Tuesday, August 12, 2008

D is for Damage

Hold the "big pimpin' mack daddy" jokes. Forget the audio-altered YouTube vids where his televised apology becomes him singing Sir Mix-A-Lot. Ditch the "gangsta maya" labels.

If this man were the white mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, and he got caught text-messaging his illicit lover with evidence that the two of them conspired to fire a high-ranking police investigator, it'd be a story about that. And only that.

No hip-hop vernacular. No booty-shakin' videos. No discussion boards dedicated to molotov comments about "those people" deserving a corrupt mayor because they lacked the intelligence to vote for someone better.

Kwame Kilpatrick was barely out of his 20s when he got put in charge of the largest city in the eighth most populous state in the U.S., with the eleventh largest land mass. We're not talking about Rhode Island here. We're talking about The D, representing The Mitten.

Put a young man in that position, and he's going to feel powerful. Give a young man power, and he can start to feel invincible. Give a powerful young man the delusion of invincibility, and all bets are off.

Kwame Kilpatrick is a former football offensive lineman. He knows what it's like to go into the middle of a vast empty field and have the shit kicked out of him. But he also knows how to tear a few heads off before he's knocked into the dirt. And that's how things are right now: a foolish, embattled, once-powerful and still vital young man sees the defensive team taking their stances and ready to rip him to shreds when he falls into their hands, and he's getting into his offensive position to charge that line anyway, and even though his own teammates and all of their fans have left the stadium, he believes that he will conquer the defensive territory alone.

Even on tether.

As one of his lawyers put it: "Let's get it on." As a circuit court judge replied: "Go to jail."

It's not about Detroit. It's not about getting some on the side. And it's not about being black. It's about honesty, and ethos, and hubris, and about the tragedy of a bright, eager, promising young man climbing quickly to a height that guaranteed him maximum damage if he should one day fall from grace.

As he falls, our hopeful eyes turn toward the next in line.


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