Why Schaefer must be Schaefer?

Once again, let’s stop making the individual an issue. Let’s not become patrons of decency by crying foul at one old politician.

Maryland Comptroller 84-year old William Donald Schaefer did ogle at a 24-yr old female aide to Governor Ehrlich. He even called her back at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works Meeting and asked her to walk again in front of everyone so that he could watch her. And the entire country now is being fed with the video for endless times.

Going by the way the video is playing into the headlines of television channels, it appears that the whole of America is shocked. Clearly highlighting the moral standards of a capitalistic hypocritical fiber, Schaefer has become the safest bet. He is eliciting reactions like “what a shame!” to “how can this be?”

A channel like Fox has gone on exhibiting the video to public on the streets and telecasting their responses. No one is feeling any sense of déjà vu. The entire country is shown to be appalled. All the while, making Elizabeth Krum a familiar face for everyone, producing a mordant series of reproduction of the scene where a bunch of old white men are making lewd gesture in a public meeting that’s funded with money that we taxpayers pay every fortnight, the media are turning into a derisive leaf of being loath accomplice in the crime. The media say, “we are shocked beyond belief: Let’s watch it one more time”.

When I was watching this clip being discussed as the main headline everywhere in the country, even as the seasoned journalists were scratching their beards to wonder how did this happen, even as the seasoned legislators were saying it was most unfortunate, as the seasoned feminists were saying actions must be taken against Schaefer and the general beat of the moment was that his romance with the voters may now be over, I was wondering where is the news.

Just like the media being necrophilous is not something new, rich, powerful capitalists at higher seats of privilege transforming the alive into the unalive is no news. William Donald Schaefer, who is one of the most seasoned politicians in the national capital territory of Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia area has served in public office since 1955 including as a mayor, councilman and finally as Governor of Maryland. As twice elected to the office of Comptroller of the state, Schaefer has won peoples’ trust in this country in rejuvenated manner.

Despite being what he has been all the times. Indeed he was in news for his attitudes which are of supposedly bigger repercussions. In May 2004, after his interaction with a McDonald employee, he opined that the immigrants are liabilities. “I don’t want to adjust to another language. This is the United States. I think they ought to adjust to us.”

It is the same man who since years now has been ignorant of the federal privacy laws which prohibit an individual’s medical records. Being at the helm of affairs of fiscal sector, being in charge of collecting more than $13 billion dollars per year as state and local tax revenues, which also covers health sector, here is a man who has said people with HIV/AIDS are “bad people”. Two years back, at yet another Board of Public Works meeting he called for a public registry listing HIV-positive individuals! Schaefer said, “As far as I’m concerned, people who have AIDS are a danger. They’re a danger to spread AIDS. People should be able to know who has AIDS. It costs an awful lot of money to treat them.” And this reelected representative of our people gave us a slice of his wisdom: “They bring it on themselves, they don’t get it by sitting on the toilet seat. … A person who gives AIDS, who spreads AIDS, they’re bad people.”

Wow! Again, this should not surprise us. I mean, if there needed to have been an authentic demand for this man to withdraw, this need not be on the ground that he was ogling at a young female. He should have been culled with more serious charges.

We know that a system exists in our democracy that allows people like this to get away with anything they have to say. Come on, without any pretensions, we know the human rights issues in the US are in shambles. Domestic violences against women are on increase. Sensitivity towards the LGBT community is abysmal. Respect for women and concern for children can be reflected through the unabashed show of commodified women and violent video games. One that does not let women rule the country nor children to organize as communities.

The question is, do we have a system in place which can effectively challenge these? A system that can challenge the status quo. As to why since 1851, the year the comptroller’s office was founded, all of the comptrollers have been old white men? We know well that the people who control the finances are the most powerful. The question is why all of them have to be men.

The question is under the circumstances, what happens to the governor of the state? Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.’s aide was clearly harassed as we all noticed on the television screen. Will he bear responsibility and condemn Schaefer? Ha! Did he do it when Schaefer bad-mouthed immigrants who were not well versed with English? Well here is what Ehrlich said: “Once you get into this multicultural crap, this bunk, that some folks are teaching in our college campuses and other places, you run into a problem….There is no such thing as a multicultural society that can sustain itself, in my view, and I think history teaches us this lesson.”

Sure, his history teaches him different lessons! Publicly advocating supremacist societies which does not tolerate ethnic identities of diverse population, here is a governor, alright.

Baltimore Sun quotes Steven L. Kreseski, Ehrlich’s chief of staff, saying that the governor has spent time thinking about the concept as a congressman. ‘Ehrlich believes that different ethnic groups should embrace American values such as capitalism and the celebration of Thanksgiving.’

Sure, why is it that I am not surprised? How fast, how effortlessly we have moved from issues of Schaefer to issues concerning Ehrlich. Because the issues concern them similarly, because they share the common platform, power and agenda. This is the only truth. There is no news value in this. People deserve the kind of government they elect. And in a god-fearing America, this may be the fate and we are all destiny’s children.

There have been strong critics of the current comptroller. Just like there were critics of McCarthy. Just like there were critics of Clinton. Or there are today critics of Bush. The pressing issue however is not to recognize that there are some odd ones out there who we need to recognize as bad when they target “our own” people. Remember as long as McCarthy was blaming the Soviets for everything, he was a darling. After he harassed a few good men of America, he had to become a ghost. Remember that as long as Clinton was bombing Kosovo and killing civilians in the process, it was fine. When we got the moral yardstick of one white female, the world went upside down.

Regarding our current president, the lesser said the better. War on Iraq is a good thing, American troops dying is a bad thing. Not that President Bush ever said anything different from President Clinton.
It’s just that he has not yet found time from dealing with issues of same-sex marriages, right to abortions and mothers against war. And guess what, he has been reelected too! With all the moral stories and preachings of good over the evil, our good better than theirs, he better be.

Well meaning critics of the comptroller have opposed the way the media have projected Schaefer as acting like his own. Intellectuals have condemned (they said the same thing in 2004 too in this brilliant article) this boys-will-be-boys excuse. The mainline argument is that he has to pay for his attitude. No one wants to buy the cliché that ‘Schaefer will be Schaefer’. After all, we are supposed to be God’s Blessed Land. We are to be upholders of moral standards.

But guess what, I think clichés are words of wisdom at times. And yes, the boys will be boys. Especially, the rich capitalist powerful men will behave like rich capitalist powerful men. Because its not they who are at fault. It’s their system they have carefully structured that’s capable of retaining them no matter what and changing the headlines every flickering moment so that people forget the crimes in the annals of reality TV shows, standardized female bodies, and hopeless comedies of modern times.

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Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

2 thoughts on “Why Schaefer must be Schaefer?

  1. You write very well. But I do not totally agree with you. You wrote within the body of your article “All the while, making Elizabeth Krum a familiar face for everyone, producing a mordant sense of reproduction of the scene where a bunch of OLD WHITE MEN are making lewd gestures in a public meeting” OLD WHITE MEN?? IN this age of diversity and affirmation action? Especially in Maryland? There where no old Hispanic men and old African-American men present? Just OLD WHITE MEN? I find that hard to believe. That can also be interpreted by some folks as an insult. Don’t worry, I’m not insulted even though I’m a MIDDLE AGED WHITE MAN (I hope you won’t hold that against me, Sir).

    What Willie Don did was disrespectful, and unwarranted but it could have been worse.I understand the young lady and her parents have accepted Willie Don’s apology. And regarding what he said about immigrants. I do not totally agree with him. Immigrants play an important part in this country, just as they have always done throughout history (My Ancestors came from Ireland, Scotland and Slovakia). But immigrants should adapt to us-American society by learning the English language. Alot of immigrants don’t(Perhaps free English classes should be offered). And illegal immigration should not be tolerated in this age of terrorism (Rember 9-11?). Otherwise, I have nothing against LEGAL IMMIGRATION. People who follow the procedure to enter the U.S. and go on to become productive and law abiding members of society. You made some valid points, but I don’t completely agree. In closing, you still have the satisfaction of knowing that despite the fact that Robert Ehrlich is Governor (I surmise you don’t like the guy), The Maryland General Assembly and The Baltimore City council consists largely of LIBERAL DEMOCRATS. Many of whom are African-American. Have a good one.

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