Peace in Chicago


One of the things that I love about children is their firm and secure belief in “good guys” and “bad guys”.  They see the world in sharp contrasts and clear borders.  Criminals are bad guys.  Police are good guys.

I wish for that sense of simplicity tonight.  I wish that I could hold onto a belief in the honesty and goodness of the police, the government, the men who wear the uniforms. I wish, so much, that I could trust that my children will be safe in the presence of the authorities.

My boys are on their way to Chicago, to join thousands of like minded citizens who want to speak out against the war machine that has kept us in conflict in so many places for so many years.  They don’t plan to break any laws or to violate any ordinances; they just want to protest peacefully against policies that they find to be both immoral and dangerous.

The US Constitution, of course, guarantees their right to do that.  The First Amendment says :

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So they plan to peaceably assemble, and they plan to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. They will march, chant, maybe bang drums. They will hold signs critical of the NATO war machine. They’ll take the advice of Thomas Jefferson, who said “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

Given the fact that they are American citizens, taxpayers, both gainfully employed, both students, both innocent of any crimes, I should be feeling pretty secure that they are in no danger from the police as long as they are respectful and peaceful.  Right?

Ah, if only.

The truth is, I am worried about the 16 hour road trip a little bit. I am worried about the crowd of strangers a little bit, too.

But I am worried about the riot gear, the pepper spray, the batons and the rubber bullets a whole hell of a lot.

I am afraid of the new laws of this theoretically free country that allow the government to arrest and indefinitely hold anyone who might possibly have a connection to some kind of terrorism somewhere.  Terrorism that the arresting authorities are allowed to define. I am afraid because the First Amendment is now being constrained in ever more outrageous ways; it is illegal now to protest in any location where the Secret Service is guarding a VIP. Or where they will be guarding one later. Or where they might have to guard a VIP someday.

I am afraid of my government. I am afraid that my sons, those young men who are trying to do what they know to be right, will be unlawfully arrested, detained, hurt, or worse by those who are “sworn to protect and defend.”

I am afraid, honestly, of my government.  And that makes me think of Thomas Jefferson again.

“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

So what I want to say to the Chicago Police, the Secret Service, the FBI, the NATO security services is this: Peace!

22 thoughts on “Peace in Chicago

  1. My son has really been angry at the police lately (mostly for all of the reasons you wrote about). I think 19 year old boys are treated very differently than middle-aged women, so as much as I understand all of the things wrong with our justice system, I’m not as directly affected by it as younger people, especially younger people standing up for what they believe in.

    However, two days ago he witnessed a brutal violent crime. Two men beating a third man nearly to death. Of course he called the police. Within a few minutes the police came and stopped the beating.

    I think my son learned a little about grey that day.

    I hope your sons have a safe trip (I’ll be worried about them along with you and I’ll be sending you peaceful thoughts).

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    • Thank you! A worry shared is a worry halved….
      I’m sorry that your son had to see such an awful thing! And I certainly don’t feel that all individual police are dangerous or bad. My kids don’t think so, either! They had some really good experiences with the police who were involved with Occupy Boston, who were respectful, helpful and for the most part were keeping the Occupiers safe in the city streets. Its more a fear of the “machine”, you know? If Rahm Emmanuel gets annoyed and wants those streets cleared tomorrow, I think they will be cleared, no questions asked. And THAT is scary.
      Thank goodness for gardens to weed and bread to bake! I need to keep busy until Tuesday!

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  2. Wow, I can’t begin to imagine how you are feeling. But I can tell you that if my children grow up and decide to protest peacefully for the things they believe in, I would feel pretty darn proud. Although I am with you on the fear of those who hold the batons and it makes me sad that I feel I should.

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    • Thanks! I think that you have really understood my point; how very sad it is for honest, loyal citizens to actually fear the actions of their government.
      Having just taught my fifth graders a unit on the American Revolution, I can’t help but wonder how those famous “Founding Fathers” would be acting right now. I truly believe that most of them would be out on the streets of Chicago with my boys!
      I appreciate you coming by, and taking the time to comment!

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    • There have been some very powerful, positive moments for them with the police, too, and they are keeping in mind the fact that the officers don’t like these confrontations any more than they do! I just hope that the big old hand of government can keep things calm. But they are doing some positive, and they are right to ignore my fears and get out there.

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  3. My prayers for their safety go out to you, moms – But your passionate and involved children do what they must do. I applaud their lack of apathy!

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  4. Momsheib: Your boys will definitely be in my prayers, and that is no idle promise–I am a prayin’ woman. You should be very proud of them. As someone who protested the Viet Nam war and the lack of civil rights for my peeps, I have often been concerned that our chidren (offsprings of the Baby Boomers) were not engaged enough in what was happening via their government, to the poor and disenfranchised, women’s rights, and to their civil rights. One of the most exciting things about the Occupy movement is that it seemed to awaken a young generation and that is awesome. But one of the things that I’ve discovered as a mother is that if I want my kids to do courageous things on the Earth (stand up for what they believe), I have to let them go–I can’t protect them, and that is the hardest thing of all. As a mom, I share your terror, and I stand with you. All the best. ET

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  5. Thank- you, my friend! I think that when I sat to write last night, I was hoping to reach out and have my hand held by my blogging friends, and here you all are. I am so lucky to have these kids as mine; they respect my fears and they let me fuss a bit over them, but they never give in to my neurosis. They have been texting us all day with updates: they’ll be in the windy city in another hour or so!
    What an adventure for them. And truth to tell, my house has never been cleaner; fear makes me get moving!
    Special thanks for those prayers; God and I don’t chat as often as we probably should.

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  6. Firstly I wish your kids safety. I understand where you are coming from. Secondly I respect them greatly. Thirdly (and I should say at this point – in no particularly order) – way to go you for raising kids that care. I haven’t been there (yet!) but I both admire your kids and understand your concerns. This is not a fair world but I would has it a guess that (having read about their Mom) your kids have a bit of an edge. Sending all of you positive vibes from Scotland. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much, my blogging friend! I am learning that I have to truly “let go” and not just use the words “let go”. They are (so far) making very wise decisions, learning, meeting people and staying on the sane side of things! And, I might add, having the time of their lives!

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    • Thanks! They handled themselves well, and the whole situation proved that I need to trust them more. They were impressed with the restraint of the police, but disappointed in the needless provocation by some of the protestors. There were definitely those in the crowd whose sole purpose was to provoke. My sons stayed well away from them (thank you, boys!!!) Phew.

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