It wasn’t the felony charges that got to me, or the perjury. Or the text messages to his girlfriend and his assault of a police officer. It wasn’t even the lawsuit that cost the city of Detroit nine million dollars. These were topics of months-long ongoing news. No, what stopped me in my tracks was when (now former) Detroit city mayor Kwame Malik Kilpatrick, stated his full name under oath and then his age. “Thirty-eight years old.”
Thirty-eight years old. “How young,” I thought. So young to be in charge of city that, like an aging but valiant heavyweight, time and again struggles to its knees under the one-two one-two one-two knock out punches of poverty, a crumbling school system, joblessness. So young to manage all that and more in a state whose woes are legion. Just thirty-eight years old.
I say “just” because from this midlife peak of fifty-two, thirty-eight seems so terribly young. Not as young as twenty-eight (current Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl, considered to be the youngest major of a major American city). Not as young as thirty-one (one-time Cleveland mayor Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who is finally looking his age). But young enough.
Fourteen years ago I thought my own plate was plenty challenging — raising a fourth grader and a first grader, keeping them grounded while getting my writing career off the ground, doing the PTO thing, the voluteering thing, indenturing babysitters so my husband and I could spend alone time together. Managing my own small day-to-day universe was plenty. Handle an entire city? No, thank you.
Disbarment. Jail time. Million dollar fine. Loss of his pension. These are fair and appropriate consequences for Kilpatrick’s unconscionable misplacement of public trust. His was a monumental betrayal of the people, both public and private, who needed him most. Just and heavy penalties have been levied upon the thirty-eight-year-old former mayor.
And yet at thirty-eight Kwame Kilpatrick has many years ahead of him. Many years to atone, to choose a new direction, to ask forgiveness perhaps and be forgiven. Just thirty-eight, Detroit’s disgraced mayor has much of his life yet to be lived. I hope he uses it well.