Values v. Property Values

25 May

You know that old saying, most often tossed at you by a red-faced uncle after one Coors Light too many during the Lion’s game at Thanksgiving: “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged”. Or the equally condescending: “If you aren’t a liberal when you’re under 35, you have no heart. If you aren’t a conservative when you’re over 35, you have no brain.”

While it’s extremely safe to say I won’t be a card carrying member of the Republican Party at any time in my life, as I continue to shuffle into adulthood, I can see the obvious opportunities where people would jump ship from their ideals. Becoming a recent Property Owner as helped me identify all sorts of potential values-landmines. I capitalize because I live in what everyone else would just call an apartment, but I get to call it a condo because it’s mortgaged. So shut up. Paying insane property taxes in a city that is used as a euphemism for political corruption in everyday conversation is a challenge to my quasi-socialist values system. But owning property in a gentrifying neighborhood is an even bigger gauntlet.

My Humble Abode

And we’ll just drop the coded language right here. I’m a young white person chipping away at Uptown, one of the last black and Latino neighborhoods left on the North Side of Chicago – the most segregated city in the country. I’m also right on the edges of some hotly contested gang territory and in possession of a City Council representative who is nothing short of shitty.

It’s easy to guess what all of this means: angry, indigent white people who own condos with baby Bjorns clutched protectively to their breasts. They’ve found a voice, a place to vent on (where else?) a blog called Uptown Update, a sometimes helpful source to find out about new local businesses, all-too-frequent crime updates, what movies are filming in town, how much our Alderman sucks, upcoming block parties…. and RAT INFESTATION.

Here’s where the rubber has to meet the road, where my values have to confront an issue that could affect the value of my investment and my ability to hold down my lunch. The Stone Soup Coop Leland House is less than a block away from me. They’re good neighbors and grind this really good organic coffee that they’ll deliver to you via single speed bikes. I just might go to a pot luck there one day. My dog likes the “prairie grass” they grow in their yard (or, as  more critical neighbors might observe “the overgrown lawn they’re too lazy to do anything about “). I think it’s a great bit of flavor and patchouli essence for the neighborhood.

Mt. Vermon

But on the other hand. They have (an alleged) rat problem under their porch. Now, I’ve seen my fair share of city rats but that does not mean I am brave enough to be secure in knowing exactly where multiple nests are on my block, an area I’m frequently walking around in flip flops. It just makes me want to hurl. Peace, love and dope – but no rats chewing on my toe-ring, please.

In reading the comments to these little missives, some have rational advice and are clearly concerned – and lull me into agreement that we have some work to do as concerned neighbors. Then, there’s shit like:

I understand being “Unemployed” like your profile states makes it difficult, though unfortunately not impossible to get a mortgage loan but the rest of us would like to save any value we have left in our investments. So if we happen to bitch occasionally about a Gang, Crackhead, Drunk, or even a furry little rat, cut us a little slack.

It all just rings flat to me in these moments. Comments like this smack of classism and privilege while not actually addressing the problem at hand. And while this little bit of bitching is nothing at all, compare it to the down-right vicious screes against a drunk homeless lady who is a threat to the poor children by sitting in an abandoned doorway. Just read some of the ones that talk about their kids. It’s hard to parse out which is more distasteful: watching a woman drink herself to death every night or read passionate arguments about forced institutionalization and stopping the sale of malt liquor for ‘obviously homeless’ people. I guess it’s only people who own their own homes and have kids that deserve civil liberties.

All of this is to say that I face temptation every day to pop on a tri cornered hat and yell at the homeless guys with 5 shopping carts worth of shit hanging around outside of the McDonald’s to GIT A JOB AND PAY TAXES LIKE THE REST OF US. But I don’t, because I think it’s just as much the privileged classes letting these people down and accepting the status quo so they can bitch about it under a clever nickname. Grow up, Rich People of Uptown. Until you do, I can smell the heady scent of a lentil feast waiting for me over at Stone Soup. I think I’ll just put on a HazMat suit first…

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