“No one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel,” proudly proffered President Obama.
Emanuel, former fundraiser-in-chief for Bill Clinton — the pugnacious fixer whose tenacity helped pass the irredeemably carceral 1994 Crime Bill — once pushed his own party to “achieve record deportations of criminal aliens”. Emanuel, who won cool millions while working in investment banking, famously volunteered with the Israeli Occupation Forces during the Gulf War — echoing the legacy of his father, a member of the terrorist paramilitary group Irgun.
Earlier this month, Emanuel announced that he would not run for reelection in our city’s mayoral race. "From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” he said. “God bless you and God bless the people of Chicago.”
Emanuel’s blessing cannot be heard outside the context of his singular, priestly role in covering up Laquan McDonald’s 2014 slaying by Chicago police. Our mayor denied that this particular saga influenced his decision: “I had the option to run,” Emanuel affirmed, filled with vainglory. “I knew I would win.”
Of course, Laquan McDonald did not have “the option to run”. Laquan did not even have the option to walk away. He did not have the chance to preserve himself, to bless others and to think about the future, to evade danger cradling a career in full stride, gliding in praise and prestige from opportunity to advancement until the day of judgment. Instead, Laquan was shot 16 times while moving slowly away from police. Afterwards, evidence of his murder was systematically suppressed by his mayor.
No one we know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.
Mayor Emanuel, a dynasty in his own right. What a peculiar name, come to think of it. Emanu-el — God with us. God among us, the holy making a home in our midst; O Come, O Come, Emanuel. But Mayor Emanuel did not believe that God was with Laquan. Mr. Emanuel did not believe that the divine could dwell within Laquan’s black body. And he did not weep when this child of God, this native son of Chicago, once knit together in his mother’s womb, was pierced by metal bullets.
No, Rahm did not bless Laquan. Nor, we know, did he bless our teachers, students, mentally ill, incarcerated and impoverished, though he did shower sanction upon the connected and the corrupted, the wealthy and the winners.
Two months before Laquan’s lynching, Mike Brown’s body was covered up with sheets on the streets of Ferguson. Here in Chicago, Laquan’s body was plastered over by our mayor, pressed into black oil underneath layers of clerical concrete — dark fuel meant to secure his own ascendancy. One wonders if, even for an instant, Emanuel was moved by anything other than chilled, careful calculation upon seeing the pixelated proof of the crime. The video, not unlike Chicago’s usually-boisterous political machinery after Laquan’s death, feels all the eerier for its silence. Hissing static punctures the grim footage, forming a grisly score of tinny pops and shrieks. Shapes, bodies cohere. The predators raise their arms and without a sound Laquan’s body twists unnaturally, racked with phantom pains.
Much of our city has turned away from the drama at hand. Others, still, are captured by the tremendous gravity of this violation. Many months from now, after the intifadas of autumn and winter, how will we speak of Laquan? Of his mayor? Like the Apostle I can see only in part, as if through a foggy mirror:
I can see Laquan’s grave, like Emmet Till’s, visited by his loved ones and those who never met him.
I can picture Rahm Emanuel at book signings and on the lecture circuit, planning his next move with loyal aides eagerly awaiting their own time to rise.
I can see Laquan’s siblings incarcerated and underresourced in neighborhoods that our mayor has never stepped into.
Much more clearly, though, I see New Trier kids frolicking into the city for Lolla, bopping to Artic Monkeys. I see Cubs fans drunkenly rock cars and climb streetlights, young couples roll strollers by the lake, North side neighborhoods bristling with carefully curated life.
Charmed, blessed, sanctified — our gleaming life in the great white city gliding calmly on.