The city of my birth is 176 years old today. Chicago was incorporated on March 4, 1837, and thereupon elected its first mayor, William Butler Ogden – a New Yorker, because if there is a god, he/she/it has a wicked sense of humor. Ogden also commissioned the city’s first census: There were 4,170 people living in Chicago around the time of its incorporation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 2,707,120 lived in the city proper as of 2011, down from an all time high of about 3,620,962 in 1950.
In my lifetime, Chicago built the tallest building in the world, was home to the world’s largest commodities exchange and the world’s busiest airport, was the only city in America to win championships in all four major professional sports – including six NBA titles – during the period from 1985 to 2010, and, on three separate occasions, threatened to, but did not, rend the time-space continuum when my beloved Cubs came perilously close to winning the National League pennant. As A. Whitney Brown once observed: When the small bears from the windy place capture the flag, then you shall know the end is nigh.
That’s okay, America. My soul-crushing despair is your saving grace.
Also in my lifetime, Chicago became the largest city in the country to elect a woman mayor (Jane Byrne, who served from 1979 to 1983), and the second largest city in the country to elect an African American mayor (Harold Washington, from 1983 to 1987) (Tom Bradley served as Mayor of Los Angeles from 1973 to 1993). And, unlike both Los Angeles and New York City, which elected David Dinkins mayor in 1990, Chicago is the largest city in America to have had two African American mayors (Mayor Washington was elected twice, in 1983 and in 1987, but died in office; Eugene Sawyer was selected by the City Council to succeed Mayor Washington in December 1987, and served until Richard M. Daley was elected in 1989).
In any event, Chicago is, without a doubt, a city that evokes intensely partisan feelings – or, maybe it would be more accurate to say intensely parochial feelings. Regardless, I was only born there – as in, the hospital I was born in happened to be located within the city limits – I actually grew up in the near western suburbs; yet I have the same sort of visceral love for the city that people who’ve lived within its geographical limits their whole lives have. Chicago does that to you; it gets in your blood.
And there was a time when Chicago’s good will seemed to be spread far and wide. From the Bears’ incredible 1985 season (culminating in a 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX, at the time, the most lopsided in NFL history), to Rich Daley’s impressive revitalization of the city through the 1990s, we entered the 21st century on a high note. Everybody seemed to love us. Well, maybe we got a little greedy with the NBA titles in the ’90s; I know my ex-mother-in-law, a Detroit Pistons fan, was none too fond of that one guy, you know, that guy … from North Carolina, at guard, six-foot-six … MICHAEL JORDAN!!! …
Wait, where was I?
Oh, yeah. Our embarrassment of NBA riches aside, everybody seemed to love my city in the 1990s and the early 2000s … all the way up to 2008.
And then something odd happened. Suddenly, people turned on us. And by “people,” of course, I mean: Conservatives.
All the sudden, Chicago was the city they loved to hate. All the sudden, Chicago was inhabited by thugs and gang-bangers and welfare cheats. Chicago was the city of Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky, not the city of Bill Veeck and Saul Bellow. Chicago was no longer defined by the architecture of Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe, by the University of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony, or the Art Institute of Chicago, but by its murder rate and the number of its politicians who went to jail.
All because Barack Hussein Obama launched his career here, rising from community organizer, to state senator, to United States Senator, to President of the United States.
Remember when people used to hate Dixon, Illinois, or Hope, Arkansas … or Midland, Texas, or New Haven, Connecticut, or Kennebunkport, Maine, or wherever the hell the Bushes George came from? Nope. Me neither. Because they didn’t.
No, sir, hatred of Chicago because of Barack Obama’s connection to it is, as we lawyers like to say, sui generis: a thing unto itself.
Now why do you suppose that is?
You know exactly why that is. That’s because everything’s different in The Era Of Black Presidents.
But I don’t care. I love Chicago like it’s a member of my family, even if it includes, you know … those people.
What? I was talking about Sox fans.
[Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]