Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Neighbor, the President

I love living in Chicago in general, but perhaps one of the coolest things about going to LSTC and living in the Hyde Park neighborhood is that I literally live four blocks away from President Obama's house. Normally this doesn't affect me too much since he's usually kickin' it in the White House, but this week the President is in his home-sweet-home.

I really had no idea how much this would impact me. I went to the grocery store last night and on the way home tried to drive my usual route, which leads me a block away from the Obama's house. In the span of four miles my friend and I counted 42 marked police cars, and we can only speculate how many unmarked vehicles were in the area. I couldn't even turn down a street to go home my usual way because I was re-routed several blocks by law officials. I have never seen such a security detail in my life. In the midst of it being pretty cool, it is really frustrating when you are trying to make it home before your Ben & Jerry's melts and every street is blocked off.

This afternoon I was doing some reading for a JTerm course (JTerms are accelerated courses in the month of January) where I will be traveling to El Salvador to study for two weeks. I was reading how I will have to pay a fee to get back into the US, how those of us with wedding bands should think about leaving them at home, and that for my overall safety I should tell people I'm vacationing, not studying, while I'm in Latin America because it will put me at a lesser risk of being attacked.

Sometimes I think we take for granted how lucky we are to live in a country where safety is a priority. This week, with the President sleeping four blocks from my home, I am probably the safest I will ever be. There is security everywhere. I know this is not the reality of most Americans, but even in the worst of neighborhoods we have freedom in the United States that always exist in other places. No matter where my home is, I can go there without paying a fee. No matter how underfunded a school district can be, I don't have to worry about being attacked because I claim I admit that I am their student.

I am furthermore blessed that I live in a nation where it is not only a civil right to be able to express my thoughts, feelings, and religious beliefs through media like blogs and newspapers, but I can choose to attend a seminary who will ask me to do such things.

While I may be frustrated that going to the bank or the pharmacy may be more challenging this week because of a security detail, I am going to celebrate the fact that it is a societal expectation to protect our president. Not all places in the world share this conviction or can afford its cost, and I give thanks that I can see it and write about it, too.

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