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To steal a phrase from long ago — can’t we all just along.

Earlier this week, I read an article in the Chicago Reader titled “Downstate hate: A history of the bitter, nearly 200-year rivalry between Chicago and the rest of Illinois.” As the title very clearly states, it’s about the divide Chicagoans have with the rest of the state.

Now, full disclosure, I was raised in the northwest suburb of Crystal Lake. It’s about halfway between Chicago and Rockford near the border with Wisconsin. I lived there until I moved to Iowa for two years of college, then moved back for a year, until I moved to Southern Illinois to finish out school. That was nearly 20 years ago — I’m still here in Southern Illinois and don’t plan to go anywhere.

My family still lives in the suburbs, so I still visit Chicagoland frequently.

I’m proud of where I’m from. But, I‘m equally proud to call Southern Illinois my home. I consider myself a Southern Illinoisan in every way possible — except I root for Chicago sports teams (minus the Cubs), and not the Cardinals or Blues.

I also understand that the two places are completely different. There are only 300-some-odd miles between them, but there might as well be an ocean.

The Chicagoland area is hectic — ever try driving the Kennedy or the Eisenhauer expressways during rush hour? Yuck. Southern Illinois is much, much less so — unless you count driving from Carbondale to Marion between 4 and 6 p.m. For the record, and believe me, they don’t compare.

In the collar counties around Chicago, the politics are decidedly liberal. In Southern Illinois, again, quite the opposite.

According to the article in Chicago Reader, the original state line to the north was supposed to run horizontally from the southern tip of Lake Michigan west across the state. This meant Chicago — as well as half the Quad Cities and Rockford — would’ve been a part of Wisconsin (sports fans, imagine the Bears-Packers rivalry with that).

But, then Nathaniel Pope — whom Pope County is named after — suggested moving that line north because of the advantages of having a Lake Michigan port be a part of our state, the article said. Of course, nobody knew at the time how big Chicago would actually grow to be.

Now, as we will begin to celebrate the state’s 200th birthday, I’m reminded of the ocean that sits between the Chicagoland area and the rest of the state. I’m also reminded that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Like anywhere else in the world, both have good and both have bad. Sure, they're different — but that’s no reason to hate.

Actually, that could be a lesson for all of us right now — inside Illinois and out.

• Another award: Switching gears, I’d like to congratulate our newsroom here at The Southern for winning Lee Enterprises’ President’s Award for Excellence in News, which recognizes outstanding achievement in any aspect of print and online journalism, from reporting and writing to photography, video, graphics and presentation.

I realize that I sound like a broken record here, but reporter Molly Parker — along with reporter Isaac Smith and photographer Richard Sitler — have worked very hard on this investigation, and it’s nice to see them recognized for their work.

This award is a big deal for us, as it is just as nice to be recognized by our parent company.

“These awards honor our company’s achievements in journalism, innovation, and community leadership,” Kevin Mowbray, president and chief executive officer of Lee Enterprises, said in a news release. “These winners and the many other nominees clearly underline the indispensable role our enterprises serve in the communities.”

• Happy Thanksgiving, everyone: Enjoy the holiday with family and friends. I know I will.

Tom English is the executive editor of The Southern Illinoisan. His columns include his own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinion or editorial position of The Southern. He can be reached at or 618-351-5070. You can follow him on Twitter at @tomenglish23.


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