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“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings! Look on my works ye Mighty and despair!”
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fondest wish and deepest hope of many is that their lives and legacies will outlive them. Most men in thrall to this fixation sire children at least in part to seed the earth with offspring that will keep their line and their memory alive long after they’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.
Article by Pennel Bird from Liberty Nation.
Gaining immortality through children or from great works of art like Shelley and Shakespeare are not the only ways to survive death. One can also imprint indelibly upon history by making important discoveries, innovating something hitherto unseen, for powerful statesmanship, incredible athletic prowess, and for extraordinary bravery in facing down a fraught and consequential cultural moment. But history also remembers the villains.
Shelley’s incomparable poem Ozymandias is a pithy and devastating meditation on the transience of power and the ultimate fate awaiting us all – paupers and princes alike. We are all rendered to dust in the end, and what remains of the lives we’ve lived may warrant no mention whatsoever, a line in a local newspaper – or maybe the subject of weighty tomes for centuries afterward.
Andrew Cuomo may well live on after his demise – in ignominy.
He is struggling against a deluge of accusations, damaging revelations, and bad press. His is the cautionary tale of how the mighty have fallen. One year ago to the week, Cuomo made the fateful decision that would change the trajectory of his story forever. As Governor of New York in the middle of a pandemic without precedent, Cuomo – for reasons that are still not clear – made a determination that elderly folks being discharged from the hospital who were positive for COVID-19 should be compelled to shelter in nursing homes. This mandate proved to be catastrophic and resulted in the deaths of over 15,000 senior citizens from the Empire State.
Was it the fog of war that caused Cuomo to make such a calamitous decision? We may never know. Within a month and a half, the Governor realized the mistake he’d made and reversed his decision. Then he set about applying a gaslight to the story. And the press was only too happy to play along.
The story told in the mainstream media was of a strong, principled man who was the antonym of the president in office at the time. He was willing to roll up his shirtsleeves to tackle the mountain range of issues presented by the wildly virulent virus. He was willing to street fight and punch back to help protect his constituency and the citizens of his great state. He was not shy about extolling his own virtues, and he demonstrated a light touch and a sense of humor on television with his brother, the newsman. The Governor’s apparent strength of character even inspired some smitten Americans to dub themselves “Cuomosexuals.”
But the narrative began to unravel as the needless deaths of so many elderly New Yorkers were finally revealed. And it was subsequently made clear that – knowing the Achilles heel he had exposed to the poisoned arrows of the media – the Governor had attempted a cover-up. The original number of fatalities reported of around 6,000 ended up being more than double that.
Cuomo’s calculus was in favor of deception: he would lie and cover up his fateful mistake rather than admit the problematic truth of it and plead for the public’s understanding during a time without parallel. This was his point of no return. It would either work – or he would be found out.
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Harasser In Chief
As the story unfurled in the media – another scandal joined it and held hands. Together they appeared to be the twin towers of Cuomo’s fate that would bring his legacy crashing down. Cuomo has been accused of sexual harassment by as many as eight women who had worked with him or known him. After the first brave woman spoke out, each in her turn was emboldened to come forward, one following the next.
The Governor demonstrated what appeared to be a modicum of contrition at this new scandal – something he had not done for his nursing home decision. But he refused to take the advice of leading Democrats to step down, calculating that if he could weather the storm – as Governor Ralph Northam (D-VA) had done – maybe he could survive.
But the hero’s fatal flaw is always hubris – thinking too grandly about oneself and believing one’s own power is greater than it is. This week, more bad news followed. It is being reported that during the early days of the vaccine roll-out campaign at the end of 2020, Cuomo secretly prioritized his family and several VIPs he called friends for the jab. Stories of midnight COVID tests and clandestine administrations of the experimental vaccine to his inner circle – including his celebrity brother – are being told. To ensure secrecy, numbers rather than names were used to obscure the truth. Police escorts were engaged to provide expediency and opacity.
What tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive.
New Yorkers from the hardest-hit state in America – possibly the coronavirus epicenter of the entire world – were struggling to get vaccines in those early days. But Governor Cuomo directed his Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker, to prioritize his own family over all others. It is a kind of perverse nepotism. After his nursing home scandal, this was at the very least bad optics, while it was monstrously unconscionable and morally repugnant at the very worst.
And yet, who among us, when we believed we could save our families from disaster, might not have made the same choice?
In the end, Cuomo’s mistakes are all too human. A governor trying to manage his way out of a crisis makes a terrible decision and reverses it too late. A man from a bygone era seeking companionship uses his status and power to cross a line with women that should never be crossed. A son, brother, and friend from a culture known to be passionately pro-family seeks to protect them from death.
The hero never sees himself as a villain – only misunderstood. Cuomo clings to his vision of himself and refuses to step down. He hangs now by from a thin professional thread. It is the last lifeline preventing him from crashing to earth and landing alone on a beach somewhere in Long Island – a place he has spent many happy days and where he acquires his season-defying tan.
Andrew Cuomo’s desire to be remembered as a good man and great Governor is increasingly a wishful thought. It is a story written along that lonely shoreline and will, in time, be swept away by the elements.
“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Read more from Pennel Bird.
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