Archive for Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Martha stirs up strong emotions

March 25, 2004

Martha Stewart made the front cover of both Newsweek and People magazine this week. Both covers had the same photo of her emerging from the courtroom looking grim. Even after a guilty verdict, she still managed to keep her head held high in ladylike fashion in spite of the controversy that swirls around her and the now famous ImClone stock trade that has put her in such hot water ---- and possibly prison.
I have always admired Martha, especially her blonde mane of hair that droops so fashionably in her face. But I don't think I ever liked her. As a successful, self-made business icon, most women are fascinated with her story and perhaps a little jealous of her success.
I'm not sure what nerve she touches in me. Maybe I have succumbed to the rumors of her mistreating her employees, but for some reason I have found her hard to like. Maybe the issue is the perfection she interjects into every project she undertakes, from making a souffle to raising chickens. Is there no end to this woman's talents?
Why she has caused such uproar at this time is worth exploring. I confess I don't understand my own feelings regarding the "Princess of Prim and Proper." Others have said the same thing, and even though we are ambivalent about her, most of us do not want her to experience the hardships of prison.
In fact, I can't imagine her in a khaki coverall swabbing bathroom floors and sharing a bath and bedroom with two or four other women. I'm sure the sheets won't be from her K-Mart collection.
Many bad jokes have accompanied Stewart's downfall and her time in court. Although some are funny, I find them distasteful, especially after watching her on Larry King Live at Christmas with her delightful 89-year-old mother, Martha Kostyra. Seeing her with her mother placed her among us as just another family person who has done well but has recently made a very bad choice.
Perhaps appearing with her mother was a ploy to gain sympathy, but the first call she made after leaving the courtroom was to her mom, who was waiting to hear the verdict. What she heard was what any mother would never want to hear in such a situation from their child. "It's bad news," she gently warned when reaching her mother.
Allan Sloan, who writes for Newsweek and refers to himself as a "professional throat-biter," says Martha's case is "really over trivia" and cites the big boys from Enron and WorldCom as being the real criminals.
"Those who caused thousands of people to lose their jobs and lifetime savings as a result of corporate misbehavior; The stockholders lost vast amounts of money, creditors were cheated, and entire communities were so damaged they may never recover."
These people are not, however, high-profile celebrities and "they don't offer the same malicious glee people get from watching an icon crumble."
He also goes on to say that we all lie at one time or another. Perhaps he is right about that, but not too long ago we had a president who also chose to lie and we all know about his downfall and disgrace.
Working as an administrative assistant for a brokerage house for 26 years, I learned the cardinal rule of the market: Never lie or try to conceal an error. In my experience, I never saw anyone deviate from that rule.
Stewart must have forgotten her strict market training. (She was a stockbroker for six years early in her career). Perhaps this is a reality check for the rich and famous among us that no one is above the law as well as for the rest of us: Is there such a thing as a "little white lie?"
This week marked the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The politicians and pundits are still probing the wisdom of this war. A huge rotation of troops is occurring ---- not too soon for the servicemen and women who had been there since the beginning of the war. So far, 569 service people have been killed, and 3,200 have been wounded.
Still, we wait for a public, nationwide day of mourning for both those who have died and for the wounded, many of whom will never be the same, physically or mentally. We have had nationwide mourning of the victims of 9-11, so why are the victims of war not recognized or extended the same respect by our government?
I couldn't help comparing the recent reaction to the terrorist strike in Spain to our reaction to 9-11. The Spanish tragedy brought 1.5 million people into the streets of Spain to mourn the dead. Their outrage led to the subsequent fall of the Spanish government that supported the war by sending troops to join our soldiers.
Their reaction was so unlike our own to 9-11. We watched the carnage in shocked silence on television and then returned quietly to our jobs and homes. The only thing that was asked of us was not to cancel our vacations or to stop shopping.

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