It’s not a great time to be from Illinois. Yesterday a friend of mine, a native Chicagoan who now lives in New Jersey, IM’d me with this: “Geez, what’s wrong with your politicians out there?” She seemed to happily forget that she, too, is from the Land of Lincoln (and Blagojevich).
Anyway, just as many of us felt proud to be an American on Nov. 4, we’ve been feeling embarrassed about being an Illinoisan today. What in the world is going on with a state that has not one but two consecutive governors who are immersed in corruption? (Can you imagine what imprisoned former Illinois Gov. George Ryan must be feeling right now in the wake of these revelations? Probably doesn’t bolster his chances for an early release.)
Governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged actions have left everyone in the State of Illinois feeling either sad, mad, or stunned. Why on earth would someone who has been the subject of Federal investigations for the past five years attempt to “sell” a U.S. Senate seat, among other things? The astonishment and hyperbole that’s been used to describe this latest scandal, from the mouths of Federal investigators who have seen plenty of corruption, speaks to the tragic and unfathomable nature of these events.
Not only do Blagojevich’s alleged actions speak of unparalleled hubris, one has to think that, given the cloud of suspicion that he’s been under for a long time, he must be suffering from some form of mental illness. (Of course, sin is a mental illness that we all contend with daily, right?)
My first reaction was to call the guy a “total idiot.” How could he be so stupid, greedy, and vindictive? This bum needs to resign—or be impeached—sooner rather than later. Lock him up, along with his “pay to play” political cohorts. But then I saw video of his wife and two young daughters walking out of their home on the news, and I was reminded of his humanity. And I thought, Lord, have mercy on this man and his family.
Then I started to think about my own instances of behavior that border on unethical at best and illegal at worst. Aren’t we all engaged in some manner of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” practices from time to time–in the workplace, in our personal relationships, in our finances? Which led me to think, Lord, have mercy on me.
There’s plenty of political analysis and commentary to sort through related to this story, but I foundover at EbonyJet.com especially challenging. Easter asks the question, “Are we all corrupt?,” and suggests that there may be a thin line between what Blagojevich was doing and stuff that we do each day.
In the coming weeks, there will likely be more revelations to shake our confidence in government and deepen our cynicism. Barack Obama’s mantra of “change” and “a new politics” is being severely tested before the man can even take the oath of office. Let’s just hope and pray that this latest scandal will be a reminder to all politicians—and to us—that integrity is a deliberate decision we must make each day of our lives.