It is a story that we know all too well, and one that I am reluctant to write about. Another young African-American man full of promise who has become a casualty of his own success, satisfying the nay sayers as they shake their heads and say I told you so. But in this particular case the African-American man is the heir apparent to a decades old civil rights legacy, and the next phase in the realization of his fathers hopes and dreams, a seat in political office.
This past Wednesday November. 21st Chicago Congressman Jessie Jackson Jr., the son of famed civil rights leader Jessie Jackson, sent his letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner amid reports of negotiating a plea bargain with the Feds concerning charges that he used campaign funds for personal use. Jackson Jr. allegedly had an extra-marital affair in which he used campaign funds to buy his mistress jewelry, and take her on romantic getaway's. He was re-elected 2 weeks ago despite having been absent from Congress, and not campaigning. Jackson Jr. was in The Mayo clinic being treated for bi polar disorder. Although this story is still unfolding, resigning is the best thing for both Jackson Jr. and his constituents. It always saddens me when I see a young African-American man full of promise, crash and burn. In Jackson Jr.'s case I believe that living in the long shadow cast by his father may have been too much to bare. There have always been rumors chronicling battles between Jackson Sr. and Jr. in reference to Jr.'s political style and preference for operating in a more subdued manner. There have also been rumblings of Jackson Sr. being somewhat jealous of Jr. for being able to advance in politics in a way that he never could. In fact Jessie Sr. once tried to discourage his son from running for office. The truth is, no matter what factors, or extenuating circumstances contributed to Jessie Jr. resigning, it is ultimately his responsibility as a grown man, and a civil servant to accept responsibility for his actions, and not blame his bad judgement and failure to serve the people of Chicago on allegedly have bi-polar disorder. I view Jackson Jr.'s checking into the Mayo Clinic as a "strategically pre-emptive strike". He has been absent from Capitol Hill for more than six months without an explanation. Then there was the news of his being treated for bi-polar disorder, and not long after he penned his letter of resignation. It appears to me that Jessie Jr. knew what was coming and wanted to build a case, or an excuse for his negligence. The claim of mental defect or disease has long been the last refuge of those who are looking for a reason to cover their short comings or inadequacies.
The thing that I find the most intriguing is the fact that he could take so much time off without explanation until he felt like giving one. The average American would have been terminated after not communicating with his or her employer for a few days. I believe the correct term is AWOL. In Congress, however, if a Congressman or Senator is "incapacitated", and doesn't want to give up his post, there is nothing anyone can do. Congressional rules largely leave it up to the individual politician to announce if and when they’re ready to return, or to assess if they’re even capable of handling the job. According to Donald Ritchie the historian of the U. S. Senate, there are Senators who didn't show up for years. We should all have this kind of flexibility when it comes to our jobs. But the difference is that they are elected officials who represent the people, and we are hired employees who represent ourselves. But there should be a much higher standard of accountability for those who have been given the honor of representing the people. As usual in American politics there is a pervasive double standard. Perhaps it is this double standard which leads those in power to believe that they have carte blanche when it comes to personal discretion without regard for those who are affected. There is no clearer example of this than Jessie Jackson Jr.. Unfortunately he is not the first and he won't be the last.