Finding A Safe Route Through City Streets For Our School Kids

Come September a lot of city schools will be shut. Compelling little kids to find their way through big streets to their new schools. The kids are confused…the parents are afraid…and the Mayor is digging in for what he knew would be a bloody fight.

Enter the good-ol-boys at the corner saloon recalling safer days “when no gang punks were out there to mess with us!”

Also enter today’s New York Times editorial page column ‘Beware Social Nostagia.’ The writer appropriately reminds the good-ol-boys that the good-ol-days were not always that good. Or kind. Or fair. As she points out, those of us who had it good back then don’t remember all those people who had it bad — blacks, stay-at-home-moms, the misunderstood handicapped & challenged.

Here’s my take.

I lived through the good-ol-days of the 1940s and 1950s, and I remember both sides of this social equation. I fiercely recall the sense of safety and security and community back then…and yet I can’t deny the downside this critic points out. How then to reconcile my cherished rose-colored-glasses with the seamier scenes that inconveniently refuse to disappear in the light of facts?

I can’t offer any profound social explanation for the Why’s some of us back then had a better and safer life than others. That involves a constellation of racial and demographic factors beyond my poor understanding. But I can offer a simple How. How did cities like Chicago maintain better and safer streets for us when we were going to school.

More cops on the streets! More patrol cars in the gang neighborhoods! More law officers than defense attorneys in the courts! More freedom [call it by its uglier but more honest name: license] to break heads. I’m not saying that was the finest use of the law and the Constitution; but, like the boys in the saloon, I’m saying it was safest way for us to get to school.

Mr. Mayor, you also know both sides to this equation. I desperately wish you well in making them fit.

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