Here we are. NATO week. Our media has been in a collective frenzy about NATO and the commensurate mass protests and road closures. For over a month, NATO has been the story with underlying fear and trepidation.
I want to yell at the television: Hey! We’re Chicagoans, we got this!
Major cities close down when there is half inch of snow– we’re open for business the day after getting dumped with 30 inches– guys, we can handle a couple protesters.
Monday, John McCarron expressed these feelings on the Chicago Tribune’s Commentary page:
What are we? Kids?
It was a dare often posed by one of my favorite assistant city editors.
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I’ve been thinking lately about [that] challenger as Chicagoans continue to fuss and fret over hosting a big international conference later this week.
I mean, if this were New York City, this two-day NATO summit would be just another day at the office. As in: "That jerk Castro (or Arafat or Ahmadinejad, etc.) is at the UN again so we’d better stay clear of East River Drive and the Midtown Tunnel.
But no, here in the Third City, we’re acting like a bunch of bumpkins and nervous Nellies. Our media are doing breathless stories about bomb-resistant trash cans and tear gas proof riot gear...
Beginning Monday, the security presence in my office building was a little ridiculous. Triple security; only one entrance. The Daley Center, although not shuttered, is on a light schedule as judges were told not to schedule things this week.
Instead of the mass business closures, the only business we should close in the loop are Starbucks and other coffee shops, so protesters are unable to get caffeinated. That will slow these protesters down so our police force is better able to keep up.
We often talk about wanting to be considered a world-class city. Then when we have the opportunity to host the world, we have to pull our own teeth to take the straw out of our mouth. Instead of the collective trepidation our news outlets have provided, "protesters, oh my!, maybe some information about closures would be better.
For instance: if you work within one mile of McCormack Place, expect delays getting to work. Roosevelt Rd. will be closed between Lake Shore Drive and Michigan on Friday. Or tell us about parking restrictions. The hand wringing in the media has to stop.
Hopefully, the next week doesn’t turn into the 1968 Democratic Convention. We have to trust that our police force is adequately prepared for NATO protests. Chicagoans need to embrace the opportunity NATO provides. If we want to be considered a world-class city, then we should embrace the opportunity to shine on the world stage, rather than cringe. Are we the city of big shoulders? Or are we the city of wobbly knees?