Op-Ed: Bernie Madoff the tragedy continues

Posted Dec 12, 2010 by William Charles Baker
Mark Madoff son of Bernie Madoff found hanging in his Soho apartment is but another sad note in the ever expanding story of the pain caused by his father.
Alcatraz Prison Picture of a typical cell. Alcatraz is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in...
Alcatraz Prison Picture of a typical cell. Alcatraz is located in the middle of San Francisco Bay in California.
National Park Service
Bernie Madoff sits in federal prison with a sentence that mathematically does not come close to the many who were bilked as a result of his Ponzi scheme. The rich have every right to get richer if they can. The risk is the disastrous slide to the bottom when the millions exit faster than the time it took to earn them. Investors gamble in the best of times and the worst of times as long as the game is fair.
For some a three bedroom split level with a yard and maybe a garden to plant something and swing set for the kids is enough. For someone else it might be a homeless shelter. Once having mansions and wealth they are now resolutely washing clothes at the Laundromat thanks to Bernie Madoff. The American dream of wealth and financial independence gone bust and the perceived disdain for a split level now looks better all the time.
For many it is hard to have sympathy for those folks who were bilked out of millions or even hundreds of dollars. But there is more sympathy for average losses, swindling of the infirmed and senior citizens who have little to start with and are victimized by loneliness more than anything else. Charlatans and grifters who specialize in taking from the already poor to make them poorer or destitute has every bodies sympathy but not the rich.
The rich who they feel have somehow come by their fortune by some method that is immoral or illegal or unethical. The rich who rather than trying to emulate they tear down as being unworthy of their success. So when misfortune strikes it seems almost just that the field is leveled so there are none that have more than the next person. The sick and suffering need more attention and the Madoff scandal only make those swindled by him more human. It shows how sick and envious we have become ourselves when we recognize rich as only dollars and not the human commodity of will and sacrifice that it took to make them rich in the first place. We have much to learn from the rich beyond money made and money lost because once rich they have the guts and the talent to be rich again.
In that context the entire drama and life of Bernie Madoff may have some context in a morality play. They say that you can’t cheat an honest man but sympathy can still be felt for those who were. A prison sentence where basically he will be committed for the rest of his life with the memories of his deeds may have been enough. The jet set life style and the cash floating around endlessly is gone and maybe that would have been enough. The vision and memories of his son hanging from a dog leash may be more than enough.