Is this a Quentin Tarantino movie?

The shooting of five African Americans at a South Side pancake house was the last straw for me, or so I thought. They were having Sunday brunch after church. OK, the Sunday ritual of going to church and then to a pancake house is not sacred, but it’s intensely normal, maybe even normative, as the sociologists would say. Screw that. They’re just lucky they weren’t shot inside a church. The intended victim, shot several times, was apparently holding a child. 

And the guns just keep pouring in to Chicago.

Then I found out that the baby-faced teenager from Illinois who ran merrily down the street in Kenosha shooting and killing was driven there by his mother. My neck contracted an inch or two. 

I turned the channel when I saw photos of people cavorting in the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the recent commemoration of MLK’s March on Washington. I was at that march in 1963, too far back to see much, wearing a skirted suit, low heels and pantyhose, terrified of being arrested and losing my teaching job. Since then I’d lived in D.C. for a total of seven years. I never saw anybody in the reflecting pool. When I took my granddaughter to the Lincoln Memorial at night a few years ago, it was crowded but hushed. It hurts.

About a month after the first “smash and grab” happened in the Loop, on Michigan Avenue and in the neighborhoods, I had to go downtown to Michigan Avenue for a doctor’s appointment. I took the el — against everyone else’s advice — but I wore a mask, and held a wipe in my hand, so that everything I touched was touched by the wipe.

I got off at my usual stop, State and Lake, and began my favorite walk, Wabash to Wacker as it curves around to Michigan, and north on Michigan over the bridge. Everything about that bridge says Chicago, and I love that bridge (though I recently discovered it has carvings of a native American being killed by a white man). 

I passed the Wrigley Building and from there to Chicago Avenue, as far as I went, most windows were still boarded up, a month after the first looting. Big, beautiful stores and tiny boutiques, still boarded up. I asked someone why and he said, “I guess they’re prepared for the next time.” 

I was sure there wouldn’t be a “next time.”

A month later I returned to the doctor. This time, following a second looting, the boarding-up was more permanent and many stores had permanently closed. The big stores had created vestibules of boards outside their regular entrances. They were painted and professionally decorated with logos. You would have to pass through them to get to the regular inside door, and a looter would have to take precious time from mayhem to tear them down before getting around to smashing the store windows.

This second looting was pure bullshit. Does anyone really think that a thousand-dollar handbag will make your life matter? If so, to whom? And why? There are people out there dying for you. Do you even know who John Lewis was? Do you know how hard we all worked to get Barack elected? Are you registered to vote? As my mother would say, “Get in town and buy a paper.” And while you’re at it, wear a mask.

We have gone through so much and learned so much. I keep telling my grandchildren they’re living through history: the huge demonstrations around Black Lives Matter, the coronavirus, the mind-numbing behavior of the worst president the country has ever had. We’re very tired. And wired. And tired of being wired. 

At least I am.

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Mary Kay O'Grady

Mary Kay O'Grady is a former high school English teacher and later owned her own public relations business, The O'Grady Group. She has lived in Oak Park for almost fifteen years. She is currently the chairperson...

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