To the editor:
The Chicago Bears are in off-season right now, but one team is always in season: the Illinois whiners.
They’re on Facebook and everywhere else. They’ve made a sport of proclaiming the misery this state has caused them. Note: I’m talking about (typically) middle-class Illinoisans living in nice areas--the inner-city plight is a different story.
Let’s look at the most common gripes.
Weather/Landscape. We get rough winters, but unlike hurricanes or wildfires, they don’t destroy towns. The polar vortex lasted two days; towns are still recovering from 2017 hurricanes. Take a cue from Norwegians, whose positive mindset about winter means no complaining, no seasonal depression. True, we don’t have mountains; ours is a simpler beauty: It's our 70 state parks and Shawnee National Forest. As Van Gogh said, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”
Politics/Pensions. To jab us, Indiana ran billboards calling itself “A State That Works.” Some Illinoisans move to Indiana, but guess what--Indiana is under investigation for statewide corruption. And don’t be fooled by headlines: Chicago was named the most corrupt big city, not the most corrupt city. Texas and Florida each have more public corruption convictions than Illinois. Pensions are a $1.4 trillion problem nationwide--20+states share our woes.
Cost of Living/Taxes. We’re not one of the 15 most expensive states, and we have a lower property tax rate than Texas and Wisconsin. We didn’t make the list of top 10 highest income tax. Those taxes, however, are why we have so many great schools. States with low taxes, like Arizona, rank lowest for public schools. It’s not a “trendy” state like Oregon. The “grass is greener” mentality is slippery--I’ve seen several Illinoisans move to Colorado or Oregon, only to up and move shortly after, usually due to skyrocketing cost of living (see: Nashville, Denver).
Traffic. The whiners made a self-canceling prophecy: as people leave Illinois, traffic will inevitably improve; the opposite will happen in “booming” states. Look at Boulder, Colorado whose congestion prompted a law restricting new construction.
Alas, as the Cubs had William Sianis’ goat, Illinois is a great scapegoat for unhappy people. But true happiness comes from your state of mind, not the state you live in. Life’s hard everywhere: Colorado’s suicide rate is disturbingly high, and warmer states often have worse poverty.
I’m not bashing the art of starting over, but I know many who feel lonely after moving to places lacking strong communities. People put down roots here--at least they used to. I fear this exodus will hurt our communities.