Don’t brush over L. Brooks Patterson’s bigoted past

Don’t brush over L. Brooks Patterson’s bigoted past | Opinion

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Carol Cain did us a backhanded favor with her column praising Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. She has opened a window into how white supremacy is normalized.

I am proud to be in the loathe-Patterson camp that Cain refers to. I joined back in the early 1970s. That’s when Patterson gained prominence supporting the bitter opposition to Judge Damon Keith’s federal court order to integrate the Pontiac Public Schools. (Notoriously, the KKK bombed 10 of Pontiac’s school buses the night before the integration was to start.)

Upholding the tradition of Albert Cobo, Orville Hubbard and others, Patterson has been playing to the fears and prejudices of white people ever since.

In 2014, Patterson referenced a “prediction” about Detroit, which Cain ignored in her column. Patterson said: “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.’ ”

Carol Cain: L. Brooks Patterson at 80 is likely to continue to set his own course

More: How Democrats could pick Brooks Patterson’s Oakland County successor

She also missed, or dismissed, his statement to the same New Yorker writer about the city: “Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher,” he said. “The truth hurts, you know? Tough s***.”

It seems that, in Cain’s world, such “foot-in-mouth” statements are fine because they prove what a charming “no filter” kind of guy Patterson is. She says he’s set in his ways, like others who are 80 years old. “They are who they are,” she writes.

How twisted is that? Doesn’t “no filter” mean that he is saying out loud the actual bigoted thing he believes?  And call me an optimist, but I refuse to accept the idea that the only future for young bigots is to become old bigots.

Should we give Patterson the benefit of the doubt because his actions are out of sync with his unfiltered words? No. In deeds, Patterson has also been consistently anti-Detroit. His long campaign to take away control of Detroit assets such as Cobo Hall and its water and sewage system are examples. So is his militant opposition to regional transit.

Throughout his career, L. Brooks Patterson has been empowered by the reverence, deference and selective amnesia of scores of journalists, editorial writers and politicians. Cain’s apologia that poor Brooks is misunderstood is just the latest instance.

That’s how systems work. People are complicit in different ways. Some Catholic priests are pedophiles. For decades, many non-pedophiles enabled them. In the Jim Crow system, some whites owned restaurants that wouldn’t serve blacks. Some just cheered them on.

So it is with Cain and Patterson. She says he’s not a bigot and that she wouldn’t have him on her public affairs show if he were — implying that she’s not a bigot. Has Carol Cain ever written a column in which she did label someone a bigot, especially someone in a position of power? Not to my knowledge and yes, I have looked.

And if she hasn’t demonstrated that she knows who is a bigot, how could she know who isn’t?  Or does she know but isn’t willing to say so in public, thus joining a conspiracy of silence and denial?

It took decades for an alliance of pedophile victims and courageous Catholics to begin successfully challenging that entrenched system. So it must be in confronting white supremacy. The perpetrators and their enablers compel us to decide what values we truly hold.

Frank Joyce is a longtime Detroit-based activist and writer. In 2018, he received the Bishop Coleman H. McGehee Jr. Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR). He is currently writing a book about how to end white supremacy. 

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – January 10th, 2018

January 10th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Weaponized Words
Shea Howell
As we begin a new year, crises are intensifying. At the same time, our capacity to think clearly, to act boldly, and to envision alternative paths toward a just future are under unprecedented assault.  Concepts and conventions of the past are worn out, no longer providing insight or inspiration.

In a recent interview, cultural critic and scholar Henry Giroux talks about the “Language of Neoliberal Education” and the crisis of ideas.

He observes: “Neoliberalism has upended how language is used in both education and the wider society. It works to appropriate discourses associated with liberal democracy that have become normalized in order to both limit their meanings and use them to mean the opposite of what they have meant traditionally, especially with respect to human rights, justice, informed judgment, critical agency, and democracy itself. It is waging a war over not just the relationship between economic structures but over memory, words, meaning, and politics.”

Giroux goes on to explain how concepts that once propelled and inspired generations to work toward more meaningful lives are distorted and stripped of meaning. He says: “Neoliberalism takes words like freedom and limits it to the freedom to consume, spew out hate, and celebrate notions of self-interest and a rabid individualism as the new common sense. Equality of opportunity means engaging in ruthless forms of competition, a war of all against all ethos, and a survival of the fittest mode of behavior. The vocabulary of neoliberalism operates in the service of violence in that it reduces the capacity for human fulfillment in the collective sense, diminishes a broad understanding of freedom as fundamental to expanding the capacity for human agency, and diminishes the ethical imagination by reducing it to the interest of the market and the accumulation of capital. Words, memory, language and meaning are weaponized under neoliberalism.”

As we approach this new year, a critical challenge for us is to create language and ideas that make reality clear, that project visions worthy of sacrifice, and that compel actions for justice.

Giroux helps us understand that the current crises of racialized capital are about more than economic gain and consolidation of power. These are crises created to gain control of thinking and culture. He explains this “crisis of ideas” saying:

“At a time when civic culture is being eradicated, public spheres are vanishing, and notions of shared citizenship appear obsolete, words that speak to the truth, reveal injustices and provide informed critical analysis also begin to disappear. This makes it all the more difficult to engage critically the use of neoliberalism’s colonization of language. In the United States, Trump prodigious tweets signify not only a time in which governments engage in the pathology of endless fabrications, but also how they function to reinforce a pedagogy of infantilism designed to animate his base in a glut of shock while reinforcing a culture of war, fear, divisiveness, and greed in ways that disempower his critics.”

As the touchstones of the past erode, we are faced with the challenge of finding new ways to make collective judgments that move us toward a more human, responsible, and sustainable future. To begin reimaging how to think and act more clearly, we would do well to take seriously the Masai greeting, “How are all the children?” We are a long way from being able to offer the expected response, “All the children are well.” But this is a place to begin. Protecting and enriching the lives of our children can guide our understanding of “what needs to be done” by each one of us.
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The Drag Queen Story Hour
Rich Feldman

In 1990, Janice and I moved from Detroit to Huntington Woods because we needed to find and actually create a space for our son, Micah, who had many labels (fine and gross motor delays, severe visual motor delay, primary speech and motor delay, developmental dyspraxia, and was eventually diagnosed with the words: mental retardation (now labeled as an intellectual disability).

When we moved to Huntington Woods, which is 3 miles north of Detroit’s 8 mile, it was a choice that was determined by the needs of our child.  Prior to that, I had lived in Detroit for two decades after moving from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I was active with SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) as a student.

When we moved to Huntington Woods, we were told it was integrated. To the folks telling us about our new neighborhood, they meant Jewish and Non-Jewish, not recognizing the racial and economic homogeneity of the area. I bit my tongue but it worked out for our family.

I continued to work on the line at the Ford Truck Plant and eventually as an elected UAW representative and for the international Staff. Most importantly, I maintained and built strong relationships with Detroit and continued working with James and Grace Boggs.  Over time it became clear to me that Huntington Woods is a progressive community and strongly committed to human rights of all people.

I share all this because recently, I had the privilege to attend a community meeting with more than 150 people who clearly, passionately and with a soulful love of all humanity embraced and defended the continuation of the “Drag Queen Story Hour at our Library.”  The community support came in the wake of oppotion to the story hour by a Huntington Woods city commissioner. Matthew Dolan from The Detroit Free Press wrote “…in recent months, some local residents and national anti-gay groups have voiced opposition to the Huntington Woods Library’s Drag Queen Story Time event, as well as similar efforts around the country, calling them a threat to small, impressionable children.”

In the most moving moment of my life in this bedroom suburban community, I saw and listened to more than 30-40 people share personal stories of their depth of love and respect for Raven Divine Cassadine, a Huntington Woods native who is featured at DQSH. The voice of a young person transitioning captured the hearts and minds of all present. There were many folks from across the county and Detroit representing the LGBTQ communities. On this evening it was more than Jewish and non-Jewish.

As I sat in the audience with other neighbors, I was honored to live in a community where the hunger to be part of a journey to become more human was dominating the voice of “othering.”

For the past two years, I have been working with folks in liberal, suburban communities and conservative counties to find ways to break our silence as it relates to racism, sexism, ableism, materialism and militarism because we need a radical revolution in values.

The voices of humanity spoke clearly and loudly in Huntington Woods on this night because folks are asking and answering the call to respond to “bring out the best in ourselves.” This was a public outcry in response to the challenge and viciousness of the counter-revolution. The road that evening was a road toward the beloved community.  Thank you residents of HW. Thank you librarians of the world.

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Boggs Center Living For Change News – December 18th, 2018

December 18th, 2018

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In the Face of Fear
A Call from James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


We have seen the face of fear and fascism. It is tear gas shot at barefoot children in diapers. We cannot look away.  We cannot be distracted by the din of disinformation and denial.

Before this moment we knew this president was capable of putting children in cages. We knew he would call people names and whip up nationalistic hatreds. We knew he would endorse white supremacists as good people, condone the murder and dismemberment of a journalists, refuse to limit right wing violence, withdraw protections for people who are transgender, use language to foster hatred, ridicule people with disabilities, embrace torture and the use of force, attack women, people of color, and anyone who was critical of his policies, deny science, violate basic standards of decency, and demonstrate a complete disregard for truth.  Now we know he will tear gas barefoot children.

We know all of this about Donald Trump. We know this is the kind of person he is. This is the kind of country he is creating.  We also know that some of us embrace him. We see the depth of their fear. Most of those who support him are white. Most of them are men. All of them are disconnected from any moral center.

Now, the only question is where do the rest of us stand? What kind of country do we want? What kind of people are we?

The violence on the Southern border of the U.S. presents a moment of decision for all of us. Just as the unleashing of sticks and dogs on peaceful demonstrators challenged the conscious of America a half century ago, we are again called to respond.

Some of us will stand with Trump. But the rest of us cannot condone him with silence. Many of us know that people are fleeing conditions in their homelands created by U.S. policies that have disrupted generations. The U.S.  have intervened to destroy democratic impulses, distorted economic development for our own interests, and pursued deportation polices that have eroded the social bonds of communities, contributing to corruption and violent drug cultures. In U.S. efforts to guarantee access to the resources and wealth of people around the globe, we are destroying the homes and cultures of people everywhere. The people coming to the borders of the US are fleeing conditions we created to feed our own greed.

It is not enough to open our borders or change our immigration policies. We need to open our hearts and minds to change the reality that our willingness to take the wealth of the world is destroying us and risking the future of our planet.  We need to support one another to not only sustain our outrage at the terror our government is wielding on a daily basis, but in finding new ways to live together that are sustainable and just. As we work to transform ourselves and our culture, we must begin by renouncing the violence being done in our name.

We at the Boggs Center denounce this president and his actions. We open our hearts to those who seek refuge and peace, knowing that much of their pain is caused by the actions of our nation.

  • We call upon all people of good will to publicly and forcefully object to the inhuman immigration policies of our government.
  • We call upon all faith-based organizations to declare Sanctuary for all immigrants.
  • We call upon all organizations to issue public statements welcoming immigrants and denouncing the use of force to prevent their safe passage to this land.
  • We call upon all labor unions to offer support and welcoming assistance to immigrants.
  • We call upon all police, border patrol agents, and military personnel to refuse to comply with orders that harm those who seek nothing but peace and safe harbor.
  • We call upon members of the media to portray accurately and fully the violence being committed in our name.
  • We call upon all teachers, parents and community leaders to hold conversations about immigration, the US role in global violence, and the kind of country we wish to become.
  • We call upon individuals to face this brutality and find ways to extend love, compassion and care in our everyday lives.

At every moment in our often bloody, shameful history there have been people who resisted. People resisted the taking of indigenous lands, the enslavement of people from Africa, the use of laws to turn people into property, and the limitations of full citizenship for women, people of color, workers, immigrants and youth. People are resisting today.


We call upon people to reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King more than 50 years ago when he said, “Now we must resist this barbarism.” America, he said, “Can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So, it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.”

He said that “Somehow this madness must cease” for it “is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.
In his speech calling for the end of the Vietnam war King offered a new way of thinking about who we could become as a people.  We encourage people to consider the wisdom he offers for us as we face a time of choice.

Share his wisdom with family and friends. Dr. King says to us:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

He called on us to look beyond our narrow self -interest and consider “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.”

“America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

King understood that “These are revolutionary times…all over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.”

Dr. King called for “A genuine revolution of values “that begins with the understanding that “our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

If we cannot find new ways to act in Love, King warned, “We shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.


Dr. King concluded his speech on breaking his own silence on the war in Vietnam on that long-ago April night:
“Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history….”

If Trump and his supporters fear barefoot children, how much more must they fear the sounds of our united voices, calling forth a compassionate, just and joy filled future? The choice is ours.

For more information – www.boggscenter.org

 

This is from one of our readers in Ohio, written in response to last week’s, Thinking for Ourselves column.

Shea,

I just read your most recent blog, “Beyond Lame Ducks” and while I agree that placing calls to the very electeds who put forth the bills that strip people of direct democracy is not going to stop it – it is comparable to slaves asking the plantation owners to free them – I have to disagree with your implication that this is somehow all because of Republicans.

We are fighting a war in Ohio for Community Rights and Rights of Nature and I can tell you that the Democrats (as in the Democratic party, so maybe not every individual democratic elected) are just as opposed to direct democracy by the people as most Republicans are. It is a false assumption to think that we have 2 distinct political parties in this country. They are really one elite party representing the best interests of the elite 1% minority.

In Ohio as more communities bring forth laws by initiative – direct democracy, we have seen the D’s vote against us right along with the R’s. We have also witnessed a few R judges actually write dissenting opinions in our favor. So, to keep people believing that if we could only somehow get more D’s in office, all will be better is false. All it does is keep us spinning in the two party hamster wheel and keeps people fragmented, which is what they want.

I  wanted to share this with you as I see it over and over again as I talk to people across Ohio….Trump is the problem and Obama was wonderful. That is very far from the truth. They both work(ed) to promote the best interests of the corporate state (1% elite minority) above the people’s and nature’s. It is what that money to get them in office requires of them. We need to realize that change comes from the grassroots and that our guiding documents state “all power is inherent in the people”, NOT “all power is inherent in the electeds”. We need to start asserting that power to propose and pass laws directly that benefit the best interests of the people and nature and eventually the electeds will be forced to follow our lead. – Tish O’Dell – Ohio Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

 

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Represent your love for the Motor City wherever you go by rocking the new “Detroit Diplomat” t-shirts. “Detroit Diplomat” is a call for community self-determination and a responsibility to represent our interdependence and collective autonomy wherever we go.

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Boggs Center – Living For Change Newsletter December 11th, 2018

December 11th, 2018


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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Beyond Lame Ducks

 

Throughout Michigan people are rallying to challenge the Lame Duck actions of the state legislature. Protest, public demonstrations and outright mockery are tactics being deployed against a secure, smug legislative body. Many groups are placing their hopes in the Governor. They are urging us to call Gov. Snyder’s office and ask him to veto these lame-duck bills. I will join this effort, but I hold out little hope that this governor will be moved to reject the full array of bills being jammed through this legislature.  

What is happening in Michigan, and in a host of other places around the country, is the result of a concerted effort by right wing republicans to develop effective practices to undermine democracy. They are finding ways to curtail people center policies that challenge corporate interests. The actions by the republican dominated legislature are not the result of panic at having lost the three major elected offices of the state to Democrats. Rather, these are actions that have been evolving over the years to blunt the will of people to curtail the power of money and corporate interests.

Republican ideologues and the corporate interests that back them have long understood that democracy is not their friend. The passage of the Voting Rights act in 1965 aimed to eliminate legal barriers such as literacy tests and poll taxes at the state and local levels. These practices were aimed specifically at preventing African Americans from voting. The new Voting Rights Act ensured federal oversight in places where less than 50% of the non-white population were registered.  Since the passage of this Act, right wing interests and white supremacists have been seeking other means to exert their control. They have consistently undermined the Act itself, resisted its reauthorization, and under Trump, are actively moving away from any federal challenges to state voting practices.

Meanwhile, State governments, like Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, have been pushing to find new ways to undermine democracy. These efforts have been developed and refined by right wing think tanks and politicians for decades. Tactics such as moving polling places, gerrymandering districts, restricting numbers of polling stations in urban areas, denying student voting, demanding picture IDs, and steamrolling legislation to undermine citizen initiatives are all thriving, often literally under the cover of night. Certainly, without much public notice or oversight.

At the center of the lame duck efforts in Michigan, there are two consistent strategies emerging. First there is the effort to limit the power of public referenda, either by first passing and then gutting popular initiative such as raising the minimum wage and providing sick leave for people.  This tactic is combined with efforts to eliminate the capacity of local governments to pass legislation. 

The Michigan legislature is after every local expression of protection of the environment from stripping local officials to overseeing tree planting to monitoring septic tanks. The legislature fears the changes that people are willing to make when they directly meet together in face to face, person to person, efforts to create new ways of living.

As we resist these right wing moves by the lame ducks, we need to think about the larger implications for public decision making. Representative democracy is now more than 200 years old. In these last 40 years, we have seen a persistent erosion of the centuries long effort to expand the notion of who is a citizen, how they are represented, and how such representatives are held accountable. From the Supreme court deciding elections against the popular vote to the decision eight years in, Citizens United the country is experiencing “a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt.”

Direct democracy, where people engage with each other to determine what matters, needs to be fostered at every level. By strengthening our most immediate and direct relationships we can begin to create new political practices that will point us toward a new democratic future.


The list of bad bills in Michigan’s ongoing lame-duck legislative session


Rich Feldman
Hurt People, Hurt People

As a citizen of Oakland County, as a Jewish American and as I retired UAW union member and elected official, I believe we are at critical times that we break our individual and collective silence.  

During the past year, I have been challenged to think about my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, as a young kid in Brooklyn, NY.  I vividly remember the pictures and stories from the Holocaust and also watching on television the pictures of angry, viscous white people and police hosing, screaming, yelling, encouraging dogs to bite, beating and arresting the children and citizens of Birmingham Alabama.  It was the television coverage of the Birmingham Children’s March of 1963 which lead to MLK’s “I Have a Dream speech first given in Detroit and then Washington DC.    Just as vivid in my mind are the pictures of the murder and bludgeoning of Emmitt Till and the courageous act of Emmett Till’s mother to have an open casket. I remember clearly how this led to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

I was fortunate to be raised in a family that was clear about good & evil and the fact that the barbaric white rage we were witnessing were on the wrong side of that (White Supremist Rage or Nazi Violence).  

These past few months, I was in Pittsburgh and visited memorials of the 11 Jewish Americans killed as they attended the Tree of Life Synagogue.  I have also watched immigrant children placed in cages and now I watch families and children being tear gassed at our borders.    
As I grew up and learned more about “Good Germans” and more about children, immigrants and refugees who were denied entry into the US during the 1930s and 1940s, this silence has become more significant.   Many of you know this story and tell your children and grandchildren about the: 

 “In May 1939, the German liner St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba, carrying 937 passengers, almost all Jewish refugees. The Cuban government refused to allow the ship to land, and the United States and Canada were unwilling to admit the passengers. The St. Louis passengers were finally permitted to land in western European countries rather than return to Nazi Germany. 254 St. Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.”

What has changed?  

We continue to go along and be more concerned with our comforts and our “own.”  Even when the tragedy in Pittsburgh makes it clear that we live in dangerous times, we remain silent to the other. Thus we are silent.   While a small number of religious activists and community social justice organizers have organized caravans to the border and there have been some conversations about racism, immigration, most of us go back to business as usual.  Do we go back to business as usual because we are hopeless or because we have no moral compass or vision of a more human human way to live and relate?  

We have a special responsibility to break our silence NOW:

Thus I call upon synagogues to declare themselves Sanctuary Synagogues.

I call upon the social justice committees to commemorate MLK’s 2019 birthday with listening to, reading and creating sermons in January based upon the words of Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech:  Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. 

In this speech he challenged us to overcome the evil triplets of racism, materialism and militarism and create a life based upon a radical revolution in values.

Lastly, I share this tool that we look forward as we speak out against injustice”  I call upon every synagogue to place on their websites and share on facebook the 3 minute video by Vincent Harding:   I am a citizen of a Country that does not yet exist :

As a Citizen of Oakland County, I think it is time to speak out loudly and clearly that Brooks Patterson is an obstacle to creating a new unity in our region.   Brooks Patterson once supported the KKK and defended their burning of buses in the 1970s. He has done everything he could to ridicule, belittle and disrespect people in Detroit and uphold the materialist values of Oakland County.  We need to break our silence and the Jewish Community can lead the way in demanding that Oakland County become a Sanctuary City based upon values of compassion, empathy, caring and human dignity for all.  Contact me if you want to join with others to create a Democracy Circle to Break our Silence in your synagogue, community or city.

As a retired UAW international staff person, I pledge to continue to create conversations with workers who find it easier to blame and condemn than engage and create a future that is based upon the principles of love and solidarity.   

Hurt people, hurt people.  If we remember our own histories, maybe we can create a county, a community and workplaces that are an alternative to the current narrative driven by hate and violence which are dominating our area and our country.


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GM Plant Closing: Poletown Lives! + Community Conversation
12/18 
6:30 – 8:30 PM
WSU Law School
471 W. Palmer St.
Detroit, MI
48202
info

(See last night’s Poletown coverage on PBS, here)


What We’re Watching and Reading

Community tells Wright Museum Board “We are tired of the slave narrative”

– Facing Race: Racial Justice Now and Forever!


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – November 27th, 2018

November 27th, 2018

grace and jimmy
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the problem with wokeness

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Pipeline Perils

The poisoning of the water in Flint Michigan was the direct result of a republican dominated lame duck legislature acting to benefit corporations and abuse democracy. Now the republican dominated lame duck legislature is threatening the waters of the Great Lakes.

In 2012 Rick Snyder began his career as Governor opposing the will of the people. After a state-wide initiative soundly defeated emergency manangement powers in the state, Governor Snyder pushed through lame duck legislation that strengthened emergency management and made it referendum proof.

In a statement defending the action, Snyder declared the new law would “respect the needs of citizens and taxpayers by delivering greater oversight and efficiency. Our reinvention of government is delivering meaningful reforms that will keep Michigan on the path to prosperity,” he said. None of these benefits materialized. This assault on democracy resulted in disasters.

Instead of a “path to prosperity” that “respected citizens” we saw a path to poison, that disregarded the voices of citizens who tried desperately to get government officials to acknowledge what was plain for all to see. Flint water was contaminated.

This same legal framework became the excuse for massively transferring public goods into private hands in Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, and Detroit. It restricted governmental capabilities and established disastrous educational policies.

Now, Governor Snyder is ending his term by pushing another lame duck effort. This time he is risking the Great Lakes to benefit a major oil producing corporation, Enbridge. Snyder is working furiously to establish a 99-year deal that includes the construction of an underground tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to replace the controversial Line 5.  Snyder assures us that this “historic agreement” would “eliminate nearly every risk” and be a way of “better connecting our peninsulas, improving energy security and supporting economic development.”

In reality, this deal ensures continued operations of the aging pipeline for a decade. It puts the Great Lakes at further risk, committing us to an energy future based on fossil fuels, and threatens much of the world’s surface fresh water.

This lame duck deal is in direct defiance of the will of the people. A poll conducted by EPIC-MRA last April found that about 87 percent of the people in Michigan are concerned about the safety of Line 5.  More than half of those polled said it should be shut down. The incoming governor and attorney general both oppose the pipeline and tunnel.

Additionally, the whole project would be shifted out of public oversight by establishing new parameters for the Mackinac Bridge Authority, an organization ill equipped for such responsibility.

Line 5, build in 1953, currently carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas every day through one of the most vulnerable spots in the Great Lakes. Enbridge has a history of environmental degradation and danger. A quick read of the actions it pledges to take to protect the pipeline during construction shows how foolish a company it is. Enbridge would provide teams capable of shutting down the line quickly, underwater inspection, cameras, and increased monitoring of anchors.  The obvious question is, “Why are earth is Enbridge not taking these steps now, especially after the fiasco in April that threatened to dump millions of gallons of oil into the upper Great Lakes?”

Democracy is no guarantee of good decisions. But we have painful experiences here in Michigan to demonstrate that circumventing democracy, defying the will of the people, and using lame duck sessions to promote profits lead to disaster. We cannot allow legalistic tricks to risk our future.

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Two weeks ago, we had an amazing community conversation about the issues affecting Oakland County.

On December 1st at 1 pm, join us at Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Clemens for a community conversation about the issues facing Macomb County, and how to address systemic issues such as racial injustice with creative new solutions that center our values.