Saturday, April 4, 2009

Borderline Racist

I was recently in Chicago for the first time. I usually think New York is where it's at, but I'd been hearing that Chicago is even better. I didn't see how that could be possible until I went to Chicago. Every day there I found myself saying "Now this is my kind of town!" It's full of culture, but it's unpretentious. I was also pleased to find that those I met are not ignorant about Canada (unlike New York brats). My American friend told me that that's because Chicago is close to Canada. But Illinois doesn't actually border on any Canadian provinces. Aside from sharing a lake, Illinois is entirely surrounded by American States, unlike New York which borders two Canadian provinces, along with other states north of it. 
There seems to be a conception among Americans that Canadians are the epitome of Midwest Americans, but I have never known any Canadians that speak like Midwest Americans (the long wide-jaw vowels, skipping the last consonant). I hear that there are a few people in the Niagara area who do this, but other than that I think it's a distinctly American thing that they have somehow turned into their leading stereotype of Canadians. In fact, I once heard a linguist on the CBC explain that people from Winnipeg have the most neutral accent found anywhere in all of Canada and the United States (a disproportionate number of them are hired for radio). 
Canada doesn't talk much about it's own Midwest. It's geographical identity seems to be primarily West/East, with Ontario being the divide. This ignores the North that makes up the majority of this country's land, but the majority of the Canadian population lives in cities and towns close to the border, drawing a line from one end of the country to the other. 
When you actually think about it, Illinois is further east than it is west, so why isn't it called the Mideast? I suppose that America started in the East, so everything West of that is West. But why do Americans like to make fun of their Midwesterners so much anyway? Obama is from there! It's one of the grandest landscapes I have ever known. But people call it the "grease belt" or the "fly-over country". 
So I'll end this post with lines from the song that Frank Sinatra sang so well:

Chicago, Chicago, that toddling town
Chicago, Chicago, I'll show you around- I love it
Bet your bottom dollar you'll lose your blues in Chicago
The town that Billy's Sunday could not shut down

On State Street, that great Street, I just want to say
They do things that they don't do on Broadway
They have the time of their life
I saw a man and he danced with his wife
In Chicago, my hometown