The Choice is Clear

Today’s great universities face myriad challenging choices.

Shall we expand the college of engineering?

Are the changes in secondary school requirements necessitating changes in how we educate teachers?

What is the ongoing role of a classical liberal education?

My alma mater, the University of Illinois, Urbana, faces all these challenges but one even more daunting to its politically correct leadership: the choice of a new mascot.

I wrote about this early in the year (Messing with a Mascot). As I mentioned then, the university really never had a mascot; it had a symbol: Chief Illiniwek.

However, in an ill-considered fit of progressive mindlessness, the university did away with The Chief. He was replaced (sort of) by a big orange capital “I”.

A big orange “I” could stand for many things… Illinois… idiot… illiterate… idolatry… insanity.  Such obscurity could not stand.

In response, the university has been accepting recommendations for a new (actually, its first) mascot.  The frontrunner appears to be a fairly unimpressive bird called the kingfisher. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, there are important and obvious reasons why the kingfisher is a selection that is for the birds.

The indisputable and most glorious choice for University of Illinois mascot is the Tully Monster. I’m serious.

If you aren’t familiar with this prehistoric denizen then shame on you. After all, the Tully Monster (Tullimonstrum gregarium) is the official state fossil of Illinois and inhabited the waters covering the state some 300 million years ago. It was discovered in 1958 by Francis Tully.

Illinois State Geological Survey paleontologist Donald Mikulic lobbied the State Legislation to give Tully the honor, which the wise legislators did in 1989.  Mikulic was lucky he got that done when he did; today Tully would be competing with Mike Madigan and Dick Durbin for state fossil.

Why would Tully be a great mascot?

  1. Tully Monster fossils have only been found in the Mazon Creek fossil beds of Illinois. That means it is Illinois’ fossil and nobody else can claim it. 
  2. Lots of universities have mascots named after birds or furry animals, but they are hardly unique. No other school has a Tully Monster. (I should point out that Ohio State’s mascot is a nut, the Buckeye, which may say something about the school’s football fans.)
  3. The Tully Monster was a soft-bodied, highly flexible creature that grew as long as 18 inches.  It was a voracious carnivore with a long jaw and sharp teeth.  You would not have wanted to encounter Tully in the wild, prehistoric waters of Illinois. Tully was tough!
  4. It is easy to picture a vicious depiction of Tully on athletic uniforms and banners. At minimum, the unusual image would distract other teams and give Illinois teams an advantage. (We need all the help we can get.)
  5. Unlike Chief Illiniwek, Tully is unlikely to arose the ire of activists – although anything is possible. Maybe there are fossil-rights activists who have been dormant.

I know there are some who will point out that nobody alive today has ever seen a living Tully Monster. I don’t think that should be a deal breaker.

Notre Dame has a leprechaun as its mascot and despite legends to the contrary, nobody has ever really seen a leprechaun. At least we know that Tully was real.

The Forgotten Essential Workers

This is not another tribute to those brave essential workers who continue to serve society during the coronavirus pandemic.

You hear their praises sung daily on the radio and read of their dedication in newspapers: emergency responders, police, fire fighters, nurses, doctors, letter carriers, grocery workers, and sanitation workers.

There are the cashiers in gas stations. In some cases you can include teachers. In Chicago, near my home, the Catholic school teachers have proved themselves essential by showing up live and in person each day to teach their students. The public-school teachers, led by a grubby union, have decided to hide at home (that makes them non-essential in my book).

Calling some people essential and others non-essential may be the biggest example of judgmental discrimination in history. The list of people above certainly includes groups that are urgently needed if society is to function on a daily basis.  But they are no more “essential” than artists and musicians. Yes, I can get along without music longer than I can get along without groceries – but music is essential to my definition of a world I want to live in.

Some people, perhaps most people, extoll the essential services of government. Most of the “essential” workers mentioned earlier work for government at some level. However, in my state, Illinois, government services are generally poor and taxes continue to rise to pay the unfunded pensions of essential (and in some cases extremely unessential) government employees.

As I write this, the coronavirus vaccines developed by private companies are rolling out.  President Trump – whether you like him or not – provided the most essential factor in getting vaccines done in record time. He got government out of the way.  If the government were given the task of creating the vaccines we’d still be setting up blue-ribbon panels of experts and arguing about which agency should be in charge.

Sadly, in all this talk of essential workers, there are two groups who are seldom if ever mentioned.

The first are what I’ll call “faith workers.” These include priests, nuns, ministers, and leaders of Jewish, Muslim, and other non-Christian creeds. They have tried to continue to fill the faith needs of their followers despite government efforts to close their facilities and keep their members from getting together for such absolutely essential activities as prayer.

Government restrictions have made it challenging (in some instances impossible) for people of faith to conduct the corporal acts of mercy:  to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to travelers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

Government is trying to control people to a greater degree than ever before in America’s history.  Don’t misunderstand; we have been through difficult times and sacrifices many times in the past.  But never before has the government reached so far to restrict our movement and define our thinking.

Government restrictions have ruined businesses and broken countless family dreams. In return, there is scant evidence those restrictions have really benefitted our health. Nobody has proved to me that avoiding human contact and wearing a mask while riding my bicycle is beneficial.

Of course, the federal government has sent zillions of dollars in aid to individual, businesses, and other levels of government. This brings me to the second category of forgotten essential workers: taxpayers.

Contrary to what many socialists believe, the government really doesn’t have its own money to spend. Government has assumed the authority to spend our money.

All the free stuff government gives away isn’t really free.  It is paid for by taxpayers.

I cringe every time I hear a government leader say the government is providing free health care, free housing, free food, or free anything else.  It isn’t that I’m opposed to helping people; I am opposed to government taking credit and claiming it is providing anything for free.

Government can only give something to a person by taking the required resources from someone else. That makes – from the government’s perspective – the taxpayer the most essential worker of all.

The next time you get anything “free” from the government, don’t thank your senator. Thank your taxpaying neighbors.