Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A 5th star on Chicago’s flag: pep talk or curse?

     My people have a useful term that doesn’t translate well: kine hora. It’s Yiddish for “not the evil eye,” but means something akin to “knock on wood.” Were I to toss off some giddily optimistic prediction — “In September, when everything is back to normal, I’m looking forward to enjoying a sunny afternoon at Wrigley Field” — my wife might reply, “Don’t give yourself a kine hora.”
     Fate has a way of grinding our faces in misplaced optimism. My ballgame plans, come September, might haunt me as I’m herded into the temporary detention facility set up inside the shattered ruins of Wrigley, snagged in the federal sweep of writers and people who wear eyeglasses after July’s general societal collapse. I’ll look around, dazed, realizing I’m in the exact spot where I had anticipated an afternoon of peanuts and box scores.
     Best to avoid cheery predictions.
     So when Mayor Lori Lightfoot said, twice, she wants the city’s response to COVID-19 to be worthy of a new star on the Chicago flag, I winced, hope dwindling. Maybe this isn’t the beginning of the end. Maybe this is where the Bad Part starts.
     “I want nothing less than for our efforts over the coming months to truly warrant a fifth star on our flag,” Lightfoot said last week. Maybe she was being merely motivational, the way a Little League coach tells his players “I want every one of you to put in your best Hall-of-Fame effort against the Bumblebees.” That doesn’t mean he expects them to end up in Cooperstown.
     I hope so. Because to sincerely suggest a fifth star ... isn’t that jumping the gun? Isn’t plotting new flag stars an Ed Burke move? The defanged Burke argued a posteriori for a fifth star for the 2016 Olympics which, in case you forgot, didn’t work out so well.
     Fortunately, the solution was posed by the mayor herself, exactly one year ago. 

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  1. Great article, as always Neil. Except I think that the 2016 Olympics worked out extremely well for Chicago: we don't have the Olympics' ubiquitous debt piled on top of our already huge debt; we don't have the skeletons of arenas and cheap housing that the Olympics always leave behind in host cities; and we don't have the stigma of being a failed host city, which certainly would have been the case had the Daley/Emanuel teams actually won the bid.

    1. No argument here. I was against the 2016 Olympics coming here from the start, in the process there mocking Rio so vigorously that the mayor down there complained about it.

    2. Emanuel had nothing to do with the Olympic bid!
      Chicago lost out to Rio on October 2, 2009 & Emanuel didn't become mayor until May 16, 2011.
      The Olympic bid was 100% Daley's mess!

  2. The so-called "Italian Air Armada"...led by Italian Air Force Marshal Italo Balbo...came to the Century of Progress in 1933. From 1 July to 12 August 1933, twenty-four seaplanes flew round-trip from Rome to the Century of Progress in Chicago, landing on Lake Michigan near Burnham Park. Mussolini donated a column to the city of Chicago: the Balbo Monument. It is still standing, south of Soldier Field.

    Chicago renamed the former 7th Street "Balbo Drive" and staged a huge parade in his honor. My father was there. To save money on carfare, he hopped a freight from the Northwest Side.

    Years ago, I brought home a Chicago flag, which I still fly from my garage on nice days, right next to my Ohio flag. The first time I put it up, my neighbor...a good old boy from Kentucky...asked me where I'd obtained the flag of Israel. Clay has been gone almost twenty years now, but I still miss him.

    1. The Chicago flag is a very nice design, indeed. The Ohio state flag is excellent, as well. Of course, as noted by Wikipedia: "It is a swallowtail flag, the only non-rectangular U.S. state flag." I salute your garage!

    2. In flag terminology, a swallowtail is either a V-shaped cut in a flag that causes the flag to end in two points at the fly, or any flag which has this V-shaped cut. The Nazis were fond of carrying swastika-emblazoned guidons, which are small military swallowtail flags, in parades.

      Ohio's state flag is officially known as the "Ohio Burgee." But a burgee is actually the shape used by recreational boating organizations. In most cases, that's the shape of a pennant, without the V-shaped cut.

      So Ohio's flag is really not the Ohio Burgee, but the Ohio Swallowtail. My Chicago flag and my Ohio flag, on my blue garage, are a rhapsody in blue!

  3. Lightfoot is just flailing around. Closing the lakefront is just stupid, as all it did was concentrate people in other parks.
    The fifth star crap is an attempt to change the subject.
    The only reason she was elected was there were too many ridiculous candidates, most refugees from the clown car & in the runoff, it was her or the truly batshit crazy Taxwinkle, who's never met a tax increase she didn't want to be even higher, than anyone else suggested.
    Paul Vallas would've been far better, as he had executive experience & understand finances.

  4. If I were Paul Vallas, I would be celebrating having lost the mayoral race, just the way Ed P. suggests we celebrate not getting the 2016 Olympics. An impossible job quickly got even more impossible.


  5. This "fifth star" idea of Lightfoot's was was a non-starter to me as soon as I heard it suggested. Regardless of anything else, and whatever you may think of the 1933 Fair, the 4 stars represent Chicago-specific events. Covid-19 does not.

    Motivational rhetoric needn't always result in a kine hora, though. Winston Churchill: "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" The Empire is surely not what it was in 1940, nor should it be, needless to say, but they were up to the task in WWII.

    Now, if only Churchill had had the good sense to encourage citizens to take hydroxychloroquine, there's no telling how fine things could have gotten.


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