Friday, May 18, 2012

We like NATO summit (or maybe it bothers us less than some want to think)

I’m not sure what to believe about this coming weekend and the potential for mayhem caused by all the activists holding protests in Chicago so they can feed off the international attention on the city caused by the presence of NATO at the McCormick Place come Sunday.

All of the rhetoric being spewed is reminiscent (to me, at least) of all those people back in 1999 who were convinced that the change of centuries to 2000 (going from ’99 to ’00) would cause major computer crashes and lead the world into chaos.

ARE WE FINALLY going to get chaos this weekend? Or is it going to be a whole lot of nothing?

And for the record, I do expect some protesters will get out of hand and be arrested. There probably will be a police officer or two who will over-react in use of force.

That, in and of itself, does not constitute chaos. It strikes me as a typical day in the life of Chicago.

That is where I stand on this matter. And after reading the results of a pair of polls published on Thursday, I’m starting to think that a majority of Chicagoans feel the same way. Which is a good thing!

I SENSE THAT if the real majority manages to keep a cool head, we will make it through this weekend without anything as image-creating as the protests that took place in Chicago for the ’68 Democratic Convention.

Those events, which everyone always uses to say we’re inherently an uncontrollable city, were probably more a matter of the times – along with the willingness of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley to give in to the negative sentiments and fear the worst.

Replacing State and Madison as the center of Chicago, at least for this weekend

Are we more enlightened these days? I hope so.

The polls in question were used by the Chicago Tribune and WFLD-TV (the Fox affiliate), which say respectively that 59 percent and 65 percent “approve” of the concept of the NATO Summit being held in our home city.

THE FOX POLL (done by We Ask America) went so far as to say 55 percent of people surveyed do not view the summit and its added security measures as an inconvenience, 60 percent think it will boost the economy and 56 percent think it is “worth it.”

The Tribune poll (also used by WGN-TV) gave us the statistic that 61 percent of people they surveyed think that protesters “should be protesting” the existence of NATO.

In all, Chicago isn’t panicking over the thought of all these people coming to our city. Which is good, because one of the benefits of a large urban area is that we’re supposed to be capable of handling large masses of people.

Maybe we’re capable of handling this responsibly. Maybe we won’t panic and turn this into an international fiasco.

IF ANYTHING IS catching my attention about this week’s protests, it might well be the mish-mash of protest activity. As I wrote earlier, everybody seems anxious to feed off the attention being paid to Chicago this week.

All the groups that have decided to publicly take up their cause have such diverse issues to talk about. I can’t help but wonder if they are going to blend into a mass of marching picketers.

Immigration. The environment. Economic issues. Women in Afghanistan. Those nurses who wanted to stage a little concert to go along with their picket in Daley Plaza.

Although I think my “favorite” events of this week are those “99 percent bus tours” meant to show people the REAL Chicago. Checking out Spanish-speaking enclaves in the Little Village and Back of the Yards neighborhoods.

GOING TO ENGLEWOOD on Friday, to see the part of the city that has one of the highest crime rates in Chicago, along with Brighton Park (which probably would be a good thing to see for people whose idea of Chicago doesn’t extend further south than Roosevelt Road and further west than Western Avenue).

But all of this is going to be forgotten come Monday, when all those foreign dignitaries will be making the mad dash for O’Hare International Airport (and city officials are advising people to stay off the Kennedy Expressway that afternoon to avoid the mid-day political rush that officials hope will be complete in time for the evening rush hour).

And with any luck, Chicago will have the feel of Grant Park on the day AFTER the Taste of Chicago – empty and barren, except for those people picking up the stray trash left by the spectators and no lasting scars.


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