John Archibald has a lovely meditation on the Langford verdict that expresses very well what I’m feeling right now.
The evidence was overwhelming. The verdict irrefutable. Justice was done.
For that we can all be grateful.
But that’s not what I thought as I watched the man who once seemed so limitless sit stricken in his chair. It was not what crossed my mind as his wife, Melva, slipped away to compose herself.
what I felt as Langford asked for his wife, as he kissed her on the cheek and said, ever so quietly, “It’s going to be ok.”
All I saw and felt in that moment was sadness.
Sadness for a man shattered by his obsessions, for the woman who must pay the debt of his mistakes.
Sadness, really, for a community that has endured far too much graft and bribery and corruption.
I believe Langford is guilty. I was disappointed when the voters of Birmingham elected him mayor in the face of his long track record of fiscal irresponsibility, not to mention the basic disregard for honesty and truthfulness that let him claim to live in the city while he maintained his residence in Fairfield.
I’m glad he’s out of office. I’m glad he didn’t walk away unscathed. But I can’t celebrate the idea that he will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison. I certainly can’t celebrate the near-certainty that his sentence will be longer than that imposed on Bill Blount, who profited so much more from the corruption. Yes, I know Langford could have taken a deal, and it’s testimony to his near-delusional arrogance that he didn’t.
We’re no nearer to cleaning up the mess that is Jefferson County than we were yesterday. Or any of the other yesterdays when a long line of public officials either were convicted or pleaded guilty. Sending them to prison is supposed to make a statement that we as a society reject the endemic, almost casual corruption that apparently persuaded Larry Langford it was just fine to take cash and suits and dress shirts from people who wanted his ear.
But it’s only the first step, and we can’t afford to stop there. We have to elect people who see government service as a selfless act, who believe that government can operate efficiently and effectively on behalf of the governed — all the governed, not just those with a check in hand. It’s going to take a long time to restore trust. I don’t know if we can.
No, I’m not celebrating today.