The View From Below

In a few days we leave our comfortable Edison Park home to head out toward the great unknown. And it is truly one great unknown as the country right now seems to be pulling apart from the strain of Covid, racial injustices and the blunt force of a powerful man hell bent on flaming every fire. We still believe though that below smoke mostly lies people just like you and I trying their best to get by.

Right now, on June 20, 2020, there have been 317 Covid cases within our 60631 zip code (which comes out to roughly 1% of the local population). Most everyone here knows at least a few people who have had the virus. Many also know one or more people who never recovered. Statewide we are still having anywhere from 500 to 700 new cases a day which is a great improvement from when we went weeks with over 1,000 (and often close to 2,000) cases a day. Recently we went two days in a row with “only” 19 fatalities attributed to Covid but typically get somewhere between 30 and 90 deaths a day. Not that long ago we frequently recorded numbers just under two hundred deaths a day. The psychological wear on watching this daily carnage cannot be overstated.

Still we hardly ever wear masks when outside. This includes cocktails with neighbors (six feet apart), biking and long walks through the neighborhood. We always wear masks when inside a store. This seems to be the general rule in our relatively quiet northwest side neighborhood although there are plenty of masked walkers about. All the camps and other activities remain closed with bands of kids now walking and biking together. Sometimes within these groups you see one lone masked rider. When visiting family we stay outside but will now go inside to use the bathroom. When hanging out with my grandmother we do so within a vestibule with her on the other side of the assisted living glass. Conversations are by phone.

Edison Park and the rest of the state though are slowly waking up from the quarantine. Restaurants (for now only outdoor seating) are bustling with masked waiters and mostly unmasked customers. The city has also allowed, maybe even encouraged places to expand into the sidewalk. Last night a side street was closed to vehicle traffic which allowed for a European-like plaza dining experience. I hope this continues well past a vaccine being developed.

A few businesses remain boarded up. While there was no looting in the Edison Park downtown area, a few stores nearby were broken into. There also have been several positive car parades protesting peacefully against police brutality and other racial injustices. This is no small thing for our predominately white and heavily city worker populated neighborhood where Blue Lives Matters signs outnumber Black Lives Matter by an infinity to zero margin. But even here, where I feel safer walking the streets than scrolling some of my neighbor’s FB feeds, there are signs of change like the large hand-drawn sign promoting equality which was posted on a neighbor’s fence. Our alderman, who you may know from his frequent appearances on Fox, yesterday posted a sincere Happy Juneteenth message that included a very stirring quote from Frederick Douglas. Most people I know here are welcome to at least some change but resent the implication that their service (often performed heroically and under the worst of conditions) is part of the problem. I reject the sum zero nature of defunding the police but see how everyone (especially police) benefit from more community resources such as mental health facilities, social workers embedded into units and job training to go along with greater accountability.

Last night while playing Frisbee with Henna I heard a whole lot of honking from the main drag. I went to investigate and was surprised to see that it was a car parade celebrating Juneteenth Day. Among the diverse revelers were several Black Lives Matter signs. There were other observers and in that moment I honestly had no idea where anyone stood. I gave a friendly wave to one car then walked back home. Later I read how the Vice President was pressed to acknowledge that Black lives matter. Best he could come up with was that all lives matter. And I sort of understand his cowardice. I mean, look at what Colin Kaepernick gave up for taking a knee (a gesture first suggested to him by a retired Army Green Beret named Nate Boyer)? But maybe now is the time for all of us to be just a little more brave. I’ll go first. Black Lives Matter.

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