Friday, February 27, 2004

Breaking Out The Shorts

And they still fit after as winter scurries out of here. It's a twisted world we live in when there's snowstorms in the Southeast and we're in the middle of a very balmy thaw. It's safe to say that I can shelve the salt until next winter.

Aaron Patterson, a wrongfully convicted former Illinois Death Row inmate whose sentence was commuted and pardoned by former Governor George Ryan, is campaigning for the Democratic Nomination 6th Congressional District of the Illinois House of Representatives against incumbent Patricia Bailey. I looked at the map for the district this afternoon; a distance of one block is all that separates me from the possibility of having Aaron Patterson as my state representative. After having witnessed a stump speech by Patterson last night I am breathing a heavy sigh of relief that gerrymandering has prevented that from happening.

Patterson gave his stock speech last night about his history with the state prison system- how, as a former gang banger, he was beaten and tortured into confessing to double murder in 1986. Patterson was suffocated with a typewriter bag and pummeled with a phone book. He managed to find a paper clip and used it to scratch his claims of torture and innocence into a bench.

That experience is the foundation for his campaign. Patterson promises to form an "innocence commission" if elected to the state legislature whose sole purpose is to monitor and investigate the claims of innocence by Death Row inmates. Never mind that Illinois currently has no inmates on Death Row since George Ryan emptied it as his last official act as Governor.

It's what Patterson told the audience after his campaign pledge that startled me. At the urging of his "associate": Fred Hampton, Jr., the son of the Former Black Panther leader murdered by Chicago police in 1969, Patterson began a long, meandering speech about a "revolution" taking hold. It sounded as though he was trained in saying the lines. Patterson tripped over his words numerous times during the speech.

Finally, he summarized by saying, "It's time for a revolution. If the ballots won't bring it about, the bullets will!!" The hip-hop artists left onstage had to pick up the pieces of Patterson's lyric threat. "Sometimes in order to bring about change," one of them said, "you need some bloodshed. Hopefully we won't have to come to that."

Patterson's run is a long shot, at best. Bailey is running with the full weight of the Daley machine behind her. But should Patterson pull an upset, he should seriously consider getting some more rational advisors to help him with his platform. Unless, that is, seventeen years on Death Row makes him believe those words.

No comments: