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Retraction

11 February 2009

So I haven’t been around here much lately, but I’ve been thinking. Thinking a lot. One think I have been thinking is about my last post – one sentence of my last post in particular.

In that post I wrote:

I wasn’t going to write about Blago and his crazy pity party … because I know the real world is rolling their eyes at these comparisons just as much as I am, so there isn’t anything new to say.

But then I found out I was wrong. The day after I wrote that post, I was listening to the Blagojevich impeachment trial on NPR. I turned on the radio slightly after his impassioned plea to the Illinois Senate, in that lull right before all the Senators had their say for three hours. At that time, the NPR anchor discussed the trial with a few, obviously learned commentators, but most of this conversation just went in one ear and out the other. But then they took calls from the audience, specifically from the audience in Chicago. The anchor took three calls, and every one of the callers said something on the order of “I don’t think what he did was all that wrong, Blago was just trying to help the people of Illinois, and sometimes the ends justify the means.” One woman in particular who has three children on the AllKids program said (I’m paraphrasing here), “This is politics as usual in Illinois; every politician is underhanded and cuts corners. At least Blagojevich did something good with his under-the-table dealings.” The anchor challenged her and asked, “Even if everything he did was illegal, do you think it was still all right and he should stay in office?” She answered emphatically, “YES.”

After I heard these interviews, I found myself in a bit of shock. I wanted to call up and ask how those people would like it if I taught their children that they can do whatever they want in life, break as many rules as they want, as long as, in the end, the scales weigh a little heavier on the “good” side (or at least the “benefits the people I think deserve it” side). And, as a Chicagoan, I was a bit miffed that these people were talking for me. I expect more and do not want politics as usual.

Now I’ve never been a big believer in the ends justify the means. After all, I’m pretty much a Goody-Two-Shoes. And a lawyer who actually believes in the power of the rule of law. I have had arguments with a number of people about this – they ask, “But what if the ends are really, really good and there is no legal way to get there?” Nope. Sorry. Doesn’t work for me.

I never even liked the story of Robin Hood. That whole steal from the rich to give to the poor never sat right with me. Yes, I am a bit of a socialist and would like to see more equality in socio-economics, but I don’t think stealing is the right way to go about it. And the story of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables – stealing a loaf of bread because his family was starving. I get it, I really do, but my feeling about it all is that the society should have done something to help him before he had to resort to stealing. And that’s why we need the rule of law. And trust me – I think this rule of law should be applied evenly. Loopholes need to be closed so that the rich do not steal from the poor anymore either.

Of course, I also know I’m living in a dream world. As noted by Renee Martin of GlobalComment:

When we decided to live in a soulless capitalist system, we agreed that the needs of the individual outweighed the needs of the community. To expect a politician to put on a halo simply because a large group of people checked her or his name on a ballot is ridiculous.

So maybe that is at the heart of all those comments made by the callers: When a politician actually decides to use his power to benefit the community in some way, we can more easily turn a blind eye if he is also taking a little for himself on the side. The bad, illegal, special-interest-pandering means happen around us all the time. But we will decide that the ends justify those means only if there are actually ends with which we can agree.

But who should make that decision? Who decides what end – what benefit for which community – will justify the means?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. D.A.D. permalink
    14 February 2009 3:52 pm

    Very heady commentary. But Blago did himself in, nationally, by all those allusions to “great people.” He was suggesting…or at least implying…that those people did what he did: circumvent the law to achieve good things. However, their contexts and his were hardly similar. If he had just pushed the simple “I did all things for the welfare of the people of Illinois” argument, I think more people would have begun to see it his way.

    The kind of thinking the caller represented reeks its ugly head in any form of competitive environment. In sports, we hate the goon on the other team until he plays for us. Then he becomes “crafty.”

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