Last Monday, four of Chicago's mayoral candidates met for a debate televised on WTTW. To be honest, I found the platform of CPS students asking the questions a bit risky. Could these candidates "be real" when surrounded and asked questions by a group of kids--many of whom will not be able to vote in the upcoming election? Not to mention, the last time " mere amateurs" were allowed to ask questions...a kangaroo court in some pretty questionable hats showed up with 3x5 index cards in hand...yep, the Emanuel residency grilling is of what I speak. That entire freakshow went real well, didn't it?
The kids asked some pretty good questions and there was a very nice discussion about the problems they face on a daily basis. Gangs, violence, school funding cut-backs to name just a few. Imagine my surprise by what followed the debate in the form of a press "Q & A" session. Hey, those four candidates were not only real, they were really, really real. Who knew they could relate so well with the kids currently attending CPS for the 2010/2011 school year?
Apparently three of Chicago's best hopes for becoming leader of this fine city were taunted as children by bullies. Nothing like a politician keeping it real to relate to potential voters...or, children of potential voters.
Bullies and bullying seem to be the latest "catch-phrases" associated with anyone raising, working with, dealing with or being a child. It seems as if the candidates have hopped aboard the gravy train--and one will be riding the rails all the way to the 5th Floor.
Nothing makes me giggle more than a politician pandering for a vote. It all seems realistic, though, when you think about it. The best way to gain someone's trust is to rise, or in some cases, lower yourself to their level. Not a chance in hell the "fantastic four" were going to ignore this opportunity. Although, in fairness, the press asked the question of the night. Something along the lines of...were you ever a victim of bullying?
Carol Moseley Braun was the victim at the hands of a bully who liked to pounce her because of her small stature. One day Braun had enough and, in her words, "went berserk" on the bully. Last time she had to run from that girl.
Rahm Emanuel was no stranger to bullies--even growing up on the tough streets of Wilmette. Emanuel told the assembled press, "The kids said some things on a racial basis, based on because we'd just gotten back from Israel, and took my bike away."
Not to be outdone, Del Valle stepped to the microphone and confirmed his experience with bullying came at the hands of kids in his new school that were not so excited a Latino student had taken a seat in the seventh grade. He revealed that he hid in a boiler room at the end of the school day, so he could slip out the back through the alley to get home safely.
Didn't we all get picked on as kids? It was part of growing up. Back in the seventies and eighties when I was young, our parents referred to it as a lesson in character building and learning to fight your own battles. Everyone had struggles with neighborhood kids--and we fixed them ourselves--much like Moseley Braun did. I'm sure Emanuel had a brother that "fixed" the bike problem. Del Valle, too, probably found a solution. One thing is for sure--the three of them seem to have weathered the storm. Each has the potential to run one of the largest cities in the nation. Certainly can't be wishy-washy with that daunting task at hand.
I do not want to discredit the CPS kids and their concerns regarding bullying. Gangs and violence are a serious issue. I can't even begin to imagine the fear of a child who is struggling with joining a gang or doing the right thing. A child facing a decison like that decision makes my heart break. I admire the CPS kids' courage in asking these candidates the tough questions. It saddens me to think no matter who becomes mayor, things at CPS are going to remain the same. The thugs will continue to run the streets and the hallways of the schools.
The candidates had a general consensus of how they would solve the problem. Easy-shmeasy...a zero-tolerance policy would be enforced. Okay. Would they include the elementary level under that blanket of no-tolerance? If so, I say good luck.
Parents of today are a different breed, at least that is what I find out here on the rough streets in the suburbs. Rules apply to every kid but their own. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes~you are a bully if you beat someone up, say something mean, hurt someone's feelings, or if you look at someone the wrong way.
Poor kids do not stand a chance. No one figures out their own problems anymore; why should they? Mom and Dad will go to bat for them. There is a blanket term "bully" for any kid that makes another kid mad, uncomfortable, or sad.
When we apply and use the term "bully" to each and every instance of our kid getting hurt, it numbs us to the serious problem. Just because you hurt someone's feelings does not make you a bully. Sure, getting your feelings hurt is rotten, but you can't put it under the same umbrella of a kid getting pistol-whipped on the way home from school.
One thing is for sure~the next mayor has to face this problem head on. The kids of CPS are counting on him/her. I am from the school of thought that it takes a bully to deal with a bully. Look at the four candidates on stage last Monday night--if I could vote in Chicago, I'd vote for the best bully for the job...come to think of it, Gery Chico didn't have a "for instance".