America Finds its Center in Chicago – for the last 20 years all Presidents have been from the middle of the country
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 11/20/08
Governments usually place their capitals in the center of the country. It is natural to do so as people naturally divide between head and heart (yin/yang/ Logos/Eros, particle/wave) much as the head-based urbanites of the North and the heart-based pastoralists in the South did here at the beginning.
They usually war because head and heart are organically in opposition and the heart always loses because war is primarily logistical and logistics is a tool of the head. (The heart fights with élan and courage. The head fights with machines.) The heart is not good at doing the things the head is good at: George W. Bush, a heart-based Texas, was a good man but not a good governor. He would have made a good priest or preacher. On the other hand the head does poorly in the realms of the heart as well. Visit any Yankee church up here in New Hampshire and see. But long term, the heart rises and the head yields to it, just as the head-based Roman Empire yielded in time to a more enduring empire of the heart.
The capital is wisely placed between head and heart to be a uniting force: Brahma in the center links the opposing forces of Shiva and Vishnu on the edges and the realm finds grace and power in equilibrium. But in time the center is overwhelmed. Even in 1985 you could live in a studio apartment in D.C. a three minute walk from the Capital building or the Library of Congress for less than $350. You could go camping inside the Beltway and experience quiet. Today you couldn’t do that outside Manassas. Now it is, in the phrasing of Mick Huckabee, like a roach motel: Power seekers enter and they don’t check out.
But the Capital is put in the center for another reason. The edges are prone to attack by outsiders or even a few individuals who are not part of the realm. The attacks on the World Trade Centers – the absolute symbol of American post-war power – on 9/11 may have had the effect of subliminally making us back away from places on the edges.
America’s center is moving to Chicago. Chicago “feels” safer and less vulnerable to attack than New York City or Washington, D.C. Of course it is not, especially since the Russians have planted their flag at the North Pole. Nothing between them but fences. Not even fences.
Just the same, this year we were prompted to call forth as President someone from Chicago even though he has little experience in the things needed in a President. And now we want a Chicago woman for Secretary of State who likewise has no experience for the job. And practically everyone else the new guy knows or remembers is from Chicago.
But we have long been moving to this. For four hundred years we have been a North/South country. The rise of the Christian Right was in direct dynamic opposition to the supposed decadence and leftist leanings in the North – it was extension of Civil War by other means. It may have presented the last waning cry of the Southern heart in opposition.
We are now an East/West country, an empire like Rome’s with two centers; LA and NY. In time these two will grow in opposition but not today. Chicago is now the center of our country and for the last 20 years the Presidents have all come from the middle of the country. It has been suggested that these people are all from the South but anyone who knows the South would see nothing Southern in either of the Bushes or Bill Clinton, the consummate striver and New York wannabe of the Eastern Establishment and its governing class. And Arkansas and Texas are only outskirts of the South. Both are west of the Mississippi; the mythic dividing center of the new world and the new millennium first marked to be so by the American coyote trickster god, Huck Finn.
As per the election of Barack Obama it may be said that we are no longer a North/South country and are now an East/West country. You could think of this in terms of the good work of Steve Jarding and Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, some of the best minds in my opinion, who write that the South and its values and culture must be considered by Democrats or the country will constantly yield to Republicans. An opposing view said that enough votes could be garnished in other regions so that the Democrats can “whistle past Dixie” and simply ignore it. The Jarding/Saunders perspective (the “Mudcat Paradigm”) could be considered a bellwether. If and when a time came when all parties could ignore the South, a new dynamic will have been formed. And that would be East/West. That could be now.
As the beautiful city of Washington, D.C., once served as a center-most mandala uniting North and South prior to the Civil War, so the Mississippi River divides the world today with Chicago at top and New Orleans at bottom uniting the U.S. east and west and all of the Eastern world and the Western world into one world. At center is the Lakes Region, which forms a water star. Maybe a new center of the world will be built here one day and feature the Sea Serpent; the chi spirit in the Great Lakes known to First People in this region as Manitou - the Primary Spirit of the Earth.