John Fountain: Council’s ‘Chiraq’ debate is a waste of time

SHARE John Fountain: Council’s ‘Chiraq’ debate is a waste of time
SHARE John Fountain: Council’s ‘Chiraq’ debate is a waste of time

What a freakin’ waste of time.

I can’t think of a better way to describe the Chicago City Council’s plan on Monday to discuss whether to recommend that Spike Lee not receive a $3 million film production tax credit for naming his movie, filmed in Chicago this summer, “Chiraq.”

The proposal, sponsored by Ald. Will Burns (4th), seems to be more of a publicity stunt, and Spike Lee a red herring in Chicago’s real-life narrative of murder and violence. If I didn’t know any better, I might be hoodwinked and bamboozled by all this fuss over one word. But I do know better.

OPINION

So, to borrow a phrase from Spike Lee, let me simply say to Ald. Burns and the City Council: “Wake up!”

And let’s get down to the business of dealing with the real underlying issues that gave rise to the unwanted moniker that signifies that the shooting in some city neighborhoods makes them more resemble a war-torn Iraq. I mean, why quibble in some ultimately fruitless debate over the name of a movie when Chicagoans continue to be shot down in the streets?

Honestly, it all leaves me scratching my bald head. This debate over a single word. All this talk about economic loss more than talk about the numbers of lives lost; or the urban terrorism that renders far too many good citizens of Chicago as virtual prisoners inside their own homes-where, even there, they are never completely safe from a penetrating stray bullet.

Instead of worrying about the name of a freakin’ movie, why doesn’t the honorable City Council take up the matter of the inability of little girls in some poor black and brown neighborhoods to jump rope outside without risking being shot? Or the reality of Chicago Public Schools dazed children catching a stray bullet while walking home from school or playing in a park?

Why not hold hearings about the ceaseless sound of semiautomatic gunfire that some residents deal with — live with — almost daily?

Why not invite parents of murdered children to speak before the City Council in a series of public talks on ending violence and the socioeconomic circumstances that gave rise to the term Chiraq? Why not invite pastors and churches to begin to create a collective plan to help reclaim troubled neighborhoods and finally begin to give back more than they take?

Or how about taking up the idea of sponsoring community workshops on parenting and responsible fatherhood, helping to create more recreational and community centers, seeking more ways of building the relationship between police and residents, and ultimately restoring order in neighborhoods where chaos, gangs and gunfire have for far too long reigned?

I get it, I do. I think most folks understand that a name symbolizing murder and violence isn’t one that any world-class city would want to bear. But Spike Lee and his movie had nothing to do with that.

Words matter. I get that too. I’m a writer. But not acknowledging that a thing is a thing won’t make it go away. Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

“Chiraq” existed long before Lee arrived here to shoot his movie. And it will linger unless we muster the collective will to finally deal with the seismic issues that birthed it. I am not defending Spike Lee. I’m sure he can do that himself.

He’s gone now and his shooting of his movie has wrapped up. Still, the shooting here continues: the murder, the grief, this scourge on our fair city.

And yet, there’s still hope and still time for us to do the right thing.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

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