Wednesday, September 12

Crimes & Misdemeanors

A (very) long time ago, I’m sorry to say, I used to take my sister’s driver’s license and make booze runs at the local 5 & dime…obviously, my friends and I were under aged drinkers, as the legal drinking age had just been raised, on my watch, to 21. (I know, I know, there go my chances for running for public office… but hey, in Italy, there is no age limit, so all of this is just pure science-fiction).

And, this went on quite nicely until one fine day, I ran a yellow light. And got pulled over. For “disobeying a traffic signal”. I even argued with the cop who politely informed me that, yellow means slow down, not speed up. So, he was right, and, I didn’t really want to push the issue seeing I was probably 14 years old at the time (another confession: I’ve been driving since I was 12). But fortune smiled on me that day, as I just happened to have handy, my sister’s driver’s license.

I paid the ticket promptly, and no one was the wiser.
Until, that is, the day she applied for a job in a law firm or for law school and, when she checked the box ‘no infractions of any kind, not now, not ever’—after all, this was a woman who wouldn’t steal a single penny from someone’s piggy bank – well, wasn’t she surprised to find, to my horror, that she had been caught running a light (which, on paper didn’t look yellow at all…it looked in fact, quite quite crimson).

Fury be a woman scorned? Nuh-uh… FURY be a sister who is applying for law school who just found out her spotless record has a big stain right down the front of it. She was not hired, nor would she ever be. She thought her career was over. I thought my life was. Fortunately for me, she did become a lawyer despite all the aforementioned drama – otherwise, I’d be writing this column from somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, place unknown. I still cringe at the memory.

I mention this because over the weekend, something remarkable took place in Italy: a popular comic let out the war cry that perhaps Parliamentarians, many of them lawyers themselves, should perhaps not be allowed to sit in the senate or run for office, if they have been indicted for crimes or are under investigation.
Now, I’m not going to go into the Berlusconi litany of alleged crimes, after all, he’s no longer Prime Minister. And, I won’t even mention the ‘Senator for Life’, Andreotti who has always been plagued by allegations of connections to the mafia, in much the same way Larry Craig has been plagued by allegations of homosexuality, or Bill Clinton, by his albeit, alleged, ‘zipper problem’.

But, the comedian’s cry for the heads of senators, has shockingly caused a great deal of debate here. Shocking, because it seems so totally obvious at least to one voter, that we should not be represented by criminals, past nor future ones.

Just stop and consider the repercussions: if Mayor Barry can get reelected after a cocaine arrest in Washington DC, no less, it can happen anywhere. But, did anyone truly believe that Washington is a better place with him at the helm? It is, in actuality, a cesspool of crime, with the highest murder rates in the country. Like the pusher in the school playground, its closeness to our State Government, well, must have some sort of 'trickle down' effect.

Given my own (checkered) past, I’m certainly not for electing prudes: but, I think drawing the line at criminal records would be actually something worth signing up for. In Finland, the Prime Minister lost her job for using her government credit card for personal expenses – even though she always reimbursed them. And, no one is going to argue that in Finland, things don’t run like a greasy wheel.

As Mayor Giuliani once said, if you get them on the little things, like jumping the subway turnstyles, you won’t have to fight the bigger things: like theft and homicides. Likewise, if we don’t let them in office after having paid bribes or committing other white collar crimes, we should feel that much less worried about people stealing from the public coffers, or worse.

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