Archive for February, 2006

The Coleman Young Warning

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 20, 2006

Any recent resident of Michigan knows Coleman Young. He was the perpetual mayor of Detroit in the ’70s and ’80s. And while initially he served an important role as a black person in a mostly black city, he eventually became something of a tyrant who did nothing but drive wedges between Detroit and the rest of Michigan. Now in the past few years, Michigan cities in general and Grand Rapids in particular have been getting boned by the state. This is understandably upsetting and a few have raised the possibility of fighting back with angry words and obstinate actions. Understandable, yes. Helpful (as Coleman Young has shown us), no.


Fanaticism: Popularity Enhancer

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 13, 2005

This week’s comic was pretty much my reaction to the Danish cartoons on Muhammad. Have you seen those cartoons? Not many people have. Very few American newspapers have reprinted them, which is disappointing and telling in and of itself: The newspapers are eager to report and pontificate on the events triggered by the cartoons and have gone to great lengths to describe the cartoons, but stop short of actually showing us. It’s, it’s as if editors and publishers would rather describe cartoons than print them…. Or they don’t really like cartoons…. Bingo.

Do some web searching and you’ll find them. Sorry I don’t have a handy link. (I don’t save links anymore because they just pile up.) Some of the cartoons were good; some were not. And it was easier to enjoy the good ones that were offensive. That’s generally how it goes. And that’s the difficult thing about supporting free speech. Drawing Muhammad with a turban made of bombs seems to me to be needlessly provocative. Drawing Muhammad frantically waving away a line of suicide bombers at the gates of heaven saying, “Go back! Go back! We’re out of virgins!” — now that’s worthwhile.

But the harmful thing about free speech is how people react to it. And in this week’s comic all I’m saying is that mixing fanaticism and religion is likely to produce a bad reaction. There were two additional thoughts:

The first aside has to do with drug advertisements, following up “genocide” with “mild cramping.” By law, drug companies have to list side effects. Thank goodness. But they don’t necessarily have to list them in order of severity. So you get things like, “side effects may include loss of appetite, projectile bleeding from the anus, blurred vision, —” Wait! What was that second one, again? They simply drop in these horrible, horrible things here and there as the voice-over matter-of-factly makes its way through the list. It’s like, you certainly aren’t going to sweat diminished hunger if your major organs just might turn to jelly and fly out the nearest orifice.

Second, for the “Keep out of reach” bit, I was going to follow up with “politicians” in general. But that seemed kind of weak. So I went with Tom Delay because he is the best, latest example of a politician who got in trouble by drinking too much of his own Kool-Aid. The dude would cut your money and not even talk to you if you didn’t do exactly what he told you to do. And that was to people in his own party. His friends. Delay was poppin’ Fanaticism like Rush on painkillers. (Or like Michael Moore on grilled cheese sandwiches, for those of you who demand “fair and balanced.”)


Not Returning Michigan’s Phone Calls

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 6, 2006


Salvation Army in East Grand Rapids

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 30, 2006


The Kitchen Counter Pile

Originally published in the Grand Rapids Family magazine, January 2006