I married into a family that owned liquor stores, worked in them while dating my wife, and observed first hand how angry words and an inability to be conciliatory broke apart a successful family business. By the time my wife and I married, my father-in-law and his brother were deeply suspicious of each other. The older brother that could bring together disparate opinions and jealousies of his pugnacious younger brothers perished in a plane crash years before. Absent his presence, the dueling brothers saw no common ground. The antipathy grew, despite the obvious negative impact it had on the business. In due time, the business collapsed, the bank took over the name of the chain, which exists today without any family involvement in them (indeed, one store stands near my home, and drive by it with my wife’s maiden name on it every day with,as you can imagine, ironicfeelings). Such irony was italicized years later when, at my father-in-law’s wake, his brother arrives to weep over the casket. And the emotions of those around were perhaps the same: Now? Now you come to seek conciliation?
The memory came to me while reading reports of a different tone taken in the board meetings on proposed school closings in which a tone of conciliation was noted. Can we not work together to form a better solution than the one proffered, it intimates.
Can we not work together? Now—a thought from my past echoed? Now, after posture and ridicule and outrageous charge and point accumulation on both sides of this polemic have been raised, shouted, finger-pointed and simpered, this emotion surfaces? When hectoring and speech-impediment deriding and four-letter ranting have punctuated discussion; when the push-me/pull-you of this past year has left a list of bruised I’ll-never-forget-that moments, can sides truly come together?
Perhaps, finally, the true impact has surfaced. Schools will be closed and students will be in schools new to them. Not new schools, but schools where the path seems funny and the rooms smell different and the faces of peer and adult that greet and interact with them will differ. Everyone will have a stake in how successful or challenging the transition will be. If these closings cannot be forestalled, can these sides come together, finally, on behalf of Chicago’s children?