From top: the author as a six-year-old cowboy fan in Chicago, Illinois; Dan Boyle
I must have been five or six years old. My mother had sent me to my room for having committed some transgression. I was filled with childish fury at the injustice that had been done to me.
My infantile mind searched for a comeback, finding a word I knew would annoy my Mom. I didn’t know what the word meant, but I did know that by saying it I would get a reaction. It was the N word. Each time she would pass my bedroom door I would open it to bellow my new found mantra.
Living then in Chicago, saw me pick up more than my share of bad habits. At eight years of age, along with other friends, we broke into a neighbour’s house just because we could.
Living near a open rail line, and hanging off passing trucks, were every day hazards that made my Mother want to move the family to Ireland.
I’ve only returned to Chicago a couple of times. On the first occasion I stayed with friends of my family. They were very kind, and very generous.
When I expressed a desire to visit my old family home, they became somewhat circumspect. It was dangerous to go there, they claimed, as it now had become a black neighbourhood.
We eventually agreed to drive through the area. What I could see, but what they couldn’t, was that the area had physically improved. What had been a working class Irish American community was now a middle class African American community.
The second time I visited I went on my own, on foot. From the city centre I took the L Line railway system, getting off at the 2nd last stop. I then took a bus for about 14 blocks (a block being about a quarter of a kilometre), walking the the last four blocks.
I found the house pretty easily, the gridiron system being a boon to the easily confused. On the porch sat an African American women. From the sidewalk I preceded to have a surreal conversation with her. “I used to live here” I said. The returned Yank in reverse. She may still look on that encounter with some puzzlement.
Chicago has not had the best of times since then. Violent deaths have been commonplace in the city. Donald Trump highlighted this and made the city an exemplar of all that was wrong with Obama’s America.
In true Trump fashion, his tirades against the city were somewhat lacking in truth. The appalling number of deaths were far from being the worst in the US, and the trend had already begun to fall.
Trump’s taunts did have an effect, outside of the city, in the rest of the country. It was calculated at undermining Obama, and by extension Hillary Clinton.
Prior to his becoming a State Senator, quickly followed by being elected to the US Senate, Obama had worked a lot in the Chicago Projects, in those parts of the city where poverty and attendant social problems were most concentrated.
Hillary Clinton also came from Illinois. The two of us were born in the same hospital in Chicago, although not at the same time.
I hope someday to visit Chicago again. It is a great city. Home of The Blues. A great food culture. Brilliant museums and galleries. It’s part of who I am and who I want to be.
I don’t know when I’ll get to visit, hopefully soon. Hopefully at a time when The Great Moron is no longer casting his malevolence there.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle