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Thoughts on the Project thus Far
Fear and resentment that inhabits the corners of our lives
In my role, I have talked to many people around Evanston. More than I would've talked to in my everyday life. It's been crushing to see how we talk about each other. I see a world of good people bunkered down in their beliefs about "the other side." The space for tolerance and the middle ground feels like it is shrinking. The room for rhetoric, debate, and argument feels so tiny now. I'm not even sure I can inhabit it.
Let me be more specific; on one side, I feel the weight of resentment. People who want to do the "right thing" but feel pressured by leaders with opaque goals. They have yet to be sold on the vision, and when they push back, they feel like they're being told to "sit down and shut up." On the other side, I feel the weight of fear. Trump's election inflicted massive trauma on this town that will take decades to resolve. It feels like someone asking questions comes from a place of bad faith; bad-faith actors flood our national politics. It feels like a small step from criticizing officials to demanding book bans in the libraries.
I grew up in the Detroit area, where I felt this same tension tear the place apart. This resulted in the Detroit Public Schools bankruptcy, 25% graduation rates, and very real human suffering. The interplay of resentment and fear was taken advantage of by thieves, grifters, and future DoE Secretaries for their petty vendettas. The net result is a region with stark inequities unparalleled even in Chicagoland.
This project's original intent was to resolve the conflict I felt in the community; through transparency and accountability, we can discover truth. Truth can guide us.
I've been stymied at every turn with FOIA denials and lengthy appeals to the state. Yesterday, I had to file an appeal over the statutory definition of “cite” after the District invested legal resources to fight a relatively minor FOIA request. I love a good pedantic debate, but I'm not doing this to take money from our children's pockets and give it to Franczek (the District's attorney); that makes me no better than someone charging a lucrative consulting contract or suing the District over a political spat.
I need to figure out where to go from here. I do not want to contribute to the resentment or fear. Transparency and accountability are fundamental American values. Social media has warped our sense of values and truth; it is upsetting that the most "clickbait" headlines get more views. This place feels broken right now.
One of my favorite art forms is the genre I call "this place sucks." A great example is Henry Rollins' Poetry about glitz and despair in Los Angeles. It's a reminder that no place is perfect, and authenticity comes from a place of both love and hate. On that note, I leave you with a favorite from this genre on a cloudy, dreary January day ("One Great City!" by the Weakerthans).