Are you kidding? Get up at 6 a.m. Saturday to watch a royal wedding?
Another royal wedding? Didn't we just have one of these, what, just seven years ago? How many more do we need?
And no, I'm not drawn in by the bride's Northwestern connection — hail to purple, hail to white and best of luck to all fellow alumni. But it's important, with all the crazily-obsessive media attention building for months, to give permission to ignore the festivities, even sneer at them. To remind ourselves that not only do Americans reject the notion of royalty — it's kinda how our nation came to be — but Chicago has a particular history of despising British aristocracy.
The oft-cited quote is Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson's threat against King George V: "If George comes to Chicago, I'll crack him in the snoot." The common assumption is that this was a tossed-off remark, perhaps to appeal to Irish voters.
It was not. Rooting out the British menace was the linchpin of Thompson's 1927 mayoral bid, what one historian called "one of the most absurd campaigns ever waged in an American municipal election."I will not rest until I have purged this entire city of the poison that's being injected into the heart of American youth," Thompson said appointing a gambling buddy as special commissioner to weed British influence from Chicago's libraries and schools.
Needless to say, Thompson won. A reminder that Donald Trump didn't invent getting elected by damning foreigners, he merely refined it.
Ridiculing the English is uniquely satisfying and consequence-free; I'm surprised people don't do it far more often. While most nationalities have weaponized their cultural pride, the English can be mocked openly, boldly denounced as swine, provided of course you reach for the proper literary fig leaf, such as D.H. Lawrence's deathless rant: "Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates ... the sniveling, dribbling, dithering, palsied, pulseless lot that make up England today."
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The photographs are "Distortographs" of William Hale Thompson by British photographer Herbert George Ponting, mostly known for his Arctic photographs of the Scott Expedition. In 1927, he patented a lens attachment he called the “variable controllable distortograph ... a revolutionary optical system for photographing in caricature or distortion,” submitting these photos of Thompson along with his application. While I have found no evidence connecting Thompson's anti-English campaign to these creations, due to the timing, a link seems likely. (Photos used with permission of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)