(This column appeared in THE LONE STAR ICONOCLAST, Crawford, Texas, and at www.LoneStarIcon.com the week of September 25, 2006.)
I had a rare occasion to have a conversation with Leon recently.
That would be the one and only Mr. W. Leon Smith, the farsighted, open-minded and, dare I say, peerless writer and impresario of this wonderful gutsy publication. (Did I get it right, Chief?)
The regular reader knows that I labor in a place called Normal, smack in the middle of the Land of Lincoln. Not only is this region about as far from normal as one might imagine, any resemblance to Lincoln's legacy has been scrubbed away and covered up with the whitewash of Neo-con, UberChristian fanaticism.
Meanwhile, Leon is surrounded by a similarity of small-mindedness some 950 miles (give or take) to the south-southwest of our meager 95' X 200' spread.
Let's face it, at $3.25 a gallon for gas or even the new Dark Lord the Dick Cheney pre-arranged just before the mid-term elections bargain price of $2.25 a gallon -- the commute is a bit on the pricey side.
Not to mention that I'd be hard pressed to make it home at a reasonable time for dinner.
Well, at one point Leon asked me about people's attitudes up here in Illinois concerning their level of fear.
My immediate response was that around these parts of the great "Red Zone" midsection of this Blue State the good folks don't seem to be concerned much about al Qaeda killing their families and all of King George's fear jabberwocky.
I've lived and worked in a lot of different places, from huge metropolises like Chicago to small towns that were less populated than my high school graduating class (1,250, give or take); on the Continents of North America, Asia and Europe. This "Twin City" community of Bloomington/Normal is comprised of 100,000 or so of the most insulated individuals I have ever seen.
Many of the people from the Middle East that have settled here are into the second and third generations of their families. They own businesses and property; their children have acclimated to American ways and just fit in at school along with everyone else. The women drive and many have Anglo, African-American or Asian friends.
I told Leon that most of my friends and family in the Chicago area aren't really too concerned with or filled with dread from an onslaught of Middle Eastern hordes, either.