A Real Chicago Dinosaur


(Photo: Another raised drawbridge for “non-native” Chicagoans. Wells Street Bridge in action, from Wacker Drive.)

Like all adopted Chicagoans, from time to time I get told by some other local who doesn’t agree with me to “go back where you came from” if I don’t like the way things are done in the Windy City. It’s an age-old prejudice (most recently raised again by Chicago Magazine) that claims being born in Chicago somehow makes you a more authentic Chicagoan than a person who moved here from a different time zone.

Of course, unless your family was already living on the shores of Lake Michigan around the time of the Louisiana Purchase and the founding of Fort Dearborn–or you’re 206 years old, yourself–you’re no more a “native” Chicagoan than anyone else.

In response to my juggernaut rant about why CTA President Richard Rodriguez shouldn’t be driving to work at his own transit agency (boy, did that make the rounds this week!), a commenter named “Steve”–who, you won’t be surprised to learn, refused to give his correct email address–became the latest allegedly more authentic Chicagoan to tell me to go back to New York.

You know what happened next. I hope he buckled up.

Below, I give you Steve’s comment and my response. All I can say is he had it coming…

STEVE // Jul 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I was going to write a long post and say why I thought your argument was a joke, but I’m not going to waste my time. Instead, I’ll just never read your blog again. Go back to New York.

Don’t worry, Steve. I did write a long post to say why I think your argument–or lack of one–is a joke. And unlike you, I think it was time well spent…

MIKE DOYLE // Jul 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Steve, I’m certainly not going to defend my ideas. They speak for themselves and many others are in agreement. If you’re not, that’s fine with me.

Now to the real meat of the matter. You, Steve, represent one of Chicago’s most feckless types of individual. The kind that believes the status quo in this town and the politicians and functionaries who work so hard to create it and keep it unchanging are together somehow inherently worthy of praise, no matter how much they conspire to make life less livable for Chicagoans.

Also, the kind of individual who refuses to accept any sort of criticism of the above–really, of anything that has to do with Chicago. Especially from the people you deem to be “outsiders.”

You do realize, of course, unless you’re a Native American, that your family tree branched out from another country to arrive in the Windy City. If you were born here, chances are your parents or grandparents first set up shop in an east coast city, much like the one I was born and raised in.

More than likely, you’re not even from Chicago, but from some outlying suburb, yet afflicted with the general delusion many Chicagoland suburbanites suffer from in thinking they are somehow from the city that instead they and their towns orbit, like codependent satellites.

Your type of Chicagoan actually believes that you get to decide who is an authentic citizen of this city and who isn’t. And those you deem inadmissible, you love to verbally toss out out town.

It’s an old, boring way to be, smacking of back rooms, and closed minds, and the worst kind of clout. Happily–although I doubt you’ll see it this way–your type of Chicagoan is dying out. Going the way of lakefront airports, parking meters, Our Ladies of the Underpass, and mayoral progeny with any chance of further election.

No one has a license to decide who is or isn’t an authentic Chicagoan. I was drawn here by love for this city, I remain here by choice, and I’m not going anywhere. These roots I’ve grown are well-tended and deep, and very much mine. They’ve got staying power and so do I. I may not be from Chicago, but my ongoing willingness to defend its honor shows I’m definitely of Chicago. And–sorry Steve–you can’t change that.

Yet much as I love this city, its history, and its people, I won’t be sad to see you go. When they hold the memorial service for your breed of chumbolone, I’ll be sure to send flowers.

To a funeral chapel in Elk Grove Village, I’m sure.

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