This and That
By Patrick F. Cannon
I was inclined to write something this week about the decline of political ethics in our Federal Republic, but then I thought: aren’t people just as tired about reading about it as I am? Instead of stating the obvious yet again, here are just some random thoughts about this and that.
On Monday, the Chicago Tribune devoted more than a half page of its sports section to an article from the Washington Post decrying the lack of diversity in the American team at the upcoming Winter Olympics. I guess its own short-handed sports staff was too busy covering the Super Bowl (or should I say the Big Game as advertisers who aren’t licensed by the NFL do) to express its own outrage. I can’t recall reading similar articles about the lack of diversity in the National Football League and National Basketball Association, but perhaps I missed them.
One of my pet peeves is the journalist who simply counts numbers, not what may be behind them. Could it be that African-Americans prefer to play basketball rather than hockey? Do they see football or track and field as a better entre into a college education than figure skating? That doesn’t seem to matter. By golly, if African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population as a whole, then they should be 13 percent of any profession or pastime, regardless of their interest. Then, of course, we have our Hispanic neighbors, who now make up about 18 percent of the population. Why aren’t they on the ski slopes? Whether they want to be or not?
I see the Chicago Teachers Union, that paragon of virtue, is now attacking State Senator Daniel Biss, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois. They’re running ads pointing out that he voted for a bill that would have changed pension laws to make them more sustainable. Now, as I recall, the bill was also supported by the Pope of Illinois politics, Speaker Madigan, and thus the Democratic leadership generally. At the time, I thought it was a cynical gesture, since Madigan fully expected the heavily Democratic court system to find it unconstitutional, which it duly did. The CTU has singled out poor Biss because they know he occasionally thinks for himself and has actually had the gall to support charter schools, and they’ve been told that J.B. Pritzker will do as he’s told. Is it any wonder I think public employee unions were a bad idea?
Back to the Tribune, also on Monday. Dahleen Glanton, who is African-American and from the South, had a column that rekindled a memory. She admits she has never lost her Southern accent, which occasionally causes some problems, in this case during a trip to Viet Nam and Thailand. It seems the folks there were used to hearing more typical American accents, and were confused by her regional twang. She got ice instead of rice, and room service delivered high tea instead of the extra room key she wanted.
In my case, my first trip to the South involved a train ride form Chicago to Miami. I was then working for the New York Central Railroad and going to Northwestern University part time. Because I could get a free pass, I decided to escape the winter and bask for a bit in the Florida sun. Now, the trip involved one train from Chicago to Atlanta on the Illinois Central; then on the Atlantic Coast Line from there to Miami. Seeking to while away the time between trains, I found a bar in the Atlanta depot and ordered a beer. I saw in a sign that the beer was 50 cents, which I duly gave to the young bartender when he returned with my Dixie and a glass. Then he said something that sounded to my Chicago ears like “that’ll be a peony.” Not having that particular flower right at hand, I said “what?” He thereupon repeated something like his original plea. I still didn’t have the required flower, so was about to ask again for clarification, when a kindly stranger down the bar took pity and said to me: “It’s the sales tax; he needs a penny.”
Not too long after that trip, I was drafted and spent both basic training and signal school in Georgia – Fort Benning near Columbus and then Fort Gordon near Augusta. After five months, I got so I could almost always make out what the locals were saying. It was many years later that I was in Atlanta again, this time on business. Many of the locals I dealt with then seemed to be from somewhere else.
An exception was two upper middle-class ladies who worked conventions and trade shows to keep busy. They were true Southern Belles, who sounded much like Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. During a quiet time, they urged me to see a local diorama, which as I recall had something to do with Sherman’s march to the sea. To them, the good general’s depredations could have happened yesterday. The civil war would never be over in their minds. They reminded me of William Faulkner’s famous quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” True for them, and for so many more, and not just in our South.
Copyright 2018, Patrick F. Cannon