(Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
Chicago may not have a Palace of Versailles, but my city does have its own latter-day Marie Antoinette. According to an apocryphal account from the French Revolution, when the Bourbon monarch was told that the dying peasants of Paris lacked bread, she responded, “Let them eat cake.”
While 2020 America does not confer titles on aristocrats, many in our permanent political class operate with similar arrogance and tone-deafness. For example, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has garnered significant attention for her scolding sermons about social distancing, going so far as to close the expansive Chicago lakefront to any foot traffic, even to people wishing to run or walk alone. But on Sunday, the mayor felt that her hair needed trimming, so she summarily scheduled a private haircut. The stylist leaked the information online, posting pictures alongside the decidedly un-socially-distant mayor.
When challenged on her hypocrisy, Mayor Lightfoot responded with a Marie Antoinette-like retort: “I felt I needed to have a haircut, so I got a haircut.” How wonderful for our queen mayor. Does she realize that millions of Chicagoans cannot get haircuts the way she did? Because of shelter-in-place regulations imposed by our governor and enforced by the Lightfoot-run City Hall, every citizen of Chicago faces inconveniences and challenges. Some, such as forgoing a haircut, might seem trivial. But to the thousands of Chicagoans employed in the beauty business, these closures are literally life-changing. How many stylists are frantically trying to collect unemployment and fretting about paying impending bills? How many entrepreneurs wonder if they can keep their salons and barber shops in business through this crisis?
Instead of offering tangible help to such citizens, Lightfoot leverages the crisis for a power flex. She closed the lakefront for one reason only: because she could. Her action was not, as she claimed, in the service of public health. If anything, sealing off the city’s picturesque path to runners and walkers represents a decidedly anti-health prohibition. In a similar authoritarian prerogative, the mayor did something no regular serf in Chicago can presently do, she got a haircut, and for one reason only: because she could. Her action, and her subsequent shameless defense of her high-handedness, spotlights an administrative state that operates according to its own rules. In the case of the mayor of Chicago, it’s “social distancing for thee, but not for me.”
Lightfoot also tried to justify her exemption by asserting, “I’m the public face of this city and, you know, I’m a person who takes personal hygiene very seriously.” To that latter point, what does hair length have to do with hygiene? Moreover, do the rest of us in the proletariat non-haircut masses somehow disregard “hygiene”? As for being the “public face” of Chicago, many of the actual citizens of our city would prefer to see markedly less of Mayor Lightfoot since she exploits the present crisis for such abysmal policies as promising full government benefits during the emergency to illegal migrants who do not even belong in Chicago (or anywhere in America) in the first place.
A driving animus of the 2016 populist nationalist movements that swept the globe was the repudiation of entitled political elites with a return of power to working-class citizens. Petty tyrants like Her Royal Highness should study the history of abusive potentates. Americans will never resort to the renegade violence of the French Revolution, but we deplorables should embrace the spirit of our own American Revolutionary forefathers and banish hypocritical scolds like Lori Lightfoot from ever suppressing us again.