When Virtuosos of Self-Destruction Stride the State House, Sorrows Are All the Greater

Thursday, February 24, 2011

If I could see Jim Marzilli tomorrow morning for a cup of coffee, this is what I'd say to him:

"You know, you've done a lot of good in your life. You've helped a lot of people. You fought some good fights at the State House, and elsewhere."

I'd also say, "I'm still grateful for how you gave me your time and respect when I was knocking on doors at the State House, trying to get this or that ball rolling in the legislature. You were always a gentleman."

If he warmed to the conversation, if I made a real connection, I might even risk saying something truly personal like, "There's a lot of good in you, Jim. Don't hate yourself."

But I won't be seeing Marzilli, the former long-time state representative and state senator from Arlington, tomorrow morning -- or on any morning soon, for that matter.

The other day, Marzilli was sentenced to 90 days in jail, taken from a Lowell courtroom in handcuffs, and hauled to the Middlesex House of Correction after pleading guilty to four counts of annoying and accosting a person of the opposite sex, indecent assault and battery, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

The charges stemmed from Marzilli's inexplicable behavior on an early-June day in 2008 in downtown Lowell. That was when this married, middle-aged, heretofore-careful gentleman who had won multiple elections in a community known for its political sophistication got the urge to accost four women at random and make inappropriate sexual comments to them. It was even said that he attempted to grope one of the women.

Several months later, Marzilli resigned from the Senate and sank from sight.

Marzilli's very capable attorney, Terrence Kennedy of the Everett Kennedys, has said his client suffers from bipolar disorder.

[Digression: Atty. Kennedy was elected last fall to the Governor's Council, the Colonial Era relic that votes on the governor's judicial nominees, a body we seem to be hearing more about lately. He succeeded the semi-legendary Michael J. Callahan, God rest his soul, in the Sixth District.]

Accomplished people in all walks of life do occasionally go haywire. They do incredibly stupid things; they commit crimes, get exposed, fall to pieces, and basically ruin their own lives. Because they are private citizens locked in private torments, we don't usually read about these folks online or see their faces on the evening news.

However, when a virtuoso of self-destruction emerges in a legislature, or in some other prominent and public place, the unravelling of a divided self is played out most painfully before the world's eyes. It can be as tragic as it is shocking.

You can feel badly for Jim Marzilli without minimizing the seriousness of the criminal case against him.

You can even hope for his redemption without sweeping aside the harm done to his victims and the dent he inflicted on the civic life of Lowell.

I know I do.

The drive for redemption is stronger, I believe, than the impulse for destruction.

No comments:

Post a Comment