Friday, December 12, 2008

High Dunsinane Hill has come to Springfield

"Where were you when Blugo was nabbed?" might not rank up with similar questions about JFK's assassination or 911, but, for corruption-weary Illinoisans, Tuesday was indeed a memorable day. I was preparing for class, last-minute deep-breathing exercises and so on, when Dulcie calls with the news. I respond appropriately enough with something along the lines of "(expletive) me."

By way of small digression, why is it that papers and news media tiptoe around the actual words with such delicacy, when it is as plain as day what was actually said? A "racial epithet," "f-bomb" and so on are the euphemisms used in polite society. What is avoided by not printing the actual letters? The far more cerebral New Yorker does not stand on such delicate ceremony; to them a fuck is a fuck, printed with an almost palpable defiance, much like David Mamet. Even a c is a c to them, but I couldn't bring myself to do that.

Joy of joys, my day was made, and I floated into the class as if on tiny clouds of air, my feet gilded with wings like an angel. The Tribune the following day made compulsive reading, with the full sordidness and vulgarity of the Thane of Ravenswood and his Lady Patty Macbeth laid bare courtesy of the wire. Far more gripping than even the best of The Sopranos could manage. The obvious comparison of Mrs Blugo to literature's most ambitious woman was made, though I fear that the formerlacks the latter's poetic power. One can scarcely picture potty-mouthed Patty galvanizing a faltering Rod with something along the lines of "Screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail." "Unsex me here" perhaps. "Fuck the fuckers" more like; which I'm sure the eloquent Blugo could appreciate, speaking his language after all.

One can take the Macbeth analogy a bit further for this lovely couple, initially so brash and handsome, sweeping into the throne room on a wave of optimism, self-proclaimed reformers; then increasingly isolated as enemies mount, investigators circulate, and finally cornered in his castle, alone in a dark room in the early hours, in pyjamas. "Is this a joke?" the plaintive response. The real Macbeth showed greater courage at the finish:

"Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'"

One can picture the Mell family fingering the youthful Blugo for greatness, tossing assorted eye of newt, tail of toad, spleen of dog, or whatever, into the Allclad, predicting a bright future: Congress and Guvnor too. All hail, Blugo! hail to thee Thane of Ravenswood!" "All hail, Blugo, hail to thee, Congressman of the something district!" "All hail, Blugo, thou shalt be governor hereafter!" "Fucking golden!" was perhaps the response, but there were no wires back then to record the dialog for posterity. Is it possible that Patrick Fitzgerald is not of woman born? Is he alone capable of smiting the tyrant's head from off his shoulders?

So why is that, on that most glorious of days when corruption is met with its comeuppance, the rest of the politicians are so distraught, mumbling and dissembling about it being a sad day for Illinois, a sad day for the governor. No! No it isn't sad at all! It is a day of singular celebration. The wicked are sent scurrying for their burrows in the dark; the righteous may once again walk in the light, like the day in Narnia when the White Queen lost her power.

What makes a sad day is when the new king of Camelot, the tall, sylvan-tongued Barack who pulled the mighty sword from the stone and smote the nasty Republicans, can only muster that it would be impolitic of him to comment. He later managed a little stronger, but it was too late, too late to have said something to make us believe that there really will be Camelot in Washington. It is a sad day when that same king finds it impolitic to comment on the treachery of another, Durbin, pleading for mercy for the unrepentant, imprisoned Ryan. It is a sad day when that same king, he of transparency and change, given every opportunity to promote said change in Cook County, instead backed the infant son of the stricken Stroger, thereby ensuring for the citizens of that county many more years of the same corrupt self-interest. Of course those citizens really brought it upon themselves by voting for a corpse, but at least he could have made a symbolic gesture. I fear Camelot-come-to-Washington will be little different from Chicago City Hall. Stay those tears you romantic fools; a single person, even one of golden tongue and much intelligence, cannot overcome a system, particularly when he was the product of the system.

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