The Grey Chronicles

2009.March.9

Sez Who? Sez Me, Royko


Mike Royko: Sez Who? Sez Me

Sez Who? Sez Me

I finished reading last night Mike Royko’s Sez Who? Sez Me (1973), a compilation of his Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times columns, which were syndicated country-wide in more than 600 newspapers. He wrote more than 7,500 columns in a four-decade career. [Note: That’s about one column every other day of his writing career! Similar to maintaining a web blog, I suppose.]

Michael “Mike” Royko, considered by Washington Post as the “National Treasure”, was born 19 September 1932 to a Ukrainian father and Polish mother (Jackson, et. al., 1998) and became a newspaper columnist in Chicago. He who won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for commentary and the Heywood Broun Award; received the National Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 and the Damon Runyon Award in 1995.

Mike Royko: Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago

Royko (1972) Boss

Best known for his other work: Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, the book, published in 1972 spent 26 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller non-fiction list, is an unauthorized biography of the city mayor of Chicago depicted as corrupt and racist.

As a columnist, the precursor of the blogger in the Information Age, he wrote about childhood experiences and became the voice of the Everyman Chicago.

What I liked about his writing style is that although he can be brutally frank and caustically sarcastic, he never condescended to his readers, and always remembered he was one of them.

[Note: Some readers thought: I can sometimes be sarcastically frank or caustically brutal.]


On pages 317—320 of Sez Who? Sez Me, moreover, he wrote “Dear God: Why?”, a very intelligently written column which I wish I wrote it. Anyway, I hoped someday, I could write one just as well. Excerpts are as follow:

“Dear God: I know how busy you must be with a whole universe to worry about. That’s why it occurred to me that you don’t have time to read our papers and your TV reception might not be good. So I thought I’d drop you a note about how things are going here. . . Well, things couldn’t be going any better, at least as far as your image is concerned. You wouldn’t believe how well loved you are on this planet today, and how much is being done in your name.”

He then described several instances on “what religious fervor can be found” in places like:

In Ireland:

“The Irish Protestants are so devoted to you that they do everything possible to make life miserable for the Irish Catholics, because they don’t think the Irish Catholics have the right approach toward worshipping you. . . . And one thing about these people: Their devotion to you is unshakable. They’ve been doing this for about four hundred years.”

In Lebanon:

“In that country, there are Moslems and Christians, and they’ve created different sets of rules for worshipping you. Naturally, they say you have sent the rules down to them. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if I may make a suggestion: if it’s true that you gave them the word, it would really simplify things if there were only one set of rules. It would cause less hard feelings. . . But such details aside, they are expressing their devotion to you by killing each other by the hundreds.”

In Iran and Iraq:

“The Moslems in those countries basically agree on what to call you, but they disagree on some details concerning how best to worship you. So they’re killing one another, too. ”

In Israel and just about everyone else in that neighborhood:

“The people in Israel also have their own set of rules for worshipping you, which they say you passed on them. And they claim that you look more favorably upon them than anyone else. This has always caused a lot of hard feelings because the lot of other groups figure that they’re your favorites. . . Anyway the Jews and their Moslems neighborhoods—both of whom claim your complete support—have been going at it for about thirty years.”

He also mentioned this final item:

“Somebody just shot the pope [see footnote]. . . . the man who shot him apparently did it because of his devotion to you. . . but this fellow seems to think the pope was in some way responsible for somebody invading the sacred mosques of his religion in a place called Mecca. That, of course, was an insult to you, so he got even in your behalf by shooting the pope.”

Then Royko wrote a postscript:

“I never believed any of those stories going around a few years ago that “God is dead.” How could you be? We don’t have one weapon that can shoot that far.”

As if by fate, Royko died of a brain aneurysm at age sixty-four in 29 April 1997. His remains entombed in Acacia Mausoleum, Acacia Park Cemetery, Chicago.


Royko’s column was written in 1981, yet these events still ring true to this day: about another thirty years thereafter! Countries mentioned in Royko’s column are still considered the hot spots of the world. When will we all ever learn?


Notes:

The attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II by Mehmet Ali Ağca on 13 May 1981 in Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Square. Ağca, convicted in July 1981, was deported to Turkey in 2001, after serving 20 years imprisonment. [Online: Wikipedia. accessed 09 March 2009]. back to text

Jackson, Kenneth T.; Karen Markoe and Arnie Markoe (1998). The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: 1997-1999. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998. pp. 499-501. back to text

Royko, Michael (1972). Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago. New York: Plume, 1972, Reprinted 1988. 350pp. back to text

Royko, Michael (1973). Sez Who? Sez Me. New York: Warner Books, 1973, Reprinted December 1983. 320pp. back to text

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