Just Thinking About Rahm
Just thinking lately about Rahm. The guy has been on my mind. I’ve been thinking about our few chance meetings over the years, as well as him being the mayor and the ultimate public education decision maker for the city of Chicago.
As a mayoral candidate Rahm was frequently found pressing the flesh on L platforms. I had friends who witnessed this as they waited for the train and said it was rock star like in nature, folks just screaming out his name and wanting to shake his hand. I happened to be at the Irish American Heritage Center on the St. Patrick’s Day prior to the election. Rahm showed up at the venue and I am not exaggerating when I say it was biblical in nature. The crowd surged towards him to touch the hem of his garment. He was brought towards the infirmed who could not stand so that they may know his presence. The manager of the venue was shoulder to shoulder with me in the crushing crowd. He looked down at my kids and said “What’s wrong with you? Push those kids up so they can see Him”. Apparently I had missed the “suffer the children unto me” cue. The crowd was so thick I couldn’t see the floor, but I suspect palm branches had been laid in advance. All the while the guys in the band were playing, plugged in, and I couldn’t hear a note. It may as well have been the Beatles at Shea Stadium, except in this case, the noise was a crowd of Chicagoans cheering for Rahm, absolutely beside themselves that he had chosen this place to grace with his presence. Rahm circled the room once, bathed in a light clipped on to a television camera. He was the only person in the room lit from above. He gave the double thumbs up to all and left the building.
As a mayoral candidate, Rahm did not show up to the Raise Your Hand forum on education. I have not forgotten that. It was fore shadowing, not too subtle either. There was talk about conflict of scheduling, but that wasn’t the truth. Rahm was so far in the lead, he didn’t need to court voters and his presence at that forum wasn’t needed for his campaign. The other candidates spoke about their views and ideas for Chicago Public Schools. They fielded questions from both parents and students. This was not Rahm’s idea of connecting with the people he intended to serve. He was more the “you can shake my hand” type of leader to be, seemingly more comfortable surrounded by an adoring crowd versus having a conversation with the “I’m losing sleep over the quality of my kid’s education” type of parents.
As a mayoral candidate Rahm did indeed agree to finally meet with a few members of Raise Your Hand in his offices. I sat right next to him. I wrote a piece about that meeting. http://ilraiseyourhand.org/content/well-i-met-rahm At the time, I honestly felt fortunate that he took the time to meet with members of Raise Your Hand, and that I was a part of that meeting. Had I known how rare those few moments really were, our Mayor meeting with parents to discuss education, I would have taken a picture. Of course he wasn't the mayor yet. So, as brief as it was, it was more about voter courting, than it was about having a dialogue with CPS parents. The conversation was so quick, that I didn't even feel like I being courted. If that was his voter foreplay, he needs to work on his technique, or maybe I just wasn’t his type.
Actually, Rahm and I had a brief encounter years earlier, way before he ran for mayor. I don’t usually shake and tell but it’s been years so I think we’ve both moved past it. I met Rahm at a Jewel when he was running for state representative. No crowds or fanfare back then. He was set up at a table near the donuts and cupcakes, just himself sans capitol H, and a solitary assistant. Back then I had two little kids and my husband and I were paying huge amounts for our health insurance premiums. I was years away from being a CPS parent. At that time I was worried about affordable health care. Rahm could not have been more attentive and seemingly concerned about my plight. With no other shoppers even bothering to see who he was, he and I carried on a decent conversation about health insurance and the economy, jobs, unions, how hard it was to save up enough money for a down payment on a house, parenting and a bunch of other topics I have since forgotten. He was completely engaging and I was enjoying our conversation, but my kids were getting restless. I was the one who actually had to break off the conversation. I had no idea who he was prior to the Jewel visit, but I will admit, at that time, at that place, he and I had really great….dialogue. It was quicker than I would have preferred and in a public place, but you now how it is when you have kids. You take what you can get.
Which brings us to present day Rahm, mayor of Chicago. I can understand that if you were elected into a position by a huge landslide, that you might think that everyone would just accept your policies without question. I can understand how adoring crowds can do a number on your ego and create a sense of unconditional support. I can understand that if you have political ambitions, you need to amass a list of "look what I did" type of accomplishments. You want to show off just how much you can achieve to a potentially larger, hopefully adoring, crowd. I even understand that as a political leader, you cannot possibly meet with everyone who wants your time. However, if you say you want to involve parents, to have them be a part of educational success, you might want to have a conversation with them. I actually do understand quite a bit of what our mayor must be going through, and with that understanding comes this understanding; I have taken more time to put myself in Rahm's shoes, imagining what is like to be mayor, than he has tried to imagine what it is like to be me, a CPS parent. How backward is that? By all accounts, it would appear that the burden of understanding is resting on my shoulders, that I am supposed to be kind and empathatic and realize that being the mayor is a really, really, hard job and I should just leave this poor man alone. Which, I might have done at some point in my life, but not now. Now I’ve got kids in the Chicago Public School System and that is the part that Rahm doesn’t seem to really understand at all. Once you start screwing around with kids, parents tend to get a little more involved, become a little less understanding of politicians and a little more demanding with regards to policies. I have tried to understand what as mayor, he is doing with education in this town and yet he has not returned the favor, understanding the perspective and concerns of me a CPS parent. What's more, I am not the "leader" around here. He is.
There is a small, subtle scene in the movie Braveheart which shows just what kind of ruler Edward Longshanks is, and that his daughter-in-law Princess Isabelle can see right through him. Longshanks has sent Isabelle with money as his calling card out into the land to meet the rebel William Wallace who has been fighting against the tyranny of Longshanks rule. After meeting Wallace, she returns to Longshanks to report her opinion of him. She is asked if she brought back the money. Isabelle looks at the King and says “No. I gave it to ease the suffering of the children of this war”. Longshanks scoffs and says, “That’s what comes of sending a woman”. To which Isabelle evenly replies “Forgive me your lord, but I thought this would show generosity to the people you intend to rule”. I think Rahm could learn a thing or two watching that scene. He could do with an increase of generosity himself. Generosity of time, of respect, of understanding for the people he has under his rule. Oh yeah, and some money would indeed ease the suffering of the children in public schools.