My apologies - I completely misread your post. You're right, I'm wrong.

Geds said...

So I'm going to pretend for just a moment that you're not being a passive-aggressive git right there. But the prime example of you completely missing the point came the first time I can ever remember you commenting on one of my posts is after I made an oblique reference to to fact that there was a very small crowd at the Beat Kitchen for Sarah's show and called out all of Chicago for not being there. You took the opportunity to post some random, completely not cogent, shit about how much you hate Chicago. Thereby I really don't give a flying crap what your opinion of Chicago is.

So the point isn't so much that you misread the post in question, but that you misread the blog owner.