The Panic in Rogers Park | Letters | Chicago Reader

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The Panic in Rogers Park

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To the editors:

In recent weeks we've seen an exchange of letters regarding the crisis in Rogers Park. As I write, my thoughts are drowned by the sounds of my "new" neighbors' cacophony. Young men menacing each other morning to midnight to a monotonous racket of rap and random outbursts of dementia, shrieking young females, wailing infants, and whooping gangs of kids swing from trees, tear up and down out of control. This neighborhood's sidewalks, alleys, and halls reek of urine, shine with broken glass, vomit, and sometimes even blood. I see my "old" neighbors desperately attempt to deal with an assault on the senses and on sense itself.

Benson misses the point when she points to society's responsibility for this community's problems [Letters, August 20]. This society uses its problems as an excuse for inaction or, worse, as an explanation for its mistakes. Specifically, many of the problems mentioned stem from an attempt to rehab the area northeast of the Howard Street Station known as "the jungle," which by the 70s had deteriorated into a nest of criminals and underclasses. Much money was raised, plans made, groups organized and with best intentions and with the greatest optimism Rogers Park looked to the future. At the last moment opportunists seized on the plight of those dregs of the justice and welfare systems and forced an eradication program into a disastrous relocation effort. The foisting of these elements throughout east Rogers Park ripped years of efforts and doomed the community to years of unnecessary strife and conflict. Accelerated flight, ripe grounds for speculation and plummeting property values are the direct result of that effort. There would seem to be more For Sale signs than No Parking signs today and few buyers.

As a native Chicagoan I have never experienced such pessimism; I keep thinking that in not demanding responsible behavior we have created generations of two-dimensional stereotypes outside of society's values and control.

Finally, this whole question must not be confused with or clouded by mere reference to race or class. Rogers Park has been a stable multicultural community for generations and has integrated and nourished generations of "new" neighbors before this. Really we are talking about behavior which threatens the very fabric of our community and society as a whole. To excuse negative acts in the light of community standards as prejudice against minorities or the poor is to condemn them to lesser possibilities, expectations, and responsibility: to deny that to be fully human, in the best sense, is for everyone. After all, it is more the biological fluke of an opposable thumb or single-ligament tongue that makes us more than lesser orders; it is manners and morals in the context of evolving shared community values of charity and tolerance that raise our society.

Far beyond Rogers Park, human society faces this same specter, like the media which nourishes it, generations of zombies stagger toward us, robbed of the values, aspirations, and talents of its forebears; it dabs its graffiti, chanting its simplistic mantra of angst and senseless rage, to defile its own nest with its spoor of hate and ignorance. If we are to survive we must be honest; to face the true scope of the problem and its threat to our future. Yugoslavia and Somalia may not be farther than our doorstep; ask James Jordan.

Ian Stone

Chicago

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