I Blame Others

I Blame Others

As we come up to the one-year anniversary of the initial shut down here in Michigan, there have been plenty of stories around our education systems and the challenges the pandemic continues to bring. These three in particular served as food for thought: 

To summarize: Education has become even more complex and difficult this past year. And all of us standing on the sidelines offering nothing but our opinions? Yeah, that ain’t helping.

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Mike Shirkey Did It Again!

Mike Shirkey Did It Again!

The Michigan Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey, has been on quite a roll lately. And not in a good way. This week on a radio show he managed to confirm that he is a responsible adult…and then immediately confirm that he is not in fact a responsible adult.

In this instance, he acknowledged that President Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, but followed that up by saying the state didn’t do enough to ensure election integrity — specifically that too many dead people voted. (Please refer to the Free Press story if you don’t know why it is a baseless conspiracy theory.)

Just last week news broke of Shirkey’s disastrous meeting at a diner, where he shared his thoughts that the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax and that former President Donald Trump was not responsible for it. He also added some oddly sexualized smack talk about outmaneuvering Governor Whitmer. In the radio interview, he attempted to clarify (with mixed results and without apology).

Shirkey is making it very difficult for us to remember his proudest moment — going to the White House in November and managing not to sell us all out by throwing the Michigan electoral college votes to the loser. (Kind of a low bar there.)

So, either Shirkey knows what he’s saying and he’s doing it purposefully to string along Trump supporters in the GOP. Or he actually believes it. Either way, this is not the Senate Majority Leader that Michiganders want or deserve.

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Why Are We Screaming at Each Other?

Why Are We Screaming at Each Other?

Amid the backdrop of, well, everything up to and after the November election, there were some encouraging signs this week in Michigan. A pair of bills were introduced by Republican state lawmakers and supported by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to clear up confusion and build confidence in the voting system ahead of the next election.

To be clear, I don’t think this is big news. Nor do I think this is exciting news. But it is noteworthy — something doable is being done, something seemingly worthwhile and positive.

I also don’t think this should be called bipartisan. Bipartisan has come to imply that there was some sort of compromise worked out between two political parties. Say you have a line, and on one end is the truth and on the other are outrageous, easily disproven conspiracy theories. And the one party says to the other, “Hey, let’s meet in the middle.” That’s reasonable, right? Um, no.

There is no compromise with these bills — just agreement on some actions to help better maintain voter rolls. We… we can do that! It’s okay. No posturing or screaming or insurrecting required. Nice, huh?

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The Pandemic Glass

The Pandemic Glass

There is a classic skit from the 1960s by the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in which a reporter (Moore) interviews an eccentric gentleman (Cook) who owns a restaurant. I’m going to write out a bit of transcript here, but to truly understand the humor (and their impeccable timing), I encourage you to listen for yourself.

So after introductions and a bit of banter, the reporter asks the restaurant owner when he started his restaurant:

Restaurant Owner: I believe it was shortly after World War II. You remember that, World War II?

Reporter: Well, certainly, yes.

Restaurant Owner: Absolutely ghastly business.

Reporter: Oh, yes.

Restaurant Owner: Absolutely ghastly business.

Reporter: Yes, indeed.

Restaurant Owner: I was completely against it.

Reporter (slight pause as the audience catches on to the absurd obviousness of what was just said): Well, I think, I think we all were.

Restaurant Owner (indigently): Well I wrote a letter!

I share this with you for a couple of reasons. One, as we close in on a year of the pandemic and enter the depths of a Michigan February, my mind naturally turns to escapism, and this sketch always makes me laugh. By the way, the title is, “The Frog and Peach,” which is the name (and menu) of the restaurant. It’s rare these days to find anything that can top the ridiculousness of real life.

The second (and more the inspiration of the cartoon) is that our one very thin slice of common ground may be that we are all against the virus itself. Given the opportunity this time last year, we all would have said, “COVID-19 virus? No thank you. Let’s not do that.” Just as we would decline a world war. But for that commonality to be true, we need to believe others (even those we don’t like) would make the same choice. And that’s the hard part.

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Calm, Rational Adults

Calm, Rational Adults

For 27 years, you could reliably find me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00AM playing pickup basketball at my local middle school gym. In fact, for the past 15 I’ve been the one in charge. Well, “in charge” makes it sound more impressive than it really is. Mostly I just bring basketballs, open the doors, and have a general awareness of where the defibrillator is.

Of course there has been no morning basketball since March 11 of last year. And I’ve missed it. Really, really missed it. I love playing basketball. I’ve made a lot of friends, and it has always made me feel part of my community. I even miss the ritual of getting out of bed at o-dark-thirty and lacing up the smelly ankle braces.

It’s been physically tough on me not being able to play. (Just can’t burn the same amount of calories on a stationary bike.) And it has been tough mentally. I’m of a certain age where I wonder if I can (or even should) rev up the ol’ joints and hamstrings when we’re allowed to play again. Have I missed out on my last year of semi-competitive basketball?

So I don’t think I’m talking out of turn when I say that I can relate to those high school athletes, coaches, and parents who are upset about having to delay the start of their games and competitions again. I’ve read and heard many of their efforts to convince Governor Whitmer and health officials to change their minds. They make some great points. Some are slightly over the line of civil discourse, but I get it — this is having a huge impact on their lives.

But for the rest of us, I think the challenge is to avoid blowing right past that line and personalizing this. If you don’t like Governor Whitmer, then go ahead and don’t like her. But she isn’t singling you out in the hopes of ruining your life. She just isn’t. Don’t let yourself fall into that hate trap. Let’s see if we can learn at least one lesson from the debacle of January 6th.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go down in my basement and work off some of this angst on my boring stationary bike.

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Stellantis… Stellantis?

Stellantis... Stellantis?

I realize that a lot of readers may be confused and not recognize much about a cartoon about the merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the PSA Group that finalized this week. But that’s kinda the point. I just thought it was remarkable that such a big, big story in the automotive world would seem to have so little resonance with Michiganders. Certainly wasn’t the case when Chrysler acquired American Motors, or when Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler, or when they divorced later. Those were top headlines. Especially in Michigan.

Of course it’s understandable — turns out going from insurrection to impeachment to inauguration sucks all the oxygen out of the news cycles. Plus, it’s difficult to get your head around a French company merging with an Italian company dominated by American nameplates and becoming a Dutch company with a name (Stellantis) that sounds like a prescription drug for an obscure skin condition.

Still, I do think congratulations are in order. For decades, our leaders have decried our state’s dependencies on the automotive industry and the need to diversify. Is it not a sign of progress that one of the fabled Big Three experiences such a dramatic change, and we cannot be bothered because we have bigger fish to fry? We’ve grown! We’ll always miss all those stable, high-paying jobs, but we’ve grown.

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When to Forgive Sedition

When to Forgive Sedition

One of the great things about being Catholic is that you can do whatever you want to do, go to confession, say a few Our Fathers and Hail Marys, and all is forgiven — you are healed and free to start over! Except…that’s not really how it works. At least, not the way it’s supposed to work.

Despite the trope of confession being something of a “get out of hell free card,” it’s not really intended to be a transaction — it’s more about providing an opportunity to reflect and truly consider your actions and behaviors. It’s an act of contrition. To get to the point of forgiveness, you need to figure out what you did so you can reconcile with it and commit to being a better person.

I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that Donald Trump has never been contrite. And of all the issues I have with him (and there are plenty), this may be the most foundational. His complete unwillingness (perhaps inability) to apologize for anything precludes healing. Further, he actively salts the earth by doubling-down and selling that behavior as a virtue.

It is not possible to forgive, it is not possible to “get over it,” it is not possible “bring us all together” until Trump and his enablers come to terms with their sedition and reconcile with it. Obviously that won’t happen on its own. So that’s why we must follow the rules set in the constitution and prosecute.

Then the healing can begin.

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Thank God the GOP Had the Fortitude

Thank God the GOP Had the Fortitude

Wednesday morning I had sketched out kind of a light-hearted, “I know, right?” sort of cartoon to ease us all into the new year. Nothing too edgy. Of course that idea went out the window (along with a great deal of our nation’s pride and dignity) with the insurrection later that afternoon. My Thursday deadline loomed.

I knew by the time you would be reading this that much would already have been said about the attempted coup. So I needed to find a unique angle (preferably a Michigan one) if I had any hope of providing perspective.

For me, that angle is the obvious parallels between the mob that marched into the state capital in Lansing last year and the one that attacked our nation’s capital this week — both whipped to a frenzy by the callous lies and endless tantrums of the President of the United States. In April, it was ugly but also a warning: It could get worse. And yet Republicans who could have checked the President either stayed quiet or encouraged him all the more. They were the cowards, but we all now have suffered the consequences.

I apologize for not actually drawing anything, but so many of these images are now seared into our collective memory that I felt them best used directly. Plus, I couldn’t have made them any more gobsmackingly ridiculous than they already are.

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Socks and Underwear for Christmas

Socks and Underwear for Christmas

Best wishes to you, dear reader, in this holiday season. May you enjoy the gifts you give and the gifts you receive today and throughout the new year (even the socks & underwear). Have a Merry Christmas!

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Glad It’s Finally Over

Glad It's Finally Over

You know what I was talking about, right? Don’t make me say it. Please. I don’t want to have to say it!

Okay, fine. The Electoral College results are in. The presidential election is over. It’s final. It’s final, final.

Okay, fine. It’s not final, final, final. There could be a coup. There could be an alien invasion. There could be a majority of lawmakers breaking all norms and sworn promises to uphold the Constitution and hijacking the process before Biden and Harris are sworn in.

There. I acknowledged the rationally impossible. Happy? Can we please stop doing this now? Also, can we please stop paying attention to the deluded sycophants who insist on continuing to play this game? I mean, law enforcement should definitely keep their eyes on the ones threatening violence and insurrection. But everybody else? No more attention oxygen for you. Let’s move on.

Hey, how about them Lions, huh? Making another go at getting better! Rebuilding, as it were. This time by hiring some former players (Chris Spielman, Barry Sanders) from back when they were kinda good. Might work, who knows? If you’re hellbent on wishing for the highly improbable, consider giving this a try.

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