I’ve been asked all around the community about Senator Roland Burris. Did he tell the truth or not? Should Burris resign if he did not level with the state senate impeachment panel? All to which I find myself asking, “What is truth?”

I really detest finding myself asking Pontius Pilate’s questions during the trials of Christ. Upon reflection, however, Pilate’s inquiry is a legitimate one in these complex moral-ethical – mixed with political – dilemmas. Pilate’s inquiry is not so much about relative truth as it is looking at levels of truth.

Truth is, Roland Burris did not tell the whole truth to the Illinois Senate panel, but he probably did not commit perjury either. Truth is, Burris can probably ride out the storm, but he absolutely cannot be elected to anything again in Illinois. The truth also is, Burris probably did not – could not – buy the seat from former governor Blagojevich. Burris really did not have the means, and was not being seriously considered, until others turned it down after the governor’s arrest. Truth is, it is something to be said for Burris being the only African American in the Senate.

The only people who truly believe it does not matter whether one black person is in the Senate are folks whose voice and interest are already over-represented of the highest levels of government and industry. The truth also is Burris is a rather harmless actor in Illinois’ culture of political corruption. It truly looks bizarre to the black community to witness the drumbeat for his resignation from an office he can’t retain, while the big money corruption swirling around Springfield and city hall salivates, waiting on the federal stimulus money bonanza. 

Truth is, politicians with designs for themselves or their family member or allies on the Senate seat post-Burris, are in no moral position to call for his resignation today.  Truth is, Burris will probably be a consistent vote for the interest of poor and working Americans and Illinoisans while in the Senate.  In this instance, the issue of Burris’ resignation is probably much more political than it is moral or ethical. Given our culture of political corruption, Burris is probably not the best starting place for change and rooting it out. And that’s the truth.

For the African American community, given the levels of truth, the question is whose interest does a Burris resignation serve? It is clear that those politicians who have ready campaign cash would benefit from a special election. I am quite sure those people would have much difficult distinguishing the political from the moral in this instance. If Burris remains, would that hurt the chances of potential African American candidates? I would say, only if Burris tries to run himself.  I think he assuredly would not. He can’t raise money and cannot possibly believe he could be viable.

The Illinois electorate, even post-Burris, will demonstrate that we judge candidates for election on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  Of all the states in the union, truly that has been proven in Illinois.

The best and wisest course of action is to begin to look beyond this tragic season in Illinois politics. The year 2010 will provide opportunities to settle scores, do some cleaning and deliver a message. The very best outcome would be the emergence of some fresh faces and perspectives on the local political scene.  This will be the time to turn our anger and angst into power and demand real change in campaign finance laws, and maybe even term limits.

This coming political season will provide the challenge to keep our eyes on every level of truth and truthfulness. In a democracy, the ballot box and free elections offers an opportunity to move forward with a people’s agenda in these troubled times.