What other sins are state lawmakers committing?
The seven deadly sins would appear to be alive and well in New York state government. By way of reminder, said sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Some people in government are very unhappy. They point to the recent misdoings of a few of their colleagues as an unfair representation of the majority of state politicians, who know where to stop and don’t break the rules. Of course, these seven deadly sins are not all-or-nothing sins. They come in many gradations and all shades of gray. While not an official entry on the Sin Hall of Fame list, the one sin that seems to be particularly predominant is “arrogance.”
Many of the Big Seven sins are committed because of opportunity. People get elected, they get power and all too often, they use it to feather their own nests. We see these opportunities in so-called “member items” or staff allotments in which political followers can be rewarded.
It is interesting that the first of the deadly sins is “lust.” I am not surprised. We were created, one way or the other, as men and women, and like other species, were programmed to procreate. Some of us are attracted to the opposite sex, some are attracted to people on their own sexual team. In both cases, lust can show its face equally forcefully. Without naming names, we have recently seen political corruption in one spectacular case where an obsession led to a long-term prison sentence. When our politicians use their positions or the public resources to help them scratch the sexual itch, we’ve got a big problem.
I find it fascinating that the sin of “lust” seems to trump all of the other, often more serious, sins. Think of the sin of “wrath.” A contemporary political actor enjoying temporary popularity might set his dogs loose on a political rival simply because he can. Most people will not even recognize that as a serious problem unless, of course, they are the targets of the moment. Then it really stings. As any newspaper editor can tell you, “Sex sells.” It’s simple, it’s titillating and the outsider doesn’t have to understand the self-serving and often purposely complicated and convoluted rules of the political game.
Consider the case of the powerful Brooklyn boss, Vito Lopez. This man, who had the power to make judges and inspire fear in other political actors, may well have used his considerable power to “grope” and to be insultingly sexually provocative. That is awful. It is particularly striking to me that the present brouhaha is all inspired by sexual accusations. The fact that Lopez had the power to make or break politicians or to work politically motivated deals that might not pass the stink test matters not.
One of the reasons why our political system — and that includes everyone, from politicians to lobbyists to the big shots who push the buttons to make people do stupid things like hydrofracking — stinks is because it affords people the opportunity to commit lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, pride and sloth (apathy).
And, yes, it would appear that the sin of sloth may be one of the most important of all. It means that we don’t keep our eye on the ball. We think that it has to be the way it is and until someone feeds us a diet of sexual titillation, we don’t bother to get involved. Then the tentacles of political corruption point us in the wrong direction. Since people do indeed have sex, did it ever occur to you that almost anyone, from governors to legislators to you, might show up on the front page of the tabloids? Yes, public hush money was paid and that’s terrible, but there’s a lot worse going on right under your noses.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/10/12