Seven years in this city (and eight winters, but who’s counting?), and I still struggle with what it means to be a Chicagoan. I love this city more than most Chicagoans I know, and a couple of years ago came to terms with the fact that I actually am one now.
But lunch with a Windy City newcomer last week reminded me that some Chicago natives have a different opinion on the topic. A hardcore minority of Chicagoans think the only way to earn the demonym is to be born here, and one of them told my newcomer friend that an Indiana native could never hope to be classed among their ranks. Of course that’s baloney since Chicago is as much an immigrant city as New York. Ultimately, none of us is really from here.
Maybe it would help native and newcomer Chicagoans get along better if we could establish some sort of civic creed. If we could come up with a checklist of basic principles to denote Chicagoanism, we might be surprised to learn that some newcomers “get” this city better than some natives do. But what would those principles be? What should be on a checklist of customs and beliefs which we could require “real” Chicagoans to swear to uphold?
Off the top of my head, I can think of a few potential civic vows. I swear to elect my local politicians for life. I swear to respect lawn chairs placed in shoveled-out parking spaces. I swear never to refer to Jewel in the singular. I swear to speed up on a yellow light. I swear to never use the words Willis and Tower in the same sentence.
They all might belong on an oath of Chicagoanship, and I’m willing to bet that every Chicagoan harbors art least one such belief that they feel bolsters their local credibility above the visiting masses. I know what mine would be. If da mare himself asked me to take a solemn oath of Chicagoanship, I would raise my right hand and say:
“I swear never to put ketchup on a hot dog.”
Well, not unless I was doing it for a child aged eight or younger. (See? I’ve been here long enough to learn a few exceptions, too.)
What would your oath of Chicagoanship be?