Anyone in the public eye is forced to have their complete life susceptible to prying eyes. The public is seeing the C- on the Presidents report card, the mistress in the downtown apartment, the strange sexual deviances and each and every mistake of the people who attempt to have a public persona. In this era of mass-information, leaders and heroes of every genre are paraded under those bright lights that expose only our shadow side, our flaws and scars, our missteps and complete failures. The public could breath a huge sigh of relief, each of us knowing that those who exude power and prowess are inherently flawed, as we all are. Yet instead, the public insists on building higher and higher pedestals, asking public figures to balance on teetering thrones. And it seems we revel more when they fall than all the efforts it took for them to climb. And as they fall, that pedestal crashes beneath them, unable to be resurrected.
Could our heroes of the past survive this kind of scrutiny? And since history affords us the documentation that in fact, there are no angels amongst us, why do we still set our standards to impossible? Two leaders that we all elevate in our hearts and minds, were deeply flawed. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi both treated the women in their lives pretty terribly. They used their power for sex. Their personal lives were slander against their public words (citations at the end of post). BUT SO WHAT.
Revealing and discussing these actions is not to denigrate their work or impact on the world. Rather we ought to simply be reminded that to be human is to be flawed and no one is spared.
I have been mulling over this in the face of a local controversy. And here I rarely address what is happening in my own city. But a local elected leader has been exposed, has been tried in a court and is now being tried in the court of public opinion. I read about the incident the day after it was reported and I waited for the deliberation to start. But there was only uncomfortable silence, for months, both in public and private circles. I would ask people who also served the local public here, but no clear judgement was offered. I never heard gossip about the undisclosed details nor chirps of skeletons buried in his past. So I remained unclear and undecided.
The case I am referring to is the trial and conviction of Representative Carlos Henriquez of Boston, MA. The details of how the case has evolved is explored in the local newspaper here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/02/state-representative-carlos-henriquez-says-interview-that-has-not-decided-whether-resign/KTr07W9Q8KvgbB5QpebNrK/story.html
He was found guilty of assault and battery on a young woman. A crime committed at 3 a.m. after a party. As is often said, no one truly knows what happened in that car except for the two individuals involved. And I would be willing to wager that mind-altering substances such as alcohol et al. impede even those two individuals account of the events of that night. Furthermore, I know that if I were held responsible for all of the poor decisions I have made at 3 am, my intelligence, commitment to social justice, and overall decency of character would come under fire.
Here is a young Black man who has served as an elected official now for many years. He is out in the community, he talks to people, shows up when asked, and serves to the best of his abilities. I choose to not attend a ton of meetings, but one I was involved with was a forum on gang violence, led and presented by former and current gang members. Carlos Henriquez was there, listening and talking with people. I introduced myself, he was happy to chat with me. I didn’t feel pandered to or was asked to sign any mailing list or donation form. I’ve never heard of him handing out free turkey’s or appeasing the ministers, or acquiescing to the mayor. And of particular note, since this incident, I have not heard of other women who had been treated this way by him. And Boston is a small enough town amongst us locals that if you ask, you can find out. There is not a coalition of domestic abuse survivors or advocates for women leading the charge or a campaign to have him removed from office.
In this case, the outrage seems fabricated. My city seems very quick to distance itself from a young Black leader. My city seems to have decided that his flaws overshadow his work. My city seems to be happy to sacrifice him to the scrutiny that none of us nor any of our heroes could ever survive.