Washington, DC — Watching a contrite Rep. Charles “Charlie” Rangel Thursday beg for mercy reminded me of a trip twenty years ago to the high mountains of South America. Every day that I climbed I could not help looking over my shoulder on the way up and think if I were to slip whether or not I would be fortunate enough to die before splattering into compressed carrion on the canyon floor.
La Paz, the administrative capital of Bolivia and the world’s highest city, is literally where eagles and the Andean condors soar. For someone like me, having grown up in downtown Washington, D.C., it took me a few days to become acclimated to the high altitude. But regardless of how used one is to being on top of the world, the higher one climbs, every time you look down you are reminded of how far you have to fall before reaching bottom.
Slipping down the side of a rural hillock may only result in a broken bone or two. On the other hand, scaling the rock face of the Andeas is unforgiving for those who lose their footing. The same can be said about a man who rose from an impoverished neighborhood in Harlem to one of the most powerful offices in Congress.
When scaling mountains, at some point you either lose your fear of heights or watch while the brave reach new heights. The higher one ascends, the thinner the air. And the apex is not the exclusive purview of the unblemished. Sinners often reach the same heights as saints. They only seem to differ in how far the former may eventually fall. Apparently, those of good ethics and character can rely on poled safety nets held by friends when they slip. Those with a whiffling weather vane for a moral compass should expect those who were once eager to lend a hand to be prone to saying “oops,” as you descend into the abyss of shame.
When “Charlie” Rangel was forced last year to step down from being chairman of the House Way and Means Committee, it began a quick decent into the bowels of humiliation. What took him more than thirty years to achieve was lost in a matter of months. And after only six hours of deliberation, a House ethics committee rendered tars and feathers on a lifetime of public service. The verdict was guilty. His sentence will be censure before his peers dispensed by the Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi.
Over the weekend, let’s hope Mr. Rangel decides to keep his dignity and retire. There will be no winners by seeing him stripped down to his last glimmer of pride.
“Charlie” we still love you but please do yourself a favor and let historians speculate on how you might have reacted when your beloved House of Representatives was forced to drive a stake into your heart because you wouldn’t leave after your sunset in Congress.
Booting Michael Steele
Sorry Charlie, you’re guilty
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GOP will dumps tea cups morning after
Moving day for Capitol Hill