NATO’s didactic piece
touts Chicago’s virtues as the conference’s host metropolis — cultured and diverse, commercially and financially vibrant, loaded with hotel rooms. It practically ordains international heads of state meet where U.S. President Barack Obama “grew up.” Oops. That could be Wichita, Kansas; Honolulu, Hawaii or Jakarta, Indonesia
. This “City of the Big Shoulders
” nestled along Lake Michigan’s shore, this “capital of Illinois” is the obvious summit locale. "Wait a minute!" blurt dismayed news anchors. Sniggers pour from government towers. Denizens laugh derisively. Oh NATO, protectors of the entire free world, don’t you know Springfield
, population 118,000, has been the capital since 1839 and is 180 miles (290 km) south of Sears Tower
The chortling is as sincere as Queen Elizabeth endorsing French cabernet. Locals rightly refer to Springfield as “downstate,” a latitudinal fact. But is it just a charming quirk that Chicagoans also call every other inch of north, east and western Illinois “downstate?” Hardly.
Chicago is Illinois’ visceral hub. We make the soil simmer. We set waves abuzz. We create the precedents, craft life-altering policy, spawn innovation, and elevate graft to sublimity. In every way that counts Chicago is
the capital of Illinois and the natives believe it, feel it, own it.
When outsiders get the geography wrong outrage is duly required. When NATO bungles the facts collective pain courses across Atlantic
brine. But Chicagoans incensed at Chicago being named Illinois’ capitol? As sincere as a weatherman bemoaning hurricane season.