My old high school buddy, John Sullivan, is taking a sabbatical from his seat in the United States House of Representatives to rehabilitate himself from substance abuse at the Betty Ford Clinic. Too bad they don’t do soul transplants, because somewhere along the way John lost his.
John and his family moved into our neighborhood, a modest development in what they now call “midtown” in Tulsa, probably when we were in 4th grade or so. He always attended Catholic schools, so I didn’t really get to know him until I was kicked out of Tulsa Public and had to attend Bishop Kelley in 10th grade. John was an extremely popular kid in high school, despite lacking athletic or academic talent. But, the fact is, he was a nice guy. He seemed to truly care about people. Unlike most popular high school kids, he treated unpopular kids with kindness, maybe even empathy. John invited me to parties and to hang out at football games, and nobody else who was popular did that.
I only saw John a few times after I left Kelley. I wasn’t surprised that he went into politics, and was successful. But, I was exceptionally disappointed that he became a simpleton tool of the far right-wing of the Republican Party. John wasn’t a radical right Catholic, and Bishop Kelley had a social justice orientation among the Christian Brothers and lay people who taught there. Particularly Mr. Rossi, the football coach and history teacher, who taught a rigorous and inspiring American History sequence which focused on the struggles of workers, immigrants, and minorities, and Rossi was highly critical of the warmongering fostered by American policies based on notions of manifest destiny.
I wrote to John three times since he was elected to Congress. The third time I even sent the letter from Tulsa, hoping that maybe the postmark from his district might inspire someone to give it to him. But, he didn’t want to deal with anything which questioned the far right wing policies of the Republican Party. Many analysts are now calling Tulsa a “blue trending” district, and a Bush toadie like Sully is going to have a hard time come reelection.
I hope John sobers up, thinks about his life, his family, his country, and the world community. He could change. He could become a politician who could unite reasonable economic conservatives and social liberals, like former House Speaker James R. Jones. Hell, he could even become a Democrat. I wonder if they can do that at Betty Ford?