Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hooray! A Chicagoan with a positive outlook on America!

I've just begun reading a brand new book, We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law by Alexander Tsesis. Professor Tsesis teaches at the law school at Loyola University--that's the Loyola in Chicago, not the one in Baltimore or New Orleans or California or Uranus, or anyplace else an institution called "Loyola" is found. In the acknowledgments, Tsesis mentions that he did much of his research at the Northwestern University Library, then warmly observes "I have been using that library since my first major writing project in eighth grade and have always found it a delightful place to spend my days" (p. ix). I was born and raised in Chicago; Tseisis goes me one better in that he lived there as a child and as an adult.

I'm not very far along in the volume, but the Professor writes something in the introduction (p. 5) that I find very true and inspiring:

"Slavery, lynching, Indian removal, Japanese internment, employment discrimination, and restrictive economic laws are among our failures to live up to the universal freedoms on which the nation is founded. The many racial, gender, ethnic, and nationalistic discriminations perpetrated pursuant to both laws and cultural norms have been miscarriages of justice, not indications of American values. They were not central to the U.S. mission but an abrogation of it. I take liberal equality to be not a national myth but a driving force of social and civil improvement. Without the ideal of liberal equality to strive for, the United States could not have advanced from the clutches of slavery, provided women with the right to vote, and punished segregation in public places." (Emphasis mine).

America has had an imperfect past but was founded on nearly perfect ideals. We've made mistakes--what country hasn't?--but we've also seen great social advances that every American should be proud of. If we hadn't, there would have been so successful civil rights movement for Tsesis to chronicle.

As a man who grew up in the Windy City, it's nice to read words like those quoted above written by someone from Chicago. Not everyone there is a preacher who tells his cheering congregation that God damned America and it deserved 9/11 for our collective sins. Not everyone in Chicago is a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who still thinks he did nothing wrong when he planted bombs in public buildings thirty-five years ago.

Some folks with Chicago addresses, like Tsesis, understand that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, America is the worst country on earth except for all the others. One can cheer at Wrigley Field and still be a patriot.

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