Sunday, May 20, 2012

NATO-pocalypse in Chicago

There's been so much hubbubaloo about NATO being in Chicago, I thought the non-Chicagoans might appreciate to hear exactly how much turmoil has been exacted on my daily life by the comings and goings of these numerous dignitaries and the trail of protestors they leave in their wake.

On Thursday and Friday I started to notice a distinct hum that rose above the low grade din of Lake Shore Drive. The hum can only be described as bumblecopters. So many helicopters that it sounded like a swarm of very loud bees. Constant. Sometimes louder, sometimes quieter, but always present. Occasionally, a lone copter would make its way over the lake like a lone bee buzzing my ear but soon it would fade back into the general swarm. The humming persists as I write this post Sunday afternoon.

The first thing I noticed Saturday morning was the quiet. And then the birds chirping! I usually cannot hear the birds over the sounds of Lake Shore but because much of South Lake Shore was closed the traffic was minimal. Almost like Bike the Drive day. Or Snowpocalypse of February 2011. So quiet and lovely. All politics aside I say "hooray for NATO" if it brings me some urban quiet!

After days of discussion and warnings of the dreaded protestors (we were told to bring a phone cord, change of clothes and our medications to work in case the protestors barred us in the hospital and a patient who is also a cop told me they'd already confiscated a bin of human feces protestors were collecting to throw at people- what, are we monkeys now?), I spotted one in the flesh in my building on the way to work Saturday morning. Well, I was on the way to work. From my limited understanding of the Occupy so called movement, many of those folks quit their real jobs and now consider protesting their job, so it's up for discussion whether he was going to 'work' as well. But regardless of ones beliefs on that subject, his protest sign I found confusing. It was a pink cardboard cut out of a machine gun with flowers sticking out of the barrel (similar to the one above, but picture flowers too). Huh? I'd consider myself a good feminist but even I must admit that pink and flowers do not indicate a strong message of any kind.....

Next, I realized this NATO business has been a great opportunity to employ people who really want a job where they get to spend 90% of the time sitting around doing nothing. I appreciate that you need a lot of people sitting around doing nothing so there is enough people power for the few times where they need to do something (cops, traffic directors) but man, there are a LOT of people in the city today getting paid to stand around. A LOT. The Occupy so called movement people should be absolutely tickled by the number of folks employed to make this NATO conference happen!

As you may have heard, the museum campus was closed as was part of the lake front path. Quite a production with fences and city trucks blocking the way.  On my run today near one of these blockades (in the clean air, again thanks to closing LSD), I saw a chalk sign that said 'Chicago Police State' and folks were lining up to take a picture next to it. Now I realize it's eerie and frustrating to not be able to move freely about our city since NATO is here. It did weird me out a bit and made me reflect on the people who truly are limited in their movements in their towns due to politics or violence. And I know the cop presence is upsetting to some people. I will be the first to admit that there are cops that are shady and that people are, on occasion (too often), mistreated by Chicago cops. Some of the power trips cops go on can be annoying on a day-to-day basis as well. But, people, let's be honest. The cops are out in force to keep us all safe! There are a few bad eggs in every profession, but the cops are not our enemies! Yes, maybe they overspent on riot gear, yes maybe they all aren't as emotionally mature as one would like someone with a gun to be. But to refer to a few closed streets and crowds of cops trying to protect citizens and private property as a police state is ridiculous and belittles the struggles faced by those in true police states. Even those who think the worst of our cops must admit that their cop-like counterparts in corrupt or poor or desperate or war-torn countries are not comparable. Come on!

I will say, though, that talking about the NATO summit has resulted in many random conversations with my neighbors with whom I don't usually speak. So, that's a plus. As is the quiet, the lack of tourists (no offense), and the utter lack of air pollution. Do I want NATO here every weekend? No, but once in a while, we can and should make some sacrifices so the leaders of countries around the world can talk together. Even if we don't agree with them, even if we accomplish nothing, there is something valuable just in having the talks.

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