I was born in the suburbs of Chicago to a Southside Irishman and a suburban Italian/Bohemian woman. They did everything in their power to make sure my brother and I didn’t have to want for anything. My dad, being the only child in the Gleason family, had a number of aunts who helped pay for any all necessities. They went so far as to set up investments so that Tony and I could go to college.* My mom’s family, living close to us, played the all-important support role. I can’t say which one was more important; however, I am eternally grateful for both sides of my family.
To be blunt: We were spoiled rotten and we knew it. We were not always the kids on the block with the newest or coolest thing, but we typically were in the first tier of “getting cool stuff.” In addition to the cool stuff, our parents were extremely active in our lives: School board; “classroom mom;” Football Coach; “the cool mom,” “the cool, but scary, Dad;” the Parent who always did the “bring your child to work day” or “Come to class day;” The french tutor. They were not overly enmeshed into our lives, however, they were always there and had a decent idea of what we were up to.** We were the very definition of privilege.
While we were spoiled, we also had high expectations. Tony and I were expected to get at least Bs in every class, to report in on a regular basis, stay active in our community and to complete our chores. The most important family rule could be summarized as “don’t be a dick.” We were given a lot and a lot was expected of us. We were expected to give back to our family and our community (attend family dinner, church/school outings, do community service and get a job). My parents, again to their credit, modeled and discussed this behavior all the time.*** Their Catholic faith was a part of it; however, they took their responsibilities as moral role-models seriously. They stressed the fact that family, faith and community were interrelated. They encouraged us to be responsible, conscientious and thoughtful people. Given that today Tony and I both work in social service and are relatively active in our communities, I think their message got through. Instead of a sense of entitlement, I believe we have a sense of responsibility and service.
It’s this sense of responsibility that has curdles my stomach. I live in a part of Chicago where the community is more of a clique than a neighborhood.**** I live in a part of the city where the people have a sense of Entitlement and privilege that makes me livid. My neighborhood is the destination for all the transplants, the people who think that this neighborhood is the end all be all of Chicago. These same people do not know near enough about their City; at most, they only know a few square blocks of the city. It is impossible to have the full scope of the city, its neighborhoods or its character, yet they declare that their experience is Chicago. I have to suggest that that attitude is utter bullshit.
I’ve lived north of Roosevelt Road the entire time I’ve lived in Chicago (that’s going on 10 years now), and I have seen this attitude first hand. Frankly, I am sick of this North Side Attitude. The sense of entitlement, privilege and superiority is exactly the reason why people think Cubs Fans are cobags. People who grew up on the Northside do not have this attitude. It is my fellow transplants who exemplify it. However, because so many people move to the Northside first, the neighborhood Northies get a bad rap. It is an unfortunate association created by chronic and constant cobaggery.
Which leads me to my example. This gentleman, whose work is featured in Real Chicago, writes about his “stories” in Chicago. I’m not sure if he is a Cubs fan, but he carries the attitude I am describing. On his blog, he documents his interactions with the, “[People] he could have been like,” “angry black youth” and degenerates that Chicago has to offer. I am sure that he at least tries to portray himself in a sympathetic light, which only further enhances his incomprehensible sense of entitlement and privilege. I offer this blog as evidence as to what is wrong with Chicago today.
Like him, I grew up with privilege. As I illustrated, I grew up with significant privilege. We also have another similiarity: I have also lived in or near the neighborhoods he describes. I’ve not had HALF the difficulties that he has. In fact, I can say with confidence that I have had less than 10% of the issues he has had in the city–and I’ve lived here longer and, probably, traveled, more through the city. There is something wrong with this formula; unless, of course, you consider that while I am pretentious bastard, I’m not a cobag.
Seriously, Mr. Grand, if you want to be taken seriously in this city–The City that Works–put your $800 bag and $3000 Mac Book down, stop judging your neighbors and get to work. Write your stories without degrading your subjects, and the Chicagoans can take you seriously. When you sip from your mocha, listen to your iPod and complain at the people who are “beneath” you, all you do is further a stereotype we’d all like to see disappear.
Footnotes after the bump.
*Proof that Public Defenders know nothing about money. Each time my parents reinvested said money, they lost a significant portion of it.
** Except for Tony. He got away with a lot more than I did. Then again, I was not subtle and had (still have) a tendency to argue over stupid things.
*** While my dad and I would watch Nightline together, we would discuss all sorts of things, including how to make the world a better place and why Republicans are typically stupid.
**** Some of my neighbors are nice, but, they don’t go out of their way for anyone else. Small talk is the maximum amount of conversation that occurs in our elevators–and this small talk stops immediately when someone new gets on the elevator. Hell, I’m guilty of it too. In Tony’s neighborhood, there are families that go out of their way for each other and treat each other like neighbors. It’s amazing to see.