(I won’t enter the discussion about the sad events in Boston. News coverage, debates and social media have said it all, several million times over.)
Rather, my post today will be about the governor of Maryland and the question, how does he do it? I live in Virginia which I always liked better than Maryland, even when I lived there. The trees see, to be taller here, the sky higher. Also, eight U.S. Presidents were born in the Old Dominion and the state’s history is remarkable. But our politics? Except for the staunchly blue Northern Virginia, there’s not much difference with the politics of, say, Texas—and that is not a compliment.
But drive a dozen miles to the north on the beltway and you find a different situation with Maryland and its outstanding governor, O’Malley. In my book, he falls short of perfection only for being stingy on pardons, but then I don’t know the stories behind his reticence in certain cases. On every other count, he’s my man. First and foremost, of course, abolishing the barbarous death penalty, making Maryland the 18th state without capital punishment. In the meantime, Virginia remains the state with the highest number of executions per population, ahead of said Texas. That is not a fact to be proud of, along with the ugly general picture of this country about the death penalty (all Western countries and many on other continents have abolished it over the last decades), as we remain in the one-third that still applies it and are in the top five countries in the number of executions, along with China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. What can I say, I cringe.
So, O’Malley has managed to convince lawmakers to get rid of it. He has also passed one of the most stringent gun control laws in the country (in contrast to U.S. senators who, for shame, last week refused to vote in favor of miserably watered-down legislation on background checks). He has also helped pass laws allowing same-sex marriage, student aid for children of undocumented immigrants, higher taxes for the wealthiest Marylanders and much more, always in favor of the meek and the humble. He should be held up as an example of what a determined and decent man in his position can achieve. He’s brave and also lucky to be governor of a state blue by definition, whereas Virginia is host to some of the most conservative and raucous Republicans and tea partiers in the country; it doesn’t help that we have a McDonnell as governor and a Cuccinelli as attorney general. (Only a few days ago, the Virginia Board of Health approved measures that are almost certain to put abortion clinics out of business, leaving well-off women to seek solutions out of state and the less fortunate ones to head for back alleys and botched, illegal terminations. Again, for shame!)
Of course, conservatives scoff at O’Malley and insist that he’s cut of the same cloth they are and only seeking to secure a national platform for 2016. Is he now? Well, he already has my respect and admiration, he will most certainly have my vote.
At least, so it is to T.S. Eliot in “The Waste Land,” one of the most extraordinary poems ever written. I don’t know about the entire month of April but this week is certainly the cruelest to me, and has been for the last 34 years. April 4th 1979 was when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir and former Pakistani Prime Minister, a brilliant and controversial man, was hanged by order of Zia-ul-Haq, the President. I had met Bhutto in the early 1970s, when he visited my father, then Iranian ambassador to Paris. He made a deep impression on me with his cogent, knife-sharp assessment of Iran, Pakistan, and of the way our world was evolving.
Though I was not personally affected by his death, it gave me an instinctive sense of doom related to my country of origin, Iran. Remember, after the Islamic Revolution of February 1979, Iranian jails were filled with thousands of political prisoners, both officials of the former regime—such as my father—and ordinary citizens who didn’t fancy living in a theocracy. Despite Andrew Young’s assessment of Khomeini as “a saint,” the cleric was revealing himself to be a cruel brute and executions, dozens at a time, took place every day. Read more…