For the first time in my life, I feel ashamed to be an Illinoisan. Yesterday, our governor was led from his home as a criminal, charged with a series of corrupt acts that left even hardened FBI agents in shock.
- He allegedly tried to "sell" the Senate seat of Barack Obama for a political appointment for himself or for other economic gain.
- He allegedly withheld $8 million in funds from Children's Memorial Hospital because the CEO didn't give him a political donation fast enough.
- He allegedly withheld state support for the sale of Wrigley Field because he was trying to strongarm the Cubs's owners, the Chicago Tribune, into firing editors who criticized him.
These are just the most shocking of the charges outlined in a 76-page document. Ironically, even though he's been under investigation for years, he's recently stepped up his political extortion. Some analysts believe he was trying to stockpile money before a recently passed ethics law goes into effect on January 1.
I'm still so stunned by all of this that I'm finding it hard to think of anything profound to say about the event. However, I do think it fits, in a perverse way, with the Advent season. Here's a passage I found on a website describing the season of Advent:
The season of Advent has come to be celebrated more in terms of expectation or anticipation. Yet, the anticipation of the Coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament and Judaism was not in connection with remembrance of sins. Rather, it was in the context of oppression and injustice, the longing for redemption, not from personal guilt and sin but from the systemic evil of the world expressed in evil empires and tyrants. It is in that sense that all creation groans for its redemption as we witness the evil that so dominates our world (Rom 8:18-25).
Lord knows that my poor state needs redemption from systemic evil. If Blagojevich is convicted, he will be the fifth Illinois governor (and the second in a row) to serve prison time for corruption. Not only that, but our state government has been paralyzed for several years now because of petty quarrels between the governor and the legislature. Blagojevich is hugely unpopular in this state, and was even before his arrest. (I'm grateful that I did NOT vote for him last time. In 2006, I voted for the Green Party candidate because I couldn't stand the tickets put up by either major party.)
In the midst of all my frustration and anger, I have managed to find two seeds of hope. First, several people have been calling for governmental reform in Illinois. Maybe this will shock people enough that something will actually start to happen.
Second, the federal agents who arrested the governor acted very precipitously yesterday. Rather than allowing him to turn himself in quietly, they went to his house at 6:00 AM and took him away in handcuffs. They did it because, in the words of one official, they believed that "a political crime spree" was in progress and they wanted to act quickly to prevent further damage. They were afraid that the Senate seat would be sold to someone unworthy of the office, that an innocent editor would lose his job, and that the sick children of this state would not get the help they needed.
Today, I'm grateful that at least some public official took their responsibilities to their fellow citizens seriously.
P.S. Rod, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, go ahead and try to extort me into writing nice things about you on my blog. I'd love the chance to contribute evidence to the Feds' case against you.