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The Mechanics
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Blagojevich Mon Sep 14 2009

The Death of Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly's apparent suicide is a tragedy (and its quick exploitation by local politicians painful to watch). Whatever his crimes, obviously, his life was not a just payment.

I have to tip my hat to John Kass, whom I usually enjoy teasing, for his thoughtful piece on Kelly's death.

Kass:

A few days ago, a Tribune poll reported that many of us have thrown up our hands when it comes to political corruption. You couldn't hear the champagne corks popping, but you've got to figure that the status quo was celebrating.

And that's the real debilitating effect of the Chicago Way. That's the tragedy and the terrible sin of it. The political carnival is sometimes entertaining, the way crime stories are entertaining.

But it also makes us numb. It makes us feel powerless. The insiders who run our governments like their gangs or hereditary fiefdoms are organized around a single principle -- their self-interests.

And the rest of us? We're dispersed, divided, fighting each other about this program or that benefit, or this tax break or that "free" legislative scholarship, or a coveted spot in the city's magnet schools, or the jobs promised by the 2016 Olympics if the mayor wins his gold.

Up until Saturday, the Chicago Way had become a carnival, a laughing matter. Blagojevich was busy in New York selling his innocence harder than he was selling his autobiography, playing the Mad Hatter on daytime TV.

And his wife Patti was in her little black dress just like Audrey Hepburn. They posed, wide-eyed, holding hands, with Manhattan behind them, a movie poster.

But on Saturday, he paused to offer sympathy for the friend who could have brought him down, sympathy for Kelly's wife and three daughters.

They should be in all of our prayers too. And after, perhaps we could say another prayer, asking for an end to the numbness, and a chance to see things clearly.

A man is dead. And the Chicago Way is not a game.

While this may be hard to swallow from somebody who regularly refers to Mayor Daley as "Shortshanks" (whatever that means) and makes criminal underworld figures into cartoon characters, his point is well made. Chris Kelly's death is a reminder that when we talk about political corruption, we're talking about crime, and punishment.

 
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