A Philly ailment – corruption fatigue

You’ve heard of battle fatigue. And compassion fatigue.

A friend said the other day that, as a Philadelphia resident, she had “corruption fatigue.”

I knew what she meant.

Here’s the syndrome: You live in or near this magnificent, maddening city. You would not trade its crazy mix of grit and glory, of history and histrionics, for anywhere.

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You just want the people who run the place to be better than they are. Much better. You want to believe democracy could actually manage to work in the place where it was born. You want to cling to ideals, and to rise up in effective outrage every time some corrupt clown transgresses them.

You vote. You show up. You write letters, sign petitions, march down streets, all to show the people who would run roughshod over your ideals that you won’t stand for it.

But each week brings some fresh outrage. At some point, you just can’t summon the same fighting fervor. The mess at the port authority morphs into the circus at the housing authority into the follies at the BRT into the tragic nonsense at the school district. Your brain cries, “Uncle.”

You are not one of the lazy cynics who excuse their failures of civic duty with clichéd growls about how “they’re all crooks.” But your reservoir of resolve is running dry.

You know they’re not all crooks. You know that, whatever his flaws, Mike Nutter runs a pretty clean executive branch at City Hall, where his appointees won’t accept even so much as a plate of home-baked cookies from people doing business with the city.

But then weeks like this happen, where the people you really thought were the good guys end up in the gunk. Lawmaker Dwight Evans gets in the middle of a closed-door mess over a charter school contract. You know Dwight’s angle there had to do with pride and power, not venality, but that still doesn’t make it right.

And the voice of Neil Oxman, the blunt political consultant, rings in your ears, saying his famous one-liner: “Philadelphia is a city run by 500 people, for the benefit of those same 500 people.”

That shouldn’t be true. The city is so full of residents who deserve better But some days it just seems, well, so true.

Anybody know a cure for corruption fatigue?

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