West Irving Park Road, Chicago (Take a short break from directly Ron Paul related articles and consider this)
It’s been bubbling beneath the level of my consciousness lately a feeling of absence, that something in my landscape has changed, but I couldn’t put my finger on it until recently. I live in a Midwest town where I have spent most of my life within at most several miles of my parents and grandparents houses. The school I attended kindergarten through 12th grade was the same one my Mother did as well.
This weekend I had to bring my oldest son to O’Hare airport in Chicago to catch a flight back to his Air Force base after Christmas leave. After dropping him off, on the way back I stopped for breakfast at a small place on West Irving Park Road just off the Eisenhower freeway in North Chicago.
As I sat there, I glanced up from my breakfast and coffee, from time to time, to look at the older man facing me in the booth across from mine. I looked at his thin build, his graying hair, and the piercing blue eyes and long sharp nose below them. I thought to myself how much he looked like my father. Since I had arrived sometime after him, he got up and left shortly and the waitress cleared his table.
The next person to sit down was another man (along with his wife) who was also a bit older, maybe 70 or so. What struck me was how much he looked similar to the man who just left, tall and thin, blue eyes with sharp features and a prominent nose. He too could have been my father. Looking around the restaurants I saw a table of women, probably the same age as the men I have already mentioned. Again what struck me the most about them, was how much they all looked and acted alike, thin wispy grey hair, small shoulders, plump bellies, along with quick tongues. Anyone of them could have passed for my grandmother. And then it hit me!
This was a Polish neighborhood. The people were all from the same background and so all looked very similar. Well, I’m not Polish, but when I was a child, and even a young man, this neighborhood in Chicago could have been any neighbor hood in Michigan where I grew up. The people were distinctive; they had lived within the same communities, and had married and had children within those communities for dozens of years in America and hundreds of years in Europe. This created an archetype that is rapidly being lost, the tall thin Western European.
My intent here is neither to praise nor diminish one group over another, only to point out what is rapidly being lost. Our news is filled daily with clamors of alarm over a unique bird or fish in danger of disappearing from the earth if action is not taken. What greater concern than a loss of an entire peoples? Anthropologists rail against small societies disappearing from rainforests and mountain tops, but what about the millions in our own country? Do we really want to be one sea of beige communities from shore to shore, populated by non-descript citizens shopping at Wal-Mart’s and eating at Denny’s? Why is that a worthwhile goal?
I don’t know about anyone else, but I look for character, color, and differences when taking in the world around me, to give vigor and spice to life. If in 10, 20, or even 50 years from now we lose our Polish, Finnish, German, Italian, etc. neighborhoods, the country in my estimation will be poorer not richer for it.Tweet