Wednesday, March 21, 2007
When I approached the Newberry Library last night I was surprised to see it surrounded by representatives of the City of Chicago; the streets occupied by the Streets and Sanitation Department with their flotilla of street sweepers, the Fire Department and the Police Department with their command center vans watching over the scene. They would later be joined by the hovering of police helicopters. As I settled into class I glanced up at the window (our class is held in a basement classroom). There I saw the eerie presence of helmeted riot guards standing just outside the building providing a safe perimeter for our discussion of Charles Dickens's David Copperfield. Why were we suddenly in an occupied zone? I reflected on the juxtaposition of this reality with the novel I am currently reading, Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, a novel of the fantastic and the surreal. It seemed that reality was sometimes just as fantastic as fiction.
With its location only one block away from the parking lot that was the pre-rally organizing location for a protest rally against the war, the Newberry Library had become a central location for the control apparatus of the City of Chicago. While I can understand this reality, the impact of being there amidst the apparatus of the city-state still seemed a bit surreal.