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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Who's in charge?

Have we really descended to such a level in society that a family crisis is subject to political analysis?

The commentary and speculation surrounding Diane Patrick's illness and Deval Patrick's work schedule is a bit frightening in terms of what is says about our attitude toward elected officials. Particularly unnerving is the line in the Globe citing comments on its own message board (comments I have no real interest in reading, thank you very much).

I'm left to wonder -- would the reaction be the same if it was announced Diane Patrick had multiple sclerosis as Anne Romney or a different type of chronic condition? Everyone has been straining to avoid Dukakis comparisons in describing Patrick's early missteps, but the parallel here is just too clear to avoid.

Michael and Kitty Dukakis closely held the fact the former first lady suffered from depression. It was a less-intrusive political era to be sure, but the public was none the wiser (or worse for wear) by not knowing about her bouts.

It was only when Dukakis took to the presidential campaign trail that the family opted to make the information public -- on its own terms. That included a very early in the day news conference and a series of one-on-one interviews by the first lady that stretched across the rest of the day.

Kitty Dukakis had tried to stay out of the spotlight, but nevertheless had a public image -- and a less-than-flattering one at that. Personally, that day shattered the image as I got a little insight into a woman who remained gracious despite a white-hot spotlight and the requirement she answer the same intensely personal questions over and over again.

Yet, despite her personal efforts to reduce the fear and stigma around mental illness, it remains misunderstood. We've come a long way, thanks in large part to Kitty Dukakis, but politics is the one arena where depression is used against you.

Look no further than the awful juxtaposition of her condition and the vicious line (albeit from a different campaign) of Bush Senior aide Lee Atwater about electroshock therapy. Or how the therapy became the first line of Thomas Eagleton's obituary.

No speculation here about the root and source of Diane Patrick's illness. And really, does anyone think in this age of cell phones and Blackberries that Deval Patrick will be out of the loop just because he's out of the office?

Can we let this family deal with its own crisis and expect that it will muddle through just like every other family facing a crisis? Or do we strip politicians of that one last remaining bit of humanity -- knowing that each time we do that we lose good people who have every right not to be dragged through the political mud for their personal struggles.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. The feeding frenzy that is what passes for journalism these days in the "liberal media" is just too disgraceful.

March 13, 2007 9:37 PM  

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