Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Living in the City

I love living in the city. I still, even after all these years, get such a gas out of the skyline, the bustle, the people, and extreme civic pride we have in Chicago. I might disparage American Exceptionalism, but I have no doubt that Chicago is, indeed, the Greatest City in the World.

But it ain't easy raising a kid in the city. And you miss some pretty great stuff. Laney won't know the singular, kidly joy of riding her bike to a friend's house, hanging out in the back yard, playing with her friends outside until it's dark on a summer night. It's not safe for her to do that here. And this makes me sad, because I have such fond memories from my own childhood of that.

But, she does have something I didn't have, and it is priceless and wonderful: Laney has immediate, every day experience rubbing elbows with people who aren't like her. She is surrounded by different races, different religions, different socioeconomic classes, different sexual orientation. I tell her all the time that the world is a big place and there's room for all kinds of different people, and my great hope is that by raising her in this little townhouse on the far north side of Chicago and by sending her to public school on the west side of Chicago, that she'll get that at a molecular level.

Lately, we seem to be very eager to define America with a series of Us vs. Them. We are Democrats, They are Republicans. We are Christians, They are Muslims. We are Good. They are Terrorists. We are "Real Americans." They are Dirty Fucking Hippies. I don't think I'm wrong about this; slowly America seems to be dividing itself up on a vast, Manichean fault line, and it scares me a little.

My hope for Laney's childhood is that she'll end up finding this Us and Themism alien and disgusting.

*Note - this isn't a city vs. suburbs polemic. There are plenty of places outside the city limits that offer the kind of rich diversity that we get in Chicago. But the buildings aren't as awesome.