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Poems On / About CHICAGO  11/28/2015 10:37:45 AM
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An Opinion On Events At The University Of Missouri

I was born, reared, educated and worked as an editor in Chicago for many years. I now live in St. Louis, Missouri, where work brought me long ago. In retirement, I stay busy writing a little of this and a little of that.

But I am distracted now but not surprised by the racial discord at the University of Missouri, a year or so after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. I find racism in St. Louis much different than I remember its counterpart in Chicago. But I am white and still a Chicagoan, albeit an expatriate, and perhaps that skews my thoughts. I like the people of Missouri but I’m not one of them. I lived too long in Chicago that almost as many years in Missouri cannot counteract.

I find that unlike in the Chicago I recall, where racism was often loud and abrasive, racism in St. Louis has until recently seemed largely silent.

But as an outsider I find racism in St. Louis is part of many white folks’ emotional DNA while perhaps it is not in Chicago, at least to the same degree. I can’t speak, of course, for blacks in either state except to note the obvious. Until recently blacks in Chicago addressed issues more forcefully than in St. Louis. And then came the killing of Michael Brown.

Missouri was and is still considered by some to be a Southern state. Not so Illinois. Nevertheless, I have found that many whites in Chicago and in St. Louis respond to blacks negatively but for different reasons.

In Chicago, blacks moving into a white neighborhood meant property values would drop, a happening anathema to white property owners and to be avoided if at all possible. Blacks were also considered to be bearers of crime, doubtless due in part to the poverty they lived with then and many still live with now. To what degree the lack of opportunity caused by racism in whites is a contributing factor is difficult to calculate but impossible to deny.

In Chicago, I found that not many whites, myself included, knew any blacks well. As a teen I almost got to know one black man while I was working at a summer job in a soft drink factory. He was an older man who worked the day his son was executed by the state later in the night. He never said a word during his shift. A white supervisor told me about the impending execution the way a good reporter might, sans any emotion.

The black worker looked no different that day doing his repetitive job than he did any other day, putting empty soda bottles into holes in a conveyor belt so they could be washed and sterilized. Except for two breaks and lunch, he could not stop inserting the bottles. If he stopped, the conveyor belt would stop. He used both hands to stuff the bottles in the holes as the machine clanged on, the conveyor belt rising and disappearing into the steam of the soapy boiling water. It was like watching a dwarf stand in front of Niagara Falls running in reverse.

In my time in Missouri, I have lived in St. Louis and in a rural part of the state. I have found whites and blacks may know each other better in St. Louis than in Chicago even if they do not like each other any better.

In the past, rural whites and blacks in Missouri lived in fairly close proximity as blacks often worked for whites on their farms. Perhaps from their rural ancestors, urban blacks and whites in St. Louis bring with them attitudes and opinions about each other that have not been driven off despite the different kind of life many of them now lead in an urban area.

After three decades in Missouri, following four in Chicago, I am still surprised that blacks have not rioted in St. Louis long before now, not that whites in St. Louis have given them greater cause to do so than whites may have done in the Chicago I knew.

But the lethal silence of racism in Missouri that I sense must have aggravated and now continues to aggravate problems over three or four generations. As a social illness, I find this silent racism not unlike AIDS in that until it begins to show, one doesn’t know if someone else, white or black, is a carrier.

When I first emigrated from Chicago, I told my wife, a University of Missouri Journalism School grad with four books in print, that I thought St. Louis was another Watts in gestation, that some day the lid would blow, and the destruction, seen and unseen, would be incalculable. It hasn’t blown yet but there are days I think I hear the water boiling.

The day Michael Brown died was one of those days. The day the president of the University of Missouri resigned in the face of black protests was another. I have to wonder if there isn’t among blacks protesting at the University of Missouri some subliminal connection to what happened in Ferguson. I also have to wonder if the roar of the black students now isn’t louder as a result of what happened in Ferguson. Is it all part of the new continuum called Black Lives Matter?

Despite local, national and international coverage that might lead some to a different opinion, Michael Brown was no angel nor was Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot him. One was a young black man and the other a young white cop raised in the simmering silent racism that I, as an outsider, believe is pandemic in St. Louis and parts of rural Missouri.

I realize that many natives of the state will resent and dissent from this opinion. I disagree with them but understand they have a different emotional DNA than I do. I’m not saying mine is better. It’s just different. Growing up in Chicago I learned to yell in the face of any kind of oppression, real or imagined. Black folks there did so as well. Not so in St. Louis, until recently.

I don’t believe racism over time will evaporate in Chicago, St. Louis or other parts of the United States. The Pulitzer-prize-winning black poet Gwendolyn Brooks, back in Chicago in the Fifties, wrote something to the effect that racism in America will disappear when we are all 'tea-colored.'

From my experience over many years in both cities, I see no reason at the moment to disagree with Gwendolyn Brooks. But as do others on both sides, I have hope. Hope is the advent of progress. We need more hope fueling our actions and less gnashing of teeth.
Donal Mahoney

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Going Down

Last night Chicago had a snostorm and all the flights were cancel
But this morning in Chicago the snowstorm ended and by noon
All the flights were back to normal
And now one airplane is coming down and is going to land in the Chicago Airport and all the tourists will have their vacations in Chicago The windy City
Aldo Kraas

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Chicago why do you have to change?
chicago acting so plan
chicago your better than what the people
say your the first thing that comes to mind
chicago is a place being with all kinds
of faces learning about new cases to in
brace the mistakes that people make like acting
fake why chicago?
everette johnson

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Flight 1122

by Curtis Johnson

Departing Sacramento, Ca. just past 7: 00 AMPT on a nice Saturday morning, we headed for Chicago.
All is going well as we take off, as the pilot soon announces that we will ascend up to 39,000 feet.

I am now watching the clouds roll back as they seem to hover and move slowly across the hills, valleys, mountains, lakes, and prairies. We continue to climb so very high above the clouds, and above us is only sky.

A bit later now, I am beginning to see mountain tops capped with snow in early July, and I also see patches of green for just a little while. I feel just a slight bit of turbulence, and again I see nothing more purer white or nothing more prettier blue.

It has just now occurred to me that when I touch ground, I shall be more mindful of the clouds and sky of white and blue. I shall remember that we are but tiny creatures carrying on our earthly lives that are sometimes filled with colors of many sorts. The colors of our lives like storms often turn gray, dim, and dark. Furthermore, I am reminded to let peace fill my heart, and speak to me in colors of blue and white, whenever I am troubled and tossed by some earthly concern.

As flight 1122 starts to make its approach towards Chicago, I am seeing white clouds as if they have been purposely distributed in a line of patterned patches. They seem to be just hovering there and waiting for further orders from their maker. A few minutes later now, and I see man made patterns on the grounds below.

As we move closer to Chicago, the pilot is announcing his further descent to 22000 feet and continues to descend. As seat belts are now being buckled, I see landscaped patterns of farm crops appearing as we descend and move closer to the city of Chicago.

Now, just 90 miles from Chicago at 12: 36 PMCT, I see the beauty below displaying life’s pictures of greenery, highways, roadways, and waterways. I also see large patches of clouds floating swiftly, and in just a few minutes we will be touching down.

As we get closer to Chicago in our final approach, I notice that the beautiful white clouds are giving way to the toasty haze through which I can dimly see the Chicago skyline. Just moments ago, I took one last look at the Sears Towers as we slowly descended and touched down at 12: 55 PMCT.

Let it be known, and let it be written, that on July 5,2008, on Southwestern Flight 1122, I saw peaceful clouds of white held sweetly in the clear skies of blue.
Curtisj Johnson

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