The voice from beneath the hot towel in the barber chair next to me was a deep, authoritative baritone. He was explaining Chicago to anyone in the shop who could hear him: “Look, when I left the police force 30 years ago, we didn’t need any cocky-mammy ‘safe route’ signs for our school kids. The goddamn punks were the ones who needed safety. From us!”
I figured another fat, white Chicago cop who used to break heads, and thinks that’s still the way to run a city. But when the towel came off, I saw a hefty black man in neat clothes and silky silver hair. I started to listen more closely.
“Look,” he said with the creds of someone who had been there, “courts and lawyers and bleeding heart liberals from the North Shore are perfectly fine in their place. But their place is not out there in the night streets where the real action takes place. You know, the gangs, the drugs, the pimps, the guns. You put one of those three-piece suiters out there, and they find Chicago is the jungle guys like me just barely keep from becoming worse!”
By now everyone in the shop was grunting various kinds of assent. The cop added: “You know what a Conservative is…? He’s he bleeding heart Liberal who just got mugged. That’s when he suddenly gets it. He gets the idea that bums like me are keeping hotshots like him from being eaten up by the jungle.”
“Let me put it this way. The rich three-piece-suiters from the Gold Coast and Winnetka are mostly fancy talk and shiny platitudes about the Constitution; until they find themself by mistake on a dark street just off the Eisenhower or the Dan Ryan. That, my friends, is when un-degreed slobs like me become their best friend. And the bad guys’ worst enemy. ”
I have several degrees and even a three-piece-suit. But when I looked around the shop of assenters, I realized I didn’t really have a handy rebuttal.
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