Resign to honor a father’s legacy

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Mary Ann Sorrentino is a columnist writing from Cranston.

Regarding New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, I would like to paraphrase the late, great Vaudois George M. Cohan, who told the audience: “… My father thanks you, my mother thanks you, and I thank you …” I am sure Cuomo’s Three Daughters thank him for ending their own public hell when several female professionals convicted their father as a sex offender.

As a speech by a man heading out of popularity and likely political uncertainty, it was a great speech. Andrew Cuomo is not stupid, however bad his judgment may be. He was eloquent, remorseful, and the occasional twitching of his throat made him think that he might sincerely feel sorry for the way he treated women.

As the daughter of an immigrant father from the obscure island of Ischia off the coast of Naples and a first generation American mother raised and shaped by immigrant parents who came here newlyweds from the same island, I am as Italian as an American can. My grandparents never really spoke English, even after half a century in America. I know the world of Andrew Cuomo and his admired father – former New York governor and democratic icon Mario Cuomo.

I have relatives and friends in the form of Andrew Cuomo: men who are intelligent but also irrational, stubborn and macho. They fight against the victories of the feminists and do not seem to be able to accept women on an equal footing. They avoid using four letter words in front of women but seem unable to stop seeing women primarily as sex objects. Often times, motherhood is the only female achievement such men truly respect.

When I listened to the governor’s admission that he might indeed have hurt female employees in his professional life, I understood how difficult that admission was for a man who was used to asserting himself with everyone around him. When he finally announced his decision to step down from the governorship, increasing the likelihood that his days of power were over, I noticed his fragile composure and wondered if – if the television cameras were turned off – he would actually cry. I wondered if his 89-year-old mother, Matilda Cuomo, widow of the legendary Mario and inducted into the US Women’s Hall of Fame, was watching and how she felt hearing her son’s mea culpa.

Many will say what we saw on TV when Andrew Cuomo left public life is theater. They will say he has no choice but to be forgotten as he was literally caught in the act. It certainly took days to compose his speech and decades to prepare. Somewhere in this man’s crowd was a national hero whose daily TV briefings gave a nation the information and courage it needed to fight and defeat COVID.

He will disappear from public life in about a week, it said in his announcement. Never a sympathetic guy, he will be forgotten by an ashamed man, whom even more of his colleagues and superiors will avoid. Still, I imagined that his father was most truely celebrating his public apology and resignation.

If the loved ones who were taken from us by death have any form of life afterwards, Mario Cuomo has suffered a lot in the last few weeks. He has seen a son he created, loved, and proud of, slip, fueled by the macho’s inability to respect the dignity and freedom of female contemporaries. Such men are driven more by hormones than by the sanity or respect their parents tried to instill in them.

Andrew Cuomo broke the rules and maybe even the law: now he has to pay the price for behavior that is habitual rather than rational. It’s a high price, but his father would find it justified if a family tradition of grace and gentlemanly demeanor can be saved from total ruin.

Requiescat at the Tempo, Mario Cuomo. I like to think that it is the parental skills of you and Matilda that got Andrew on the mic to do the right thing. In a way, it pays homage to both of you as parents that he does the right thing even when he did the wrong thing. As all parents know, the greatest reward is not perfect children, but children who at least know when they are wrong, say so, and take their punishment.

In the end, Andrew Cuomo will spend more time regretting his behavior than the nation will spend remembering the good things he did as governor. That is the price of justice.


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