English language doesn’t have a word that quite captures the feeling of anticipation, the feeling Winnie Pooh Bear explains, “Well, what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you eat it which is even better, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
The Inuit word, iktsuarport (eek-soow-uhr-pohk) is that feeling.
When one of my friends brought spray paint to her Catholic high school because she thought it would be cool to graffiti a wall, she spent the day in a state of iktsuarport. With her paint can tucked in her backpack, she imagined putting her plan into action when the opportunity came. Once the school programs ended and she was alone, she took her private rebellion to a stadium wall. Secretly, she boldly expressed her bad attitude, and wrote the first thing that came to her mind. Her name. Both her first and last name, in big black letters.
When she was called in the next day by the principal, as she retells the story, she was shocked they knew it was her.
Sidewalks too hold the names of people etched into them when their short-lived wet stage can be used to secure a moment in time and place. Under the viaduct on Desplaines is Claudia and Katie who marked their passage in 2002. Not far from them is Laura and Petek. Savana’s name and heart is on the 1400 block of Marengo with neighbors Justin and Niko.
On the 800 block of Thomas is a notable historical footnote, a sidewalk block with about a dozen neighborhood names and another note. In big letters it says, “Watergate was big when Ben did this!” According to a CBS article from 2014 the sidewalk had a crack and was repaired in 1973 by Ben Curran, who lived on the block and laid the concrete. His wife suggested making a historical note, and they did.
When Rep. Jamie Raskin delivered closing remarks during the July 12 hearing of the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack and said, “The Watergate break-in was like a Cub Scout meeting compared to this assault on our people and our institutions,” I thought about that sidewalk.
While we do not have an English word that is equal to iktsuarport, we do have the word, demagogue. We use this to describe a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires, fears and prejudices of ordinary people rather than using rational argument and appealing to their better angels.
Demagogue is the antithesis of our local Midwestern values. Locally, it is prized to think beyond one’s self and to consider others. In this case, the sidewalk scribblers considered future generations who might pass by. Courage, coupled with humility and an unselfish nature, are common values exhibited by our regional heroes, as seen in people like by Ray Nitschke, Joanne Winter, John Prine, Eugene Cernan, Greg Foster and Doc Rivers.
Whenever our humble local values collide with a demagogue style of leadership, it creates friction. The cultural collision between those who value genuine gratitude, courageous humility, and consideration of others does not mix well with those who peddle fear, selective truths, authoritarianism, and disguise their pride through victimhood.
I wonder if a crack in a sidewalk will be found in the coming months and a local will try to fix it, just as Ben did in 1973. Perhaps when they do, a message will be left for future generations to reflect on.
I’ll savor my iktsuarport in the meantime and keep an eye out for that message.