Gov. Pat Quinn used the phrase "our Illinois" almost 30 times last week during his annual State of the State address.
"In our Illinois, everyone should have access to decent healthcare," Quinn said.
"In our Illinois, working people find good jobs not just for today but for tomorrow."
"In our Illinois, we find a way to get hard things done."
In our Illinois, Quinn said, we are a "community of shared values."
While the phrase was a rhetorical device, it is important to point out that Illinois isn't really "one" and doesn't have all that many "shared values."
Imagine trying to govern a state so diverse that it included Boston, Mass., and Richmond, Va.
Well, Waukegan, north of Chicago, is at the same latitude as Boston. Cairo, at the southern tip of Illinois, sits at the same latitude as Richmond.
While Chicago's similarities to Bostonian liberalism might be pretty obvious, our state's history has more in common with Richmond than you might think.
For the first few decades of the 19th century, a state-owned Southern Illinois salt works in Saline County used slave labor and produced almost a third of our government's revenues. These days, Southern Illinois politicians closely resemble Kentuckians, or Southern Virginians for that matter.
But our diversity and differences go much further than that.
We have unimaginable wealth literally right next door to some of the worst poverty in the western hemisphere.
We have the third largest city in the nation and huge swaths of rural farm counties with few people in them.
We have Chicago wards that voted almost unanimously for Barack Obama last year and downstate counties that have voted Republican since Abraham Lincoln joined the party.
We have more African-American residents than any "free" state except New York. And we have some counties that are so "white" that I know some black legislators and lobbyists who are afraid to stop for gas on their way to and from Springfield.
Our industrial capacity is almost unparalleled, yet we grow more corn than any state except Iowa.
Many of our Southern Illinois Democrats make many suburban Republicans look downright liberal. Obama won most of those typically Republican suburban counties last year, but he lost Madison County, even though every other countywide Democratic candidate won last year.
So while I often get frustrated with the way Quinn governs, it's important to keep in mind that this state is nearly ungovernable, particularly in these times when people are sharply divided by just about everything. Consensus is almost impossible.
None of this means that governing is impossible, however, and this column isn't meant to excuse any of Quinn's many, many shortcomings.
But the next time you think that solving problems here ought to be easy, remember that nothing has been easy in Illinois for many long years.
Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, ad capitolfax.com.