If it were more environmentally friendly to do so, I would print out pages and pages of news coverage of the trial of Jesse Jackson, Jr and his wife, Sandi Jackson, put it in a tub and bathe in it. I would totally do it. The son of the great also-ran of the Civil Rights movement spent almost $9000 on Michael Jackson’s hats! I could have that little tidbit on soft 8 x 11 and just rub it all over, trying to absorb some of the hilarity into my pores. I love that the guy didn’t just turn out to be an adulterous, depressive spendthrift – he turned out to be an adulterous, depressive spendthrift with the fashion sense of Huggy Bear. (though to be fair, the mink cape was allegedly for Sandi.)
I think I’m a Schadenfreude junkie.
I’m not talking everyday Schadenfreude. Embarrassing things happening to everyday people isn’t funny – I’m not some sociopathic American Idol watcher. Embarrassing things happening to the powerful, the entitled, the ruling class is where I’m at. Members of a virulently homophobic political party turning out to be gay, skinny Jewish congressmen taking pictures of their ritually circumcised junk….I can keep myself going on that for weeks.
Luckily, I live in Chicago, where corruption is a part of life, like winter and pretending to care when minority children are shot. This raises a causal concern: if I lived in a place with a better members of the political class, would I enjoy their downfall as much? Unfortunately, we’ll never be able to test this theory because Chicago happens to be in the United States. Where John Edwards and Newt Gingrich are from. Why is the former a disgrace and the latter the winner of the South Carolina primary? Because Newt Gingrich’s first wife lived. And because he cheated on his second wife with Callista, and no one really believes that Newt had a physical relationship with a woman who looks like the creatures that run the Clone Trooper factory on Kamino.
What makes Chicago special is that our best corrupt politicians are dynastic heirs. They’re so loyal to their families, that some of them have been known to do a Weekend at Bernie’s bit – pretending their father is alive just long enough to take his seat. Ok, technically John Stroger wasn’t dead yet when this happened. And Todd hasn’t been indicted yet. But there are two certainties in Chicago life: Death and that one of your staff members takes a plea deal and rats you out.
I like to imagine the capos, sitting in their La-Z-Boy thrones in a dimly lit room watching TV as news of their children’s political careers going up in flames (or down in a hail of gaudy tchotchkes, in the case of Jackson) comes on. There they are, jowled and rheumy, mute with fury like the king at the end of Braveheart, all of their plans for immortality being destroyed by a 78 count indictment.
Oh God. I think I’m going to run to the bathroom and read that last paragraph to myself again.
The thing about John Edwards or Eliot Spitzer is that they’re basically just American rise and fall stories. Guy works hard, gets recognition get so close to the top he can almost taste it…and then succumbs to a taste for something else entirely. Boring. Heard it a million times. In dynastic Chicago, when one of our guys goes down (ahem), he brings down the family, he ends the story. That’s a medieval narrative, Medici quality. The disconnect between the aspiration and the execution couldn’t be more complete. If Star Wars had taken place in Chicago, Luke would’ve joined Vader to rule the galaxy together, but then it would’ve turned out that Luke was ghost-payrolling Leia, involved in a shady real estate deal with Han on Endor, and crashed his land speeder into a Bantha on his way out of a party at the cantina. Whatever good was left in Vader would’ve made him resign. Of course, Luke wouldn’t be a Jedi. Vader would’ve just made some calls to set him up somewhere and bide his time until he was old enough to run. Also, Luke would’ve said things like “ay, I was gonna go run up to da Tashi station to pick up some a dem power convertersh.”
Where was I?
Although he never resigned, I even found some joy in Daley. Sure, he’ll never be indicted. But in his last years, he had to choose between looking completely corrupt or completely out of touch as those around him were indicted. His name got brought up far too many times in the John Burge scandal – who would’ve thought a Daley would ever have to answer for a Chicago cop beating people? And then, the Olympics. A few years earlier, the guy destroyed an airport in the middle of the night because he felt like it. Now, the city turned on him and complained about the cost. But Daley pressed ahead, only to get shut out in the first round. The poor guy had to retire! What kind of monarch doesn’t die in office? What a terrible precedent. First Mayor Daley, then the Pope. And now he’s out of office, and his nephew gets jammed up just because he killed someone a little.
So yeah, I could hope that things will change and that Chicago will stop rewarding kids born with a silver bribe envelope in their mouth. Or, I could just accept things as they are and let the excitement build until the sweet, sweet climax explodes in a flurry of indictments, condemnation, and incarceration. Oh yeahhhhh.