‘It is what it is’ isn’t an answer (at least not a good one)
During my brief trip home for a Cleveland friend’s wedding, I was amazed to read last Sunday’s top headline: “’Welcome Home Jimbo’ countdown begins.” I was also amazed when I read a few blogs on vindy.com with many bloggers supporting “Jimbo” on the basis that “everyone is corrupt” — as if that makes government corruption OK. The man is a convicted felon several times over. He is responsible for millions of Congressional earmark dollars, then called pork barrel spending, being misappropriated for personal gain. Money that was supposed to shore up Youngstown’s infrastructure. That is not your standard political corruption favor, that is bilking your constituents out of opportunity, improved quality of life, and employment opportunities. It is because of this man’s actions and the mentality of his supporters, that I, and many, many other young professionals, have left this town.
I now reside in Annapolis, Md., just minutes from Wshington, D.C., where I suppose that most of “Jimbo’s” supporters would claim the greatest government corruption exists. I have met and befriended a number of lobbyists, campaign designers, and congressional aides in my time there, and I can assure you that the “Inside the beltway” political favors that are labeled corruption are a far cry from multiple felony counts — and no one celebrates those who stray across that very large, very clear legal/illegal line.
As a government teacher, I actually have a picture of “Jimbo’s” mug shot on my classroom wall. The caption below it reads: “Pay attention in government class, or this man could become your congressman.” The picture becomes part of my lesson plans each year: 1. when students ask “What is racketeering?” and 2. when I stress the importance of paying close attention to government actions and actively participating in government by voting, campaigning, or at the very least, writing a letter (or e-mail).
It embarrasses me to bring my wife home to Youngstown (she is an Annapolis native). I tell her about all the great things here, the people, the food, the atmosphere of so many local stores and restaurants — all to be undone by stories of parties for convicted felons, and other odd behaviors (grocery store picketers). My sense of pride in my hometown dwindles with each trip back. Youngstown, if you want your children to stay, and your grandchildren to know you, stop condemning yourself. Just because “that’s how this town is” doesn’t make it right.