The old fable of the frog and the scorpion ends with the scorpion stinging the frog midstream and when the frog ask why as now both will die, explains, “Because it’s my nature.” Interpretations of the fable (such as this one) tend to go hard on the scorpion.
I’m not sure why. We admire people who are true to their nature—and I’m not thinking of why Democrats are grateful to Donald Trump. We like people we can count on.
Yet half of Chicago seems to be furious with Friends of the Park. Why? FotP exists to protect Chicago’s lakefront by demanding the city abide by ancient laws written to protect it. That’s not just what it does. It’s what it is. So when the city proposed violating those laws to allow George Lucas to build his Museum of Narrative Art on a Soldier Field parking lot, of course FotP went to court. If its suit had been lousy, Judge John Darrah would have dumped it. Instead, the judge held it over for trial.
Chicago didn’t know it wanted or needed a museum of narrative art until Lucas came along and offered us one, and half the city didn’t know that even then. Personally, I think a museum of narrative art probably beats a parking lot, though you know what they say about parking lots—a parking lot is a utilitarian space that can always become a lot nicer until something finally gets built on it that’ll be there forever even though it isn’t.
We’ll never know how Lucas’s museum would have stacked up. At least we won’t know until some of us get in the car and visit the new Museum of Narrative Art in Topeka, or wherever it winds up.
When he offered it to us, Chicago’s frogs and scorpions and other critters played the roles that are our natures. FotP screeched, Don’t mess with the lakefront! The mayor screeched, World-class cultural institution! Father Pfleger screeched, Jobs!
Good for them all. In a healthy city, everyone has a role to play and a voice to raise. The Museum of Narrative Art is now being postmortemed in terms of good guys and bad guys, civic victory and defeat. That makes it sound important. Lucas proposed a silly-looking building that would have housed a silly-sounding art museum he didn’t explain and no one understood. It didn’t work out. Life goes on.
And now back to the homicide rate.