Flag Flap, Anita Padilla, and "Gary"

Flag Flap, Anita Padilla, and "Gary"
Photo courtesy of vimeo.com #chiraq

So I had every intention of posting this blog on Thursday, as a Vlog (Video Blog) actually, but I’ve been having technical difficulties with uploading and posting the video from iMovie to Youtube, so I am just gonna go with the tried and true method and try my best to express my thoughts here in writing.


Anita Padilla, Fox 32 News

So on Thursday morning, I was driving to work. when I got a push notification from Facebook that Anita Padilla, Fox 32 News reporter, was starting here Facebook live feed.  She generally does a feed every morning on Facebook before she goes on to the official broadcast with whatever her story of the morning is.  Anita Padilla generally does a lot of stories on gun violence in Chicago, which is an area I also work in, so it makes sense that I check out her feed. She’s also super pretty, and I may or may not have a bit of a crush, but that’s neither here nor there.

So anyway, I go onto the feed, and she’s discussing the following:

So, if you’re familiar with St. Sabina Parish in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood of the city, you’re probably also familiar with Father Michael Pfleger, a very outspoken figure in the city on gun violence, which is very prevalent in the neighborhood surrounding his parish.  He also lost an adoptive son to gun violence some years back.

So recently he announced on Facebook that the church would be flying it’s American flags at half mast, which is a sign of mourning, in acknowledgement of the large number of lives being lost to gun violence in the city currently.  To put the problem in perspective for those who may be unaware, approximately 53 people were killed by gun violence in the month of January in the city (31 days), and 246 other people were wounded, bringing the grand total of people directly being victims of gun violence to 299,  That’s very significant.


So, a woman is driving by the church, and notices that the flags are flying at half staff, but a “Chiraq” flag is flying above the American flag.  The woman posts a picture of the flags, commenting that the act “so mad she could hardly see straight.”  Needless to say the picture went viral, and shortly thereafter came to Anita Padilla’s attention.

So Anita is discussing the topic on Facebook live, and people go into a frenzy.

Father Pfleger later says that the incident was a result of miscommunication between himself and the janitor and was not intentional.

In the middle of all this, Anita also goes on to mention that the Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin Urges Governor Bruce Rauner to declare a state of emergency in Chicago over the gun violence.   You can go to the link to get all the ends of out on that.

Also, if you go to Anita’s Facebook Page, and look under videos, you can see this Facebook live broadcast in its entirety, it’s entitled “Flag flap on Chicago’s Southside where a HUGE CHIRAQ flag was seen flying above an AMERICAN flag.”  or, Click that link!  🙂

So, first things first…the flag.

I get it, I understand that making people angry.  I’m a veteran.  I’m one of those people who “fought for that flag” that people always refer to. Does it make me angry?  No.  It’s a political statement…I get that as well.  Whether it was accidental or intentional, it was a statement that will continue to bring light and discussion to this issue of gun violence.  It pushes buttons.

Also, allow me to address the “Chiraq” thing.

I hated the term when it first came to my attention, from students in my class (at the time I was a CPS teacher). The more I’ve come to think about it, I realize that life is a matter of perspective.  For most Chicagoans, what’s going on in the streets right now is the closest they will ever get to war, and it is so far from what the norm “should” be, yeah, I understand that term emerging to make sense of what’s happening around so many of Chicago’s citizens…2995 people shot in one year, 443 of them fatally, 503 total homicies (2015 stats), yes, I get it.

And when you look at the numbers

  • 2001- Present Day: 2,349 American Deaths in Afghanistan
  • 2003-2011: 4,424 American Deaths in the Iraqi War
  • 2001-2015: 7,356 murders in Chicago

The numbers would suggest that Chicago is just as much a war zone as any of the “declared” wars that we’ve been taking part in.

So now, the Chiraq term doesn’t bother me.  I don’t embrace it, but when I hear the kids using it, I totally empathize and find understanding.

Gary, pictured on the left, with Anita

Gary, pictured on the left, with Anita

So, this is where I knew I was going to blog on this issue. Anita is talking, and she then asks a gentleman in the back, Gary, one of her cameramen, what he thinks of this issue. Let me go ahead and give you Gary’s words, and yes, you can go back and look at the video to be sure that I haven’t misquoted him in any way:

“I think it just shows a lack of respect for a lot of things. The people in that neighborhood who support him show a lack of respect for each other…they shoot each other, that’s a lack of respect of human life, a basic thing.  If Father Plfleger can’t tend to his flock and say quit killing each other, maybe he’s losing his effectiveness in his neighborhood, if they don’t listen to his calls…why is it everybody else’s fault that they’re killing each other in his neighborhood.  But this just continues, a total lack of respect of civility.  By the way they’re displaying the flag, it shows a lack of respect of the United States and the people who fought and died to preserve their right to speech and to express their feelings, but this is just ridiculsous.  It’s gone over the edge, but I think it’s just a total lack of respect, and if you don’t respect each other’s lives, why is this so outrages? You know, it seems something, I’m not surprised by something like that in that area.”

At this point, Anita pointed out “you’re getting a lot of positive responses here Gary” like Jodi Abraham. Hey Jodi!”

So allow me to throw a shout-out to Ms. Jodi Abraham as well:

Hey Jodi!

Hey Jodi!


So, first and foremost, whenever someone starts any statement with something akin to “Those people…” I’m already bracing myself for the worst…and Gary pretty much gave it to me.

He goes on to say:

“…people are shooting each other for the dumbest things in that neighborhood, it’s just silly, and it’s a lack of respect of life, lack of values, lack of morals, lack of everything…”

So you have to picture, I’m driving down the street, and I’m mildly irritated at this point, I’m actually voice texting live responses to this diatribe, one of which Anita actually quotes in the broadcast…but then, I went from zero to pissed…when he says:

“…it doesn’t happen…you could get into all kind of stuff…it doesn’t happen…you don’t see this out in Naperville! You don’t see it on the northside. Why is it expected on the southside like that, why is it ok, why do people support it on the southside, when there’s so many problems on the southside.”

Naperville?!?!?!  Really Gary???  You’re comparing the southside of Chicago to Naperville?

And that’s when I got hot. So the thing is this…his views,which are shared by a lot of people, just show an overabundance of ignorance, and I mean that literally.  If you can even in the same breath speak in the same breath about Naperville and Englewood, or Naperville and Auburn Gresham, Naperville and Grand Crossing…you’ve obviously don’t know what those neighborhoods are like, or you’ve never been to Naperville.  Naperville has resources, and money.

The morning of this broadcast, I spent an hour with a group of 7th graders in Englewood; I asked them in the midst of our discussion “Why don’t doctors and lawyers gang bang?”

The kids thought the question was silly…”because they have money, they have education, they have opportunities and options.”

That’s from the mouths of babes.

And I look around their school, and how it’s hemorrhaging people, and schools in Back of the Yards, that are hemorrhaging people, and elsewhere in the city…all of these schools survivors of a 50 school shut down, predominantly in these areas that are disproportionately affected by gun violence.  People like Gary, he’ll talk about those things he says these neighborhoods lack, but he won’t talk about the lack of adequate educational opportunities contributes to violence, how the lack of economic resources contribute to violence, the lack of jobs and economic stimulus contributes to violence.

Hey Gary! And Bruce Rauner


“Why can’t they go and get a job” Gary says. “I work 2 jobs sometimes, to pay my bill, to pay for my kids going to school and stuff.  I don’t see that there.  “We’re there everyday, and it’s scary the lack of motivation people have.  They get the free phones, they get the free…there not incentive to work….”

The reality is that there aren’t enough jobs in these neighborhoods he’s talking about.  These kids who live in these communities that have been neglected for generations…they don’t have the same opportunities that kids in Naperville has.  You can drive through any of them without getting out of your car to see that.

Gangs and violence here in Chicago are a by-product of a neglected people, living in neglected neighborhoods…and they’re still being neglected today.

So Gary, what I would say to you and all the people who think like you, is

Go Educate Yourself.

I’m not angry, I’m sad, and perhaps even feeling some pity for people like you, because you don’t know. My first thought is just to tell you to “stay in your lane”, but that doesn’t help, you or me, or the kids that I work with daily who live with gun shots at all times of the day, and losing friends and family at an increasing pace.

It helps no one for you to stick your head in your shell and trudge on back to your community, which is obviously nowhere near the communities you have so many opinions about, and continue to espouse your distorted views on what the people in the neglected areas of Chicago face.

Full disclosure:  I also live in a neighborhood that doesn’t have shootings every day.  It’s a privilege, a privilege that I don’t take for granted, and that I don’t lose sight of every day while working with people who don’t share that same privilege, either by choice or circumstance…but I’m never going to turn my back on my brothers and sisters who struggle, and I don’t mean brothers or sisters by color, I mean my fellow Chicagoans, or even better, my fellow man.

Educate yourselves about these communities, and about this city.  We live in one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States, and some would say THE most…and that is not simply by chance.  That has long been reinforced by government action, to separate the have’s and the have not’s, and that hasn’t stopped.  That still goes on in 2016, which is why you still see such dense areas of gun violence, in Austin, and Englewood, and Garfield Park.  But those are also the same places where the city spends the least amount of money, and the schools have the least resources, where the class sizes are the biggest, and the schools are less likely to have music, and art.  Show me a school in Englewood that has the wealth of resources that Jones College Prep has, or Francis W. Parker, where the CEO of CPS Forrest Claypool’s daughter goes.

Educate yourselves…and in that education, hopefully you will find a sense of compassion, and empathy…for these communities, and hopefully you can become a part of the solution, and not just a part of the problem.

Because, in reality, the 72 people who have been killed thus far in Chicago, the 72 people in 37 days…there’s no argument you could ever present to me, those people mean more than a “flag flap”, or what piece of nylon is flying above another piece of nylon.

Let’s get our priorities straight.


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