Friday, March 14, 2008

Paterson the Blind New Governor

by Larry Mongoss, guest blogger

It makes great headlines, but never comes as a big surprise, when some politician is accused of a crime. I was a little bit disappointed when the latest rendition of that was performed by Eliot Spitzer. I have always perceived him as a pretty dour individual, and never could tell whether his aggressive prosecutions were the result of some burning sense of justice, or just the desire to spread his unhappiness more evenly. Still, he seemed like one of those guys that could be depended on to walk the talk. Hope burns eternal I guess.

The really interesting thing, however, is that David A. Paterson will now be filling his shoes. Before the Spitzer story broke I have to admit I had never heard of Paterson, and everyone seems to be making a big deal out of the fact that he will become the first African American Governor of New York. But the cool thing about Paterson is not the color of his skin, it is in his eyes. People seem to mention only in an under breath that the man is blind.

Peterson does not sound like a man that considers his blindness something to hide in the margins. According to Wikipedia (and how can I doubt that) he ran the New York City Marathon in 1999 and is on the board of a track club for disabled people. I can remember fencing with blind people when I was in college – at the time it surprised me that they would want to do that but after a few bouts with a blindfold (for me) I could understand it. They were doing it for exactly the same reason I was – it was fun (I was always a pretty noncompetitive competitor).

So why politics? Perhaps it is more about importance than fun but being blind does mean using other senses. Most importantly, Paterson will have to listen to what people say and that, all by itself, is pretty special in his trade. I hunted around a little bit and did find a list of American Politicians with Disabilities. There aren’t any blind Governors in the list and I couldn’t find any mention elsewhere so Paterson likely is the first blind Governor. Now the question that raises for me, is what happens if he wants a second term?

No matter how good a job Paterson does as Governor, in a high profile campaign his blindness is likely to weigh him down. Irregardless of how well he can capture his audience in person, when facing the end of a camera it is a different game. We are used to looking people in the eyes as they deliver their messages in our family rooms and won’t be able to do that with Paterson.

I will listen to Paterson’s progress with interest. He may be a great Governor, or he may be terrible. Ironically, through, it will probably not be his performance in office for which he is remembered. If he can keep the public ear and mount a successful reelection campaign, people will hold that feeling for some time to come. If not, his footsteps will fade to nothingness before his replacement is sworn in. Politics is usually a visual game, let’s see if substance can triumph. #

Other posts by Larry Mongoss (guest blogger):

Also on Literal and Literary Truth
Disagreeing with Smart People
Decreasing Readership among the Corn-Fed

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