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A “Labored” Day picnic
By Ray Hanania — It was a typical American family picnic for Labor Day. Except we are all American Arab.
Yes. We didn’t have many hotdogs or apple pie but we had a lot of lamb kufta, chicken strips and tabouleh. Nick and Saleem played the tabla (small drums). The women danced with scarves around their hips as the men chanted the lyrics to songs.
Saleem just got back from Bethlehem, were he was married last week. But the Israelis and the Americans won’t allow him to bring his bride to Chicago right away. Something about Israelis harassing Arab Christians. She has to wait six months before her paperwork will be completed.
We have about 75 people at Turtle Head Lake, about a third of all our relatives who live in the Chicago area; and have lived in the Chicago area since my dad and his brother first arrived here from Palestine in the 1920s.
We didn’t reserve the pavilion like we did last Memorial Day. The Pavilion is dirty and had spiders and bird nests everywhere. So this year, rather than pay the $75 permit fee to the Cook County Forest Preserve District, we thought we’d just try to enjoy what our taxes pay for in terms of services.
A beautiful forest park area just south of 135th Street. A nearby lake. Lots of parking. A few picnic tables — what’s a picnic without some picnic tables? Great weather. And, the Cook County Forest Preserve District police.
Oh yes, the Forest Preserve District Police.
I remember from last year that the Forest Preserve District rules said we couldn’t have any glass bottles. No beer in bottles, cans only. Well, we’re Arab but we’re not religious fanatics and some of us drink. Not much, though.
We have four barbecues sizzling with kufta, lamb burgers and shish kabobs. As we danced and sang, the people in the other areas stared with smiles. Sure, it was Arabian music and Arabian words but even 10 years after the terrorism of Sept. 11, the sounds of the Middle East didn’t bother the other picnickers. They smiled and seemed to enjoy our music.
But not the Forest Preserve Cop who came by late in the day. Must have been a shift change, because the other cop who came by three times didn’t seem to have any issues.
It had nothing to do with us being Arabs at all, but he came by to complain.
“You need a permit,” he said.
“A permit for what?” I asked. “To be American?”
“No, whenever you have a lot of people and several tables, you need to get a permit. I could give you a ticket,” he said.
“A ticket for what?” I asked. Getting the family together to enjoy an American holiday?
Well, according to the Forest Preserve District Cop, we couldn’t use the picnic tables. They all belonged to the person who rented the pavilion.
“These were here. Four of them. There are 25 picnic tables over there,” I said pointing across the road which divided the preserve in half and also served as a parking lot.
“No, only the people who pay for permits can use the picnic tables,” he insisted.
Yea, right. This is America, goof. We pay taxes. We don’t have to pay to use the picnic tables. That comes with the forest preserves. And if it doesn’t, maybe that’s why so few families were at the preserves this weekend past Labor Day Weekend.
Maybe you should put some more tables out there and let people know they can have fun, no matter how many people are in a family.
We waved him away and decided we were going to have fun in spite of the Forest Preserve District’s rules.
This post has already been read 39 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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