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A conservative in an occupied city

By Bernard Chapin
web posted July 5, 2004

Chicago is one of the most famous cities in the United States and I have to admit that I generally regard myself as being quite lucky to live within its boundaries, but, as a conservative, my views are rarely harmonious with those of my neighbors.

The other day I had the afternoon off and attended the tourist attraction, and all-around annoyance, known as "The Taste of Chicago." I was inside the event for less than thirty minutes but was reminded on my way home of how commonplace support is for the Democratic Party in the city of liberal shoulders. On Jackson Street I encountered three youths wearing t-shirts that had "DNC" printed on the upper-left corners. One of them looked into my eyes as I passed and asked, "Would you like to do something about getting rid of George Bush?" I shook my head. I told him, "No, I like George W. Bush." The fundraiser immediately looked at another section of the sidewalk in response.

Two weeks ago I put on my new "Viva La Reagan Revolucion" t-shirt for a Saturday afternoon stroll. I believe that I got nearly as much attention wearing it than as I would have had I worn a bow-tie alone. People gaped at me when I walked past and I even saw one person shudder. When I went to Sears I noticed that the salesperson was staring at Reagan's face as he answered my questions about chainsaws. One rare positive response came from a janitor who saw the shirt and announced, "Now that's cool!" I couldn't agree more, but it's hard to imagine my receiving the numerous outraged stares had I lived in Boise or Bismarck instead of the Windy City.

In social situations when there's far more on the line, over the course of the past two years, I've become adept at hiding my opinions with the people I want to impress. I've had no choice but to do so as it seems that complaining about George W. Bush has evolved into a conversation opener for many area women. At a recent street fair a girl informed me that she was "a Democrat and can't wait until the next election." When she asked me what I thought I said, "It should be a close one I believe…Hey, Dianabol and I found a shorter beer line down the road. I'll show you."

Then, within the span of one week, two fine prospects asked me about whether I had seen or intended to see "Fahrenheit 9/11." I dodged the question the first time but on the second, due to being under the heavy influence of alcohol, I muffed my sales pitch by saying, "F--- that fat bastard!" The girl moved on to bluer state pastures which, as she walked away, I realized was my loss.

For the paraphernalia displaying conservative, unexpected house guests can make for dangerous situations indeed. I had this hammered home to me last weekend. Upon our entrance, I wisely spent the first five minutes frantically cleaning the bathroom for my guest's approval but I neglected to realize that the rest of the apartment is heavily mined with all sorts of visible "buzzkills." With a heavy aroma of Clorox perfume I walked into the front room and found my guest pointing at a portrait of our President smiling from a podium and wearing a Carhart style coat. It was addressed to me on behalf of the RNC.

"What is this?" she spat.

Now a man of true principle would have stopped right there and pointed out George's merits to his guest but some things are more important than winning political debates so I opted for the weaselesque, "I have no idea. I don't know who that person is. I wonder why he's hanging on my wall." This answer at least produced a smile from the Bush-hater before me. I considered myself lucky that she missed the framed picture of Charleton Heston hanging just below George. However, later in the night, she called me over to the area near the front door and inquired, "Whose face is this that you wipe your feet on?" This was really bad news. She had incidentally stumbled across my "Hillary Clinton Doormat" one the way to the bathroom. In the spirit of Bill's autobiography I answered "I have no idea"–although I kicked myself later for not have said, "I cannot recall."

Overall, it is wise to adopt Clintonian standards for discussing politics if you wish to get along with most Chicagoans and this is particularly true regarding the shapely and form-fitting women who ornament our city to summer perfection.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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