As Erika and I were walking Zoe tonight, we saw a bunch of carteros protesting in the street in their blue mamelucos and reflective stripes, walking in traffic and slapping the outside of car doors. The drivers looked completely bewildered. There were forty police cars, their blue lights twirling hypnotically. And then, suddenly, in the span of forty seconds, they all dispersed. Party's over. Just another protest in Buenos Aires.
I found out today that the Willis Group, which now owns a majority of the building, is trying rename the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Willis tower, which sounds not only fucking ridiculous but also means absolutely nothing to the city of Chicago. It's bad enough that they renamed Chicago Stadium the United Center. Then Comiskey Park was relabeled US Cellular Park, which really rolls of the tongue, let me tell you. But this is where I draw the line. The Sears Tower is iconic, the very symbol of architectural ingenuity in Chicago. It's not just a building anymore, it's an cultrual landscape painted with placenames that both create and evoke a collective memory. When you try to take that away, you destroy a set of bundled experiences around a specific place, and induce amnesia in the people that shared it.
For so many ethical, nostalgic and cultural reasons, it's just wrong. Furthermore, mnemonically speaking, it's completely destructive.
Anyway, here's my letter of protest that I wrote to the fucking Willis Group today:
Dear Willis Group Holdings, Ltd.:
I'm writing to ask you to reconsider your renaming of the Sears Tower. Personally, I think it's an advertising gimmick that will backfire on you. Chicagoans will absolutely refuse to refer to your newly-named building as the Willis Tower because this name has no local signification or historical resonance, nor is this name part of the own cultural identity of Chicago. Further, most Chicagoans will boycott your company in a sign of solidarity. And when tourists, or transplants arrive in our city, the first thing we will do is sit them down and make them swear to always call it the Sears Tower. We are proud of our landmarks, in part because we have so few in our city. There is incredible power in a name. Can you imagine if Big Ben was changed to Macy's Clock Tower? Or if Trafalgar Square were altered to Dow Chemical Park? It would be an absolute travesty. There has to be a point after which companies begin respecting the place names of a city--which are the building blocks of our collective memory--and stop investing in permanent adverts. To the brilliant minds in your publicity department, renaming the Sears Tower probably seems like the ultimate meme. To those of us in Chicago who have spent our lives here, it is not only a rejection of our city's culture (which is bad enough), but the ultimate defiling of our urban character.
Do the right thing, and keep your hands off our landmarks please.