Tuesday, February 19, 2013

63rd & Halsted

When I was in the Socialist Workers Party, back in the early 70s, we used to go on Saturday morning Militant sales to the neighborhood shopping center at 63rd & Halsted, the heart of the Englewood neighborhood. Some of you may remember Pearl Chertoff--she accompanied me on many of those outings. We did this year round, but I remember it being very cold and windy, as if it were always January.

Many 20-year-olds have done stupider things than sell Militants at 63rd & Halsted, but few have done anything sillier. Folks must've thought I just stepped out of a Monty Python skit. I cringe at the memory, and have not told my wife or children about it. I was a lousy newspaper salesman. I think in two hours I'd sell three or four papers at 25 cents each--hardly enough to cover gas or car fare, even in those days.

In my old age I'm a bit more tolerant of my former self. However silly the reason, and unlike my children, I at least have spent some time in a poor, Black neighborhood. I know more than they do about poor places. So in that spirit, let me tell you briefly about what happened to me in Englewood.

  • Nobody called me "honky," or any other nasty name.
  • Nobody called me a "dirty Commie," even though I was both.
  • Nobody robbed me, or tried to rob me.
  • Nobody hassled me or threatened me.
  • Nobody slashed my tires.
  • Nobody tried to sell me drugs.
  • Nobody joined the Stupid Socialist Workers Party.
In short, my time at 63rd and Halsted was boring. The people were invariably polite and friendly. I think the few who actually bought a paper did so more out of charity than anything else. For they were a big-hearted people with friendly smiles, who were much more generous toward me than I was toward them.

I drove by the corner a few years later--must have been mid-80s--and found that all the stores were abandoned and boarded up. I haven't been back since, but I doubt it's gotten better. Englewood has earned a new status as the murder capital of America. This is really sad.

What brings this to mind is the Paul McKinley for Congress campaign. In his intro video, Mr. McKinley says "I believe in prosperity." Well, I can just hear his critics scoff. Doesn't everybody believe in prosperity? they ask. How trite can you get.

No, everybody does not believe in prosperity. In fact, among the political class ("The Machine" in Mr. McKinley's Chicago-style formulation) few people believe in prosperity.
  • Those numskulls who fought for a 9% sales tax certainly don't believe in prosperity. No wonder all those stores closed.
  • The folks who think schools exist for the benefit of their patronage employees instead of for children don't believe in prosperity.
  • The people who spent 30 years fighting Walmart definitely don't believe in prosperity. I hear Walmart finally opened up at 87th & the Dan Ryan. I certainly hope that's true. They certainly got no help from the patronage-driven, anti-prosperity crowd.
  • The Sinaloa drug gangs, who decided they'd rather fight it out in the streets of Chicago than in Juarez. Where ever they fight, they don't believe in prosperity.
  • Mayor Emanuel, who at very least is too much of a coward to take on the gangster/patronage interests who don't believe in prosperity. I guess they don't call him "The Godfather" for nothing.
So Mr. McKinley is unique among Chicago pols, which is why this webpage endorses him enthusiastically. Still, Mr. McKinley, you need to show us you believe in prosperity. I'll give you a couple of years after you take office, but then I'm going back to 63rd & Halsted, and I'm bringing my family with me. This is what I want to find:
  •  A grocery store.
  • A discount store, like the Dollar General that's in my neighborhood.
  • A good place for lunch. And if they serve good fried chicken I'll be back in Englewood every chance I get.
  • A local gift shop. For my immigrant wife, and even for my kids, a neighborhood like Englewood will be exotic. My wife will want to buy some souvenirs and local handcrafts, talk to some locals, and learn something.
  • Kids on the street. I don't mean gangster kids. I mean little kids playing, or walking home from school.
  • A cop on the corner.
  • If you really want to put on the Ritz for us, put in a store like TJMaxx or something. There used to be a Goldblatt's there, so this isn't really impossible.
As I say, I'm bringing my wife and kids. I'm a big tipper, and my wife loves to shop. We'll spend money. But here's one better. The primary election is Tuesday a week from today. If you contribute to the McKinley for Congress campaign right now, then lunch is on me. Just take the Englewood train to the end of the line and I'll meet you at the station.

We believe in prosperity.

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