[Click above to embiggen: Chicago is kind of like this; it’s not really a war-zone…it’s a city carved into distinct Districts, some of which are war-zones.]
During last night’s First Presidential Debate of 2016, Donald Trump likened Chicago to a war-torn third world country. If you read Drudge Report with any regularity (and you should, as it’s the best and most honest source of news), I can see how you would view Chicago like it’s located somewhere in Libya and not Illinois. The truth, however, is stranger.
A friend of mine visited Chicago for the first time a few months ago and had several days where she wanted to do some sightseeing when her meetings and seminars finished. She asked me to show her around and while we were talking about what she would like to see, I realized that Chicago is not really one city but is instead something more like that fictional country Panem in those Hunger Games books/movies. I’ve never read the books (because dystopian bleakness doesn’t appeal to me…probably because I live on the bleeding edge of dystopian bleakness in Chicago already) but I saw almost all of the movies. I don’t quite understand why they were so popular, but for some reason they captivated Millennials…and since I don’t quite understand Millennials themselves, I guess dystopia is just their thing.
In the Hunger Games world of Panem (I keep wanting to write that as PanAm, the greatest airline ever), what used to be the United States is carved into 13 Districts, each with its own personality and purpose. I believe there’s also “The Capital,” which is its own glittering entity apart from the Districts, sitting like Mount Olympus to lord over all the rest. Some of the Districts are better than others, with people engaged in various respectable or desirable trades…while other Districts are essentially hellholes of brutal and unrelenting suffering. The Capital keeps all the Districts under control through totalitarian means employing fear, intimidation, and sanctioned violence.
Chicago’s totally the same thing!
Only, instead of Districts we have Wards and Neighborhoods. Each one is distinct and different. The Loop downtown is like The Capital. It’s where all the government buildings are, as well as all the best skyscrapers and most expensive condos. It’s where the City spends most of its money on gorgeous plants along the streets and upkeep of everything to pristine conditions for the tourists. The Loop is gorgeous and in my opinion is probably the best urban core on the planet. I am sure you have a postcard featuring some part of The Loop. Maybe even a poster hanging on your wall.
There are many lovely “Districts” that encircle The Loop, including places you’ve probably heard of like “The Gold Coast” and “Lincoln Park” and “Boystown” or “Wrigleyville.” All of these places are “safe” Districts. We could spend a whole day going through each of the Districts and debating on which ones are safe and which ones are war zones, but I think even the biggest quibbler would have to concede that there are indeed safe areas of Chicago and some dangerous ones. At the end of the day, everyone pretty much has to concede that Chicago has what amounts to No-Go areas. The debate would just be how many there are exactly, how to define each one, and which ones are the worst.
When you hear about murders in Chicago or read on Drudge about who was killed over the weekend here, you might see a mental image of the Sears (now Willis) Tower in your head or you might picture Wrigley Field or the Hancock Tower as your brain views the word “Chicago” on your screen…but the murders are not happening anywhere that you would ever recognize from movies or the tee-vee or picture postcards. The people being killed are not the people in the safe Districts or The Loop/Capital. All of the murders and the violence are happening only in certain areas…and those can easily be avoided by almost everyone who either lives or visits here.
There is a war zone on the West Side of Chicago, in a part of town that’s loosely called Humboldt Park. That’s where the Latin Kings gang is raising hell, warring with other Spanish-speaking gangs imported from the third world in recent years. If I had to pick the single worst level of hell that you should never set foot in, I’d have to give that nod to Humboldt Park. The rule of law doesn’t really exist over there and it feels like the police have just given up and have ceded the territory to the gangs. In a way, Chicago has always been like this, because back in the 1920s large swaths of the city were essentially ceded over to Al Capone’s gangs, or other minor gangs…so the names of the gangs that control various Districts in Chicago have changed but the City still runs the way it always has (where large parts of it are just turned over to lawlessness and violence).
The other big war zone is of course the South Side, which comprises the mostly black Wards/Neighborhoods/Districts. If you ride the Metra train out to the southwestern suburbs, you can look out the windows as the train rockets past miles and miles of derelict and abandoned old homes, burned-out buildings, neglected housing projects, and urban ruins. (For those that don’t know, the Metra train is kind of like an Amtrak train with big diesel engines and double-decker passenger cars that carries suburbanites to and from The Loop every day; it’s a different train system than the “L” trains. Metra riders are mostly well-to-do, while the “L” riders in the city are a poorer mix of more regular people.) So, if you depart from the LaSalle Street Station in the Loop on a Metra train, you will spend about 20 minutes racing past the ruins where all sorts of murders and violence happen every day…and then there’s this weird POP! that happens where suddenly you hit marshes and forests and then lovely suburbs appear.
I have lived here for over 10 years now and I still do not understand why that stretch of ruins has to exist or who benefits from that District being a No-Go Zone and No Man’s Land. I don’t understand why that area can’t be redeveloped and why it was just ceded over to murderous violence.
Maybe Chicago just needs a dumping ground like that, where it can push problems that no one can solve. We now have two such dumping grounds, one on the West Side and one on the South Side. They might serve as pressure valves for the rest of the city. It’s fascinating to wonder about this, but I don’t quite understand the dynamics in play. Clearly, this is all a result of Democrats running this city unchallenged for so long, the way that all urban decay in every major city is the result of failed Democrat policies.
I just don’t understand why all of that stimulus money back in 2009 couldn’t have been spent rebuilding the West Side and the South Side…the way that Dresden, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and other German cities were rebuilt after WWII. It boggles my mind that whole cities wiped out during actual wars can bounce back and rebuild but here in Chicago we have these Districts that are abandoned horror shows and no one seems able to do anything about that.
The answer must be that there’s some purpose for this and that the Powers That Be here WANT these parts of town to be where the murders happen. I have the feeling that the powerful and rich people in The Loop know that murders have to happen somewhere, so they’ve found a way to keep the murderers all in these certain areas, where they murder each other most of the time.
Here and there, terrible people from the war zones leave those Districts and head into other parts of the city to commit violence and rob/burglarize/terrorize…and then they retreat back to their war zone kingdoms. It’s all very tribal. Political correctness means that none of this is very accurately reported on, but in the ten years I’ve been in Boystown I’ve seen it get worse and worse. Gay men in Boystown are hunted late at night when the bars close, because predators from the West and South sides know they are easy prey when they are drunk and stumbling home after hookups or too much to drink. If you live in this town, you know what streets are safe to take at what time of day…and what areas you should never venture into for any reason ever.
When my friend was visiting, there were some historic places she’d heard of through the years that she wanted to see. I sat down with her and went over all of them, showed her where they were located, and then thought about which ones were safe to go to at the times that she had available to go sightseeing. There are certain Districts in our Chicagoan Pan-Em that you should never be in after dark…and other places that aren’t the best idea to be in after early morning. If you sit down and plan it out well, you could theoretically go anywhere in Chicago and make it back alive if you pick the right time of day and the day of the week to go on your adventure. But it would become something out of that Adventures in Babysitting movie if you would get sidetracked in any way, stay longer than it was safe to stay, or get lost somewhere. That movie exists for a reason. And though it’s a comedy, the parts of it where suburban people are terrified and fear for their lives while they are lost in the city ring true to this day.
There are a few museums around town that I like but I will only go to them in the winter, because I think winter is safest in certain dangerous Districts. The really violent people in Chicago don’t seem to like winter and hibernate or something, because the murders spike in the warmer months. If you really want to go to the Museum of Science & Industry or the DuSable Museum, for instance, go in January and February. Don’t go in August. Whatever you want to see will still be there in January when there’s a blizzard to give you safe cover and passage through some rough parts of town you’ll have to traverse to get over there. It’s just not worth the risk of going all the way over there from the safety of The Loop when it’s warm outside and super-predators are hunting.
That’s the reality of living here.
I don’t think that’s the reality of what’s presented on Drudge because the nuance of this District system is never communicated. It’s not that Chicago itself is dangerous…just that certain parts of it have been ceded over to murder and violence and the City for some reason is okay with that (or maybe needs those areas to be dangerous for some reason). It’s very much like living in one of those dystopian novels that Millennials love so much, only this is real life, every day here. You’re welcome to come visit any time you like…and if you do, let me know, and I’ll be happy to help you figure out where you can go and not be murdered on any given day.
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