Monday, June 15, 2015

Hitting rock bottom

That high pitched scraping noise you hear is the sound of the Boston Red Sox hitting rock bottom. In recent memory, we’ve been worst and we’ve been first, but since 2003 the team has always seemed like it could be one win away from an extended win streak. I will be happy to eat my words, but after watching several weeks of really bad baseball, I am ready to say that a string of wins isn’t coming and that this team isn’t going to the playoffs. 

These days I’d like to say that prospects for Team Rhode Island are looking up, but we can’t move on without another embarrassing reminder that we’ve been stagnating for far too long. Gordon Fox’s sentencing last week closed the chapter on his public life but in so many ways was just another short story on the corruption that has been so pervasive in Rhode Island politics for so long. There are few states — except perhaps Louisiana — that have a history of greed and graft that is as long and storied as ours and while we recognize it and we are ashamed by it, we can’t seem to do a thing to change it and we even seem to embrace it.

My theory is that we are far too forgiving. I was stunned to read how many people wrote to the judge and asked her to be lenient with Fox’s sentencing. What!? He admitted stealing money and selling the public trust to finance his personal life. What about this is okay? He was an attorney and the most powerful politician in Rhode Island. This was not a mistake — he knowingly and willfully broke the law and took money in exchange for a liquor license. There have been fewer clear-cut cases of corruption and greed in recent memory than this one and yet plenty of Rhode Islanders — perhaps even those in positions of power — asked the judge to cut him some slack. 

After leaving office, Governor Sundlun always said that he was most proud that no one on his staff or in his administration was ever accused of acting unethically. Considering everything he accomplished to move Rhode Island forward, I have always struck with the simplicity of this thought. After all, this is the man who believed that no one was above the law and who turned himself in at the State Police barracks (driven by his State Police security detail) for violating a Newport City Ordinance. He was not one to dwell on “what ifs” but if someone had ruined his perfect ethic record, I can only imagine the withering stare that would have been dealt upon him or her. I am also quite certain that he would not have lobbied the court for leniency. Willfully violating the public trust is inexcusable and it’s high time that we all had higher expectations for Team Rhode Island so we can lift ourselves up from rock bottom.

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