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Why Do We Even Need Black History Month?

Why Do We Even Need Black History Month?

The genesis of this cartoon was actually a James Baldwin quote I had come across earlier this week:

“If any white man in the world says give me liberty or give me death, the entire white world applauds. When a black man says exactly the same thing — word for word — he is judged a criminal and treated like one.”

That’s just how brilliant Baldwin was: He was able to create a complete editorial cartoon without having to draw anything.

There was no improving on that, so instead I tried to frame an observation about race and race relations in America from my experience. It worries me when people put iconic civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Rosa Parks in the “safe” category.

The fact is, they were very smart, keenly observant human beings. And because of that, they were often quite bold and sometimes even angry. They were radicals. Not acknowledging that diminishes their full legacy.

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Best Representation of American Values Award

Best Representation of American Values Award

The guest on a recent Smartless podcast was Bono, activist, philanthropist, and singer-songwriter for the band U2. During the interview, he was asked for his take on the general state of affairs in America — particularly from his perspective as an Irishman who has worked in and written a lot about America.

Disclaimer: Bono is one of those overfed and overpaid rock stars. You can go ahead and dismiss him on those grounds, but he is also self-aware and self-effacing about it. It’s worth listening to the podcast.

Here’s what Bono said, “America is the greatest idea the world has ever had, but it doesn’t exist yet.”

He wasn’t talking specifically about gun violence, but I couldn’t help but to make the connection myself. Among the declared goals of these United States of America is famously to the inherent and inalienable right to “the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Too often gun violence limits (and with horrible frequency, extinguishes) all three of those rights.

For victims of gun violence, America is a great idea that is not being realized. This, of course, is nothing new. But that shouldn’t prevent us from working toward bringing the idea of America to life for everyone.

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Protecting Our Water Resources

Protecting Our Water Resources

Okay, I’ll admit it. Whenever I see a story about the southwestern United States and their crisis with insufficient water, I can feel smug, maybe even a bit superior. As I write this, a significant rain is lashing at my window in my Michigan home. (I mean, it’s January, and it should be snow, but that’s for another environmental topic.)

So not having enough water is not a concern. Our skies are typically filled with clouds laden with precipitation, our sump pumps often strain to keep rising water tables in check, our many lakes surround us creating pleasant peninsulas. But that doesn’t mean that we Michiganders don’t have water concerns.

For us, our primary challenge is not the lack of water but properly taking care of all that we have.

PFAS contamination, for example, is a vexing problem. Two stories this past week reminded us all of this: The delay in the cleanup of a former industrial site near Grand Rapids, and new warnings to limit consumption of certain fish from some of our larger lakes.

With so much water, water everywhere (and lots and lots to drink), it’s a little too easy to look down on the fools who insist on building new homes in deserts. Let us not be similar fools in how we manage and protect our water.

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Silence Peasant!

Silence Peasant!

We’re all human. And that’s the essential problem with democracy. It’d work a lot better if people weren’t involved. But you really can’t have a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” without, you know, people.

Our particular form of democracy, this constitutional republic, was designed to take into account the people problem by including separation of powers, checks and balances, and lots and lots of rules. It’s all designed as a safeguard against our worst impulses, which is to get into power and then do whatever we want.

Currently, the system is again being actively tested as newly elected officials begin their terms — from the U.S. Congress to county boards. Again, we’re all human, so it’s important to recognize that there will inevitably be overreach.

But then there are instances that go far beyond overreach and absolutely bury the needle on the ol’ hypocrisy meter. In Ottawa County, the newly elected majority to the board of commissioners started the year at a full ideological sprint. You can read the details here, but the takeaway for me was that a group of individuals who got themselves elected by professing their love for laws, transparency, and democracy, made an immediate mark by trampling over all three.

As the song goes, it seems everybody wants to rule the world:

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But How Was It Not a Targeting Penalty?

But How Was It Not a Targeting Penalty?

Usually my goal as an editorial cartoonist is to create work with broad audience appeal. But every once in a while, there is a compelling reason to go after a niche. In this case, Michigan sports fans. Or more specifically, University of Michigan football fans who watched the Fiesta Bowl last Saturday.

It was an absurdly entertaining game. So much effort! So many mistakes! Exasperating swings in momentum and emotions. Why, it’s almost as if it had been played by a bunch of 20-year-olds!

Adding to the absurdity was the, shall we say, unsatisfactory quality of the officiating. None more critical than the no-call near the end of the game on a targeting penalty, followed by an extended review of the very definition of a targeting penalty, followed by the baffling conclusion that there was no targeting penalty.

It was frustrating for Michigan fans, to be sure, because it would have given the Wolverines one last desperate chance to win. But I think, more importantly, it was frustrating to anybody who cares about the health and well-being of those playing the game. Targeting rules have been developed to limit head and spine injuries, both during games and in the long term. When one player lowers his helmet to attack the head and neck of another player, the penalty needs to be called. Always.

Football is a violent game. That has been more than made clear with the bigger football story this past week, the on-field cardiac arrest of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. Injuries will always be part of football. But they can be reduced by enforcing the rules.

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Minimal Grace Period for Michigan Democrats in 2023

Minimal Grace Period for Michigan Democrats in 2023

Hoping to share in a more transparent and ethical Michigan with you all in 2023!

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Graceful Acceptance 

Graceful Acceptance

I don’t like Led Zeppelin. Who knows exactly why? I mean, the first obvious reason would be the music — for whatever reason, their music simply does not fall into my “like” zone. This is hardly a defensible position. There is lots of music I do like that would, by all sorts of standards, not match up with Led Zeppelin’s music. But that’s just how arbitrary musical preferences can be. You might say I was born this way.

The more likely reason, however, is that I have been told repeatedly that I should like it. I went through my Beatles phase. I went next to discovering The Who, The Kinks, and other British bands. So a natural progression for a white, middle-class suburban boy 40 years ago was to like Led Zeppelin. In fact, it was aggressively encouraged by my peers. So I obstinately refused to do it.

All that to say, I have some appreciation for those who are inclined to resist when it feels like they’re being pushed into acceptance. And I’m sure President Biden recently signing into law the Respect for Marriage Act triggered some of those feelings. But my willingness to commiserate further depends on how somebody acts on those feelings.

For me, I’m perfectly capable and willing to live harmoniously in a world where other people like Led Zeppelin and I don’t.

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Supposed Protection in the Culture Wars

Supposed Protection in the Culture Wars

You kind of need to know who Lee Chatfield is to understand the cartoon, so I apologize if you don’t. And now, I will apologize in advance for telling you (because you were probably much happier not knowing).

Mr. Chatfield is a former member of the Michigan House of Representatives and the Speaker from 2019 to 2021. He was a stalwart Republican leader known for his strict Christian education and standards. However, since being term-limited out, Mr. Chatfield has come under scrutiny on multiple fronts. The latest, which was brought to light this week, centers on allegations that he provided favorable treatment to a prominent Lansing lobbying firm’s clients while Speaker.

That’s not good. But not nearly as icky as allegations that he sexually abused a girl for 12 years, beginning in 2009 when she was between 14 and 15 years old and continuing until 2021. When she was 18 she married Aaron Chatfield, Lee’s brother. Mr. Chatfield has admitted having an affair with his sister-in-law and with other women (Mr. Chatfield is married and has five children), but said that these affairs were between consenting adults.

I’ll pause here while you either roll, rub, or gouge out your eyes.

Is it any wonder that the superior morality of the Republican Party and the supposed protection they would provide us in the culture wars was such a tough sell to independents (especially women) in this past election?

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Not in My Backyard

Not in My Backyard

On the way to Thanksgiving festivities last week near Flushing, my wife and I drove past a series of solar farms on M-13 — big fields with rows and rows of solar panels that track the sun across the sky to convert light to power. They’re relatively new so they still catch my attention.

What also catches attention are the nearby houses with “No Solar Farms” signs planted in their front yards. I can’t quite tell if the intention is to get rid of the now existing solar farms or prevent more from coming. But there are less signs than there were this summer, so I don’t think they’re winning.

I don’t blame the folks who have the signs. If I lived across the street, especially if I had lived there a number of years, I might not be happy with the development, either. And yet, as far as energy production facilities go, it could be much worse — the filth and noise of an oil refinery, the potential disaster of a nuclear plant, even the sightline dominance of a modern windmill. Heck, not too long ago, nearly every town had local gasworks that converted coal to flammable gas for lights and heat, and I’m told you did not want to live next door to the smell of that.

But in the end, the energy has to come from some place. And solar and wind are at least equitable in that the energy is generated and consumed in the same basic area. Still, people naturally do not want to be on the frontline.

This of course isn’t just a Michigan problem — it’s a global problem. Especially as we try to transition away from fossil fuels and, you know, try to save the planet.

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What Do You Think Is the Core Problem?

What Do You Think Is the Core Problem?

The upcoming lame duck session of the Michigan legislature presents a rare opportunity for real bipartisanship. The re-elected Governor Whitmer and the outgoing Republican legislative leadership have hinted around at some possibilities. Two items of note — the desperate need to shore up Michigan’s mental health treatment capabilities and various tax cuts.

It is, of course, possible to move on both. Not probable, though. It is easy to blame those gal-durn politicians for this. But let’s face it, we, the citizens of Michigan, have to own it, too. Because there is only so much money. And when it gets down to likely having to choose, we will almost certainly opt for the one that is easier to understand.

Tax cuts mean money coming back to us. (This is not always true, but in concept that’s what happens.)

Reimagining and shoring up our mental health care system is much more abstract. What do you mean by mental health care? What does it look like? Who are the trained professionals? How can we ensure access? Do you have to be already sick to qualify? What if they don’t look sick to me? How much will it cost? And so on. Worse, this isn’t just a Michigan problem to solve — it’s a national one.

In any case, there does seem to be a consensus that mental illness is a core problem to our country’s ongoing epidemic of mass shootings. The easy accessibility of military murder machines certainly augments the danger, but it is obviously an unstable mind that commits such atrocities. The question is: What are we willing to do about it? So far, not nearly enough.

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