Make no mistake: what started as a personal attack on David Paterson by the New York Times has become a full-on stoning: an execution by the hands of the public.
I'm not defending Paterson's behavior. What he did by calling Sherr-una Booker was unethical, misguided, foolish, and insensitive to victims of domestic violence. It's just that I see his media handling as totally overblown; a large-scale distraction from the systemic nature of our state's problems.
Somewhere in the most primordial realms of the human psyche lies the hunger for communally-delivered punishment; an execution by peers, the guilt of which can be divided into miniscule shares for each and every participating member of the horde. Stonings transcend culture and time, they've been practiced everywhere from Feudal Japan to ancient Judea to modern-day Nigeria. Stories of stonings litter our holy books -- the Torah, the Koran, the New Testament.
The New Testament, for example, offers the famous parable of Mary Magdalene.
"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone..."
This statement reminds us of how no one has the credentials to lay blame on a fellow man. What it also suggests, however, is that once the rocks are thrown and justice is served and its sacrifice is taken, you're still left with a room full of sinners.
And in the particular instance of the Albany, you're talking about some of the world's most egregious.
To start with, take Senate President Pro Tempore Malcolm Smith.
Two weeks ago, the Post revealed that Smith, along with Rep. Gregory Meeks, was at the helm of a fraudulent charity for pee-wee sports in Queens. The group yielded no contributions to any extra-curricular sports programs. Instead, its fundraising manifested itself in $405,000 into salaries and mysterious consulting fees.
Oh yeah -- two weeks before that, he was busted for running a similarly fraudulent charity for Katrina victims, for which he's been subpoenaed.
Of course, there's Pedro Espada, who aside from leading a coup that halted legislative proceedings for a month, has allegedly been funding his campaigns with money from his state-funded non-profit, SoundView. He's also being investigated for living outside of his district.
There's Kirsten Gillibrand, stubborn beneficiary of a rigged Senatorial election, in which the Democratic party squashed her competition and put the kibosh on any threats of a healthy democratic primary.
There are those who, while inefficient at balancing the budget, have proven to be vocal and effective crusaders against civil-rights in New York state. Take Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., who rallied seven other Democratic Senators to break the back of gay-marriage legislation in NY, legislation which Paterson championed. Diaz and his colleagues have promised legal discrimination to a new generation of queer men and women.
Here in New York City, we've been graced with Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, a bronx rep who is being investigated for maneuvering slush funds into her pocket from the city council. A partner confessed to diverting 15,000 dollars of city money back into Arroyo's bank account.
Senator Carl Kruger's legislation has been suspiciously convenient to the public desires of his biggest donors, the gambling industry and unions. It wouldn't be so notable if he didn't chair the Senate Finance Committee.
You get the idea. The thrill of a stoning is short-lived, it can't last for much longer than the initial rush. When the fracas clears up, the dust settles into the newly formed gravel, we're still left with a state-legislature that appoints its own ethical overseers, that encourages embezzlement and the misdirection of state-funds.
We're left with a system that allows unlimited donations from corporations and lobbies.
Our problems are, of course, systemic: it doesn't matter what these individuals do to drive our state deeper into the red. What matters is that they're part of an bureaucracy that lacks the proper checks to keep them from doing it again.
That's why what's happening to David Paterson seems comical. While Malcolm Smith and Rep. Gregory Meeks are still eating steak dinners on money that was raised for the Rosedale Pee-Wee Jets, Paterson gets front page coverage for taking free Yankee Tickets, a rite likely practiced by every New York Governor since the Yankees were playing at the Polo Grounds.
The stoning of David Paterson furthers the myth that we can pinpoint the failures of our state on the misdeeds of its executive. It's a childish, short-sighted way to address injustice. It might be fun for our media and its consumers for now, but when the smoke clears, will we be any better off for it?
I doubt it.