Not sure, but “bet your bottom dollar you’ll lose your blues in Chicago.” 

I’m just back from a trip to Chi-town, third largest city in the U.S. (2.7 million, after New York and Los Angeles). It’s a great city, very diverse ethnically (White 32 percent, Hispanic 29.7 percent, Black 29.3 percent). 

I met cab drivers from Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, the Middle East and Africa; I met caregivers (of my friends I was visiting) from Jamaica and Poland, all adding to the pre-existing Irish/Polish mix. Thank God for immigrants and our new Americans! 

The Chicago shoreline and Lake Michigan.

The friends I visited helped inspire this story, suggesting connections between Illinois and Texas. They are Dr. John Bokina, author and theorist, and his spouse, Dr. Salma Ghanem, multicultural communications authority. He, as a colleague in Political Science, Pan American University, taught “Politics and Opera,” taking students to Grand Opera in Houston. 

Yale will soon publish his magnum opus on Spartacus. She, former Chair of Communications at UTPA,  pioneered in leading students to Study Abroad in Salamanca and Berlin and is now Provost at De Paul University. Their leaving “Pan Am,” our loss, Chicago and De Paul’s gain. They helped me appreciate Chicago. We bonded again, watching Cubs vs White Sox together.

In addition to friends, I love Chicago’s lake, art museum, and the “El” (elevated trains). We attended the famous Black Ensemble Theatre. The show was a brilliant homage to Lena Horne (my childhood dream girl) and Nancy Wilson, two singers for each, as “younger” and “mature” stars. The plethora of ethnic food, “Chicago pizza,” and other restaurants add to the welcoming ambiance. However, Chicago has lost population recently, as has the whole state. It is one of seven in the U.S. with negative growth. Affluent Whites account for the drop. The state population is now 12.7 million.

Texas is now 28.7 million. But, is “bigger” always better? Yes, in some ways (perhaps “clout” in Congress?) And $2.05 a gallon for gasoline is probably more popular (though not wiser environmentally) than $3.50. But Illinois boasts a new Governor (Jay Robert Pritzker), a businessperson and philanthropist. He promoted “Juneteenth” celebrations recently and backed (with a Democratic super-majority) a new, graduated income tax law and very pro-women, pro-choice policies. 

Chicago, as well, is enlightened. It welcomes a new African American Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. She is actively pro-LGBTQ, elected on a platform stressing safety, a concern of all ethnic groups. She has appointed Mellody Hobson (formerly CEO of Dreamworks Animation) as the first African American and female to head the World Business Chicago Board. You can just imagine here, as background, Catherine Zeta-Jones, straight outta “Chicago,” singing “Oh, I love my life—and all that jazz.” 

So, Chicago has so much to offer us in Texas (items in trade, but also, hopefully, models of social progress). So does Illinois have much to share, its chief products being chemicals, computers, machinery and transportation equipment, as well as agricultural products. Of course, Texas has much to offer them, to include, besides oil and gas, cattle and cotton, technology and tourism. Let’s not forget close access to the U.S.’s third most important trading partner, Mexico.  

Both Texas and Illinois may see future damage to trade. Workers in both states worry about Trump’s tariff policies raising consumer prices (Jacob Pramuk, “Trump’s Policies Unpopular,” NBC/Marist Poll, 23 Aug 18). Illinois may be losing population, while Texas gains, but Texas may be losing actual land size, if/when a foolish “wall” is erected, cutting off the Rio Grande River. 

That Trump policy will—horrors!–shrink the actual size of Texas. The incredible shrinking state will diminish its size, as barriers are placed inside the borders, as a result of eminent domain.  Private farmland will be swallowed up as well as dedicated refuges for the environment and wildlife. That happens? and maybe “we be singin’ da blues.” No state is immune to national trends and policies, but, while there is some degree of semi-autonomy, via federalism, Illinois and other states can resist regressive policies, and pursue progressive ones. 

That kind of response takes open-minded, future-oriented leaders in state offices. Let us hope Texas becomes more of “our kinda town”–our kinda state. It need not (indeed, cannot) replicate Illinois, but do we follow the policies of regressive southern states, regarding taxes, regarding women’s rights? No, we are better than that. We can perhaps lean more “western” than “southern.” We can and should lead upward, not follow downward. As we lead – to paraphrase yet another well-known song – the “eyes” the rest of the U.S. are upon us.