I read Julie O'Malley's column (in the Anchorage Daily News) on the Masek sentencing last week, and it's been a point of discussion with several friends. Beverly Masek was an Alaskan representative convicted on corruption charges in the string of corruption investigations, indictments and convictions to hit the state in recent years, the most notable of them being Sen. Ted Stevens. Besides ol' Uncle Ted, I haven't commented on many of them, but Masek's I have, and she still continues to irk me.
Masek is Native, but that part isn't what bothers me either. Okay, that part does too, but not primarily. What bothers me is Masek seems to be so willing to play up the poor Native villager victimhood, instead of truly owning up, and genuinly making a stab at bettering herself. Or as O'Malley put it, "The defense was reaching for heart-strings, playing a cloying victim tune. But it relied on a musty stereotype about Native women I don't buy."
I know many Native women from rural Alaska. Despite whatever past so many of them had, despite what challenges they faced coming to the city, the ones I admire most are the ones who played on the strength of their ties to the village, not excused their behavior with it. They are the ones who took their past and heritage in hand and learned from it, leaned on it, were proud of it - and, actions big or small, could be proud of their present, too.
And let's not forget Ms. Masek signed up for the job. It's hard to sell the victim part when you literally campaigned to get the gig.
The offensive part isn't that she's Native and committed a crime (poorly done crime at that.) If anything, it shows how equally stupid people can be, no matter their heritage. What's offensive is that Masek and these lawyers are leaning on the "weakness" of her rural ties to prove she deserves to be pitied, not punished.
If Masek really believes her ties to rural Alaska created a weakness in her character, and that what she learned and experienced there were the cause of her criminality, I think she does deserve to be pitied. But she's also a criminal, and until she can show a willingness to change, the only thing left to do is punish so her bad example can at least be made an example of what not to do.