So I was having a conversation on Facebook. As most of my conversations on Facebook go, this one was political, and I had made what I considered to be a salient point: Liz Cheney and her ilk think that the public is easily manipulated, and so they launch attacks that only someone who is easily manipulated would fall prey to. And yet liberals are consistently labeled by their detractors as people who don’t have respect for the American public’s ability to make its own decisions.
And then I commented that liberals are quite possibly wrong in the opposite direction: we assume a greater rationality in the American public than actually exists. The very next comment, someone said, “So, Madison, the people are stupid and liberals are smart, is that it?”
This sort of thing gets me really angry, because what this commenter has done is substitute the words “smart” and “stupid” where the words I used were “rational” and “irrational.” These words have meaning: they are not simply interchangeable.
Yesterday, I had to drive into downtown Chicago for work. I was helping pack boxes. Thrilling, I know.
But as I drove into the city from Lakeshore Drive and began trying to find the parking garage I had been assigned, I got lost. Several times. There is a maze of tunnels north of Millenium Park, streets underneath streets…it turns into a multi-leveled maze beneath a swarm of hotels and hotspots and skyscrapers, and one minute you’ll be driving above ground and the next you’ll descend into a helter-skelter pattern of concrete-and-steel passages in the city’s underbelly. I was reminded of that show I had a passing fancy for, “Cities of the Underworld,” only that show was about ancient cities lying underneath modern ones; this is a modern city lying underneath a modern city.
I found my spot and did my work, and came back, and left. But as I walked from North Michigan Aveneue back to my parking space in a garage on East Illinois, a thought occurred to me. I could have been born in this city, and spent every hour of my life, from birth to death, simply walking the city. I could have walked underneath the L, ridden its trained, explored the underworks, descended to the sewers, and still have found only a fraction of this city. And it is a certainty that, once I grew old, I would find areas of that city I thought I had explored, and find them under construction, or condemned, or revitalized in ways I could never expect.
Last weekend, a fourth-year student in the College at the University of Chicago was being loud in the A-level of the Regenstein University Library.
A little bit about the A-level: it’s loud. Almost always. I have seen drunk people hollering there. I have been here less than a year, and already I have seen people put up tents in the A-level. That’s right. TENTS. WITH POLES. PLUS FABRIC. The A-level is basically an ongoing party, plus books.
So this library attendant tells some students to quiet down or she’ll call the cops. Doesn’t tell them she’s a library attendant, oh no. If was talking to friends in the A-level of the Regenstein and some random person told me to be quiet or she was calling the cops, I would introduce her to a great tradition in my favorite webcomic, the “fuck-you friday.” And so would most people.