Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Special Place in Hell

I have lived in Chicago for about two-and-a-half years. One general conclusion I've come to is that I don't like Chicago politics. I'm a bit of prig in that I don't like open corruption.

Yesterday, one Chicago politician—Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle—got in hot water for an "inflammatory" remark she made about dead Illinois-native Ronald Reagan. She said that Ronald Reagan deserves a "special place in hell" for his role in "making drug use political."  The remarks came in the context of discussing Chicago's new (suspiciously sane) policy of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Ms. Preckwinkle may be my new hero.

Now, I don't have any particular animus toward President Reagan. Every president in my conscious lifetime (which starts in 1980 with Mr. Reagan's defeat of Jimmy Carter) has cynically prosecuted the War on Drugs for political purposes. Each one of these men—Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Georege W. Bush, and Barack Obama—has allowed and encouraged the senseless imprisonment of thousands and thousands of (mostly, but not all) men for the sole purpose of consolidating political power. Their actions are despicable, and if I believed in hell I would like to think that each of them would share a special place there (in due course) for their sins.

I'm reminded of this story I read yesterday about another famous dead Illinois politician: President Abraham Lincoln. The story concerns President Lincoln's decision to commute the death sentences of hundreds of Sioux who had been found guilty of "murder and other outrages" and sentenced to hang after a bloody uprising in Minnesota during the Civil War. Although atrocities had been committed, it was clear that many innocent men had been swept up in the retaliatory proceedings. Lincoln had no political constituency clamoring for justice on behalf of the Sioux. On the contrary, it was pointed out to him that the politically savvy move would be to simply let the unjust death sentences stand. Lincoln sensibly responded, "I could not hang men for votes."

Compare and contrast.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! The Star Tribune just ran a series on the Sioux uprising mentioned in that Times piece. While not without faults, Lincoln is tough to beat when it comes to naming great presidents.


Comments on posts older than 30 days are moderated because almost all of those comments are spam.