Surefire Way to Win Michigan Votes…

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Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 7, 2008

Whenever I play a pickup game like, say, football with my kids and their cousins, it’s pretty much inevitable that somebody is going to get hurt. Not seriously injured, just hurt — charley horse, scraped knee, fat lip, that sort of thing. And when this happens, as an adult, I think it’s important for me to stop and take control of the situation.

Here’s what I like to do. I’ll sooth the kid who got hurt, assure her that she’s going to be all right. Let everybody know that these things happen. And then when everything has calmed down, I use my best “this is a teaching moment” voice to remind the kids what is most important: That we should forgive and move on? No.┬áThat somebody needs to apologize first? Hardly. That we all need to get old mister frowny-frown off our faces? Not remotely. No, the most important thing in these sorts of situations is to find somebody to blame.

That’s right. There’s no point in moving on till you can find a scapegoat and agree as a mob that it’s all his fault. Not that it actually needs to be that person’s fault. Actual fault is beside the point. What I’m trying to do is fulfill the basic human need to find a focal point to cast derision. I like to suggest that the fault lies with an adult who isn’t even there — perhaps an unwitting uncle who we can all go punch later. Then, satisfied by either the blaming or the sarcasm (I’m never sure which), we can go back to the game.

In Michigan, Matt Millen, the general manager for the Detroit Lions has become something of our state’s scapegoat. And while he has certainly had a huge hand in the horrific, pathetic, abysmal state of the Lions, it’s also hugely popular to blame him for other troubles (and Michigan has plenty). None of the candidates in this week’s Michigan primary picked up on this. Maybe by the November election somebody will figure it out….

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