Ranchers in Wyoming are big on independence. In their home on the range — where the deer and the antelope play, where you can’t even see your neighbor’s house from your own front porch, where rugged individualism is prized, where they need land owned by the government on which to graze their cattle, where most everyone is white except for the original residents who have been moved out of sight and out of mind — it’s easy to understand their belief that big government is the problem.
But anyone who trumpets independence in Forest Park five days from now is either joking or seriously out of touch with reality.
The salient word in our town is “interdependence.” Some of the interdependence hurts us, at least for the time being. Proviso District 209 is the example that immediately comes to mind. Blessings on Ned, Claudia and D209 Together for making responsible attempts to make our inclusion in Proviso Township education an asset rather than a limitation.
I myself have had fantasies of going it alone and building our own little high school on the Roos property, but when I’ve floated the idea past Dr. Cavallo, he quickly and gently burst my bubble with a lot of statistics and laws, which clarified that my rugged individualism in this area is an illusion. Like it or not, interdependence in education is the only way we can go.
Most often, it is a desirable thing in our urban/suburban, multicultural setting. Just imagine what would happen if village sovereignty were an inflexible rule regarding policing. Our law enforcement officers could be chasing a guy caught in the act of burglary and they’d have to slam on the breaks at Harlem or Lathrop or the railroad tracks because they would no longer have jurisdiction.
Our fire department has cooperative agreements with surrounding villages. We were able to redo Madison Street west of Lathrop, because our officials and their counterparts in River Forest understood that it was to the benefit of both municipalities to give up a little control over decision-making for the good of both communities. “My way or the highway” usually doesn’t work around here.
British citizens just voted to leave the European Union because they have lost some control over what happens to their country. Of course. Do you think you can get married, and still live like you are single? I guess they’re about to find out what it’s like to get a divorce.
We fought a Civil War partly over the issue of interdependence. Can we continue living in the same country with a divided understanding of who is human and who is not? Right now, on a macro scale, we are facing the question of how we can live interdependently as a global community, which brings up a whole raft of issues — ecological sustainability, trade, national sovereignty, human rights, etc.
On a micro level, it’s the same with Forest Park. How do we live interdependently as a community? Take the issue of video gaming. Business owners — most of whom are not residents of Forest Park, by the way — argue that they need gaming to remain competitive with other villages who allow it. Many residents — all of whom benefit from the taxes businesses pay to the village, by the way — contend that gaming will erode the quality of life in town.
Somehow we have to shift the conversation from “what’s best for me” to “what’s best for us,” and come up with an approach which respects the reality that residents, village government and the business community are all interdependently knit together in one fabric. For one thread to try to go it alone is to eventually unravel the whole cloth.
That’s one reason I’m so proud of Forest Park. Lately we’ve had several events which have attempted to weave multicolored threads into a fabric that at one time had “made in Germany” printed on its label. We enjoyed German Fest, which rightly gave us all a chance to celebrate gemutlicheit, a wonderful part of German culture.
We also had the Juneteenth celebration at the pool, which many white folks attended partly because they were friends of Rory Hoskins but also because they like the effect that black threads have made in the fabric of Forest Park. We also had a group of private individuals ask Imad Tarhoni to lead an iftar — the meal that breaks the fast at sundown during the month of Ramadan — in one of their homes.
As Mark and Cindy Waldron said to me recently, “It’s not about tolerating people who are different than I am. It’s about embracing the differences.” Personally, when I see women around town who are wearing the Muslim head scarf, I feel like they add one more attractive thread to the multicolored, multicultural fabric of our village.
There is nothing wrong with a 2-year-old saying, “I can do it myself without your help, Grandpa” in an attempt to achieve the independence necessary for healthy development. It’s important for adolescents to “rebel” in healthy ways as a way of staking out their own identity in the midst of the diversity of options available to young people these days.
But according to developmental psychologists and every spiritual leader I know, the litmus test for maturity is interdependence, i.e. the capacity to know who I am on the one hand and on the other to respect and work with people who are different. That’s a vision for marriages, condo associations, villages, the government in Springfield and both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill.
The new Diversity Commission in our little corner of the world is a positive sign. One thing I think we can learn from our neighbors east of Harlem is that they have been intentional about weaving the kind of community fabric they wanted, whereas we in Forest Park depended on the good will of residents without any preconceived design. We got lucky, but I don’t want to depend on good luck anymore.
God’s blessings on all those who work to create community in this place. Let’s talk more about just what kind of cloth we are trying to weave.