Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All those “guilty” verdicts don’t alter the way many of us perceive government

Perhaps it was all too appropriate that I was dealing with Illinois state government on Monday at the exact moment I learned of the 17 “guilty” verdicts returned against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
BLAGOJEVICH: Getting an Oxford education?

In fact, my contact with government Monday afternoon was in the form that most people deal with the state of Illinois.

I WAS AT a driver testing facility renewing my license plates (which otherwise would have expired after Thursday). While I was at it, I took advantage of being there to have my driver’s license (which would have expired later this summer) renewed.

It was at a point when I learned I passed the written examination I was required to take, and was waiting to have my official photograph taken – the one that will make me look pathetic for the next four years – that I happened to check out the Blackberry I have begrudgingly started carrying in recent months.

In checking for any messages or e-mails, I discovered the report from the Associated Press (as published by Crain’s Chicago Business). The headline “Blagojevich trial: Found guilty on 17 counts” jumped out at me.

I was surrounded by state government in action. The REAL state government, since many people don’t have many dealings with the state beyond keeping their driver’s licenses current. All the ramblings from the Statehouse in Springpatch do eventually trickle down to real activity at the local level. But too many people don’t appreciate that fact.

IT CAN MAKE the constant babbling and pontificating from political pundits about Rod Blagojevich seem downright irrelevant to our daily lives. I may well have been the only person in that room who was all that intrigued by the activities taking place at the Dirksen Building.

For all around me, I saw motor vehicles bureau employees desperately trying to keep up with the lengthy lines of people who had business to do with the state. As it was, it took me nearly an hour-and-a-half to get my business done – most of which involved sitting on hard, but cracked, plastic chairs and waiting.

All for the five minutes it took me to complete the written exam that showed I do have some comprehension of the “rules of the road” and what various street signs actually mean.

I’m sure the fact that Blagojevich was once the nominal head of the government that employed them didn’t mean much, probably less than the fact that it was their very agency of government where the wrongdoing took place that resulted in another former governor, George Ryan, going down to a criminal conviction (resulting in him still being in a federal prison).

I ALSO DOUBT that many of the people waiting in various lines were getting all worked up about the Blagojevich business.

The one person I spoke to while waiting in “line” was more concerned about the amount of time she was being forced to take off work in order to take care of her business with the state.

I also overheard snippets of conversation of people around me who talked of topics ranging from the best local place to find barbecue to why ARE the Chicago Cubs so incredibly awful this year? If anyone around me knew about the jury verdict being returned, they didn't let on.

Of course, the one constant thought was to wonder why it was taking so ridiculously long to work our way through these “lines” at the motor vehicles bureau. If anything, state government at that moment seemed like an annoyance that we’re forced to put up with. Although I'm sure if someone had come up with a theory that the long lines were Blagojevich's fault, THAT thought would have gained instant sympathy.

IT DEFINITELY MAKES it harder for me to take seriously all the pundits who are going to come up with all their cockamamie theories about just what does it really mean that Blagojevich was found “guilty” of 17 of the 20 charges that he faced – including all of the charges related to his handling of the appointment of a replacement for Barack Obama as U.S. senator from Illinois bordering on criminal. There may well be some people who sighed upon hearing the verdict, then moved on with their lives.
Some already are trying to make money off the verdict

In fact, the charges for which he was acquitted involved claims that his attempts to get contributions from Illinois State Toll Highway Authority officials amount to solicitation of a bribe. But I didn’t actually find that part out until after I left the Secretary of State facility, which is when I called up the report so I could get more details.

So if anybody in coming years asks me what my initial reaction was when I learned that Blagojevich became more than a “convicted liar” (from the first trial), I’ll be able to say I was wondering “What three counts did he beat?” -- while having my picture taken.

Then, I’ll be able to whip out that driver’s license photograph and show people the moment. That weary look in my eyes probably says more about what I think of Milorod these days than anything I could ever write here today.


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