The Sunday Driver, S1, E7: Who’s Gonna Stop Me?

Good Saturday Evening all. I hope everything’s well and safe for everyone, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin or musical taste. I am either very tardy or a wee bit early so that we could enjoy all the beauty, horror and heartbreak of recent events from the safety of my Dad’s Bonneville. Settle in; it’s gonna be a long drive.

Before we gas up and go, taking a quick look at the gauges, the US currently boasts 6,091,838 cumulative Covid-19 cases, with 185,787 total deaths; today we can confirm 45,204 daily cases and 991 newly dead.

Here in the Mitten, we now have 100,699 cumulative cases, 6,446 total deaths, 741 newly confirmed daily cases and six dearly departed as of 3 PM Friday. The trend-line for new and active cases is not a good one, as our number of infected people is over 30,000, just like the high-water marks of last May. Which makes it all the more disappointing to see U of M students milling about outside a frat house in Ann Arbor, beneath a sign declaring “YOU CAN’T EAT ASS WITH A MASK ON.”

So much for the “Harvard of the Midwest” this Fall. These are your tuition and tax dollars at work, Mom & Dad.

1,000 Points of Light, Reflected

Motoring downriver from Detroit, this past Wednesday found me posted up in a pleasant district court as ordinance prosecutor for a community that shall remain nameless. This is a welcome duty my principal partner and I perform once each week; it is decent, honest and necessary work, our police department and court are first-rate, and there is a simple satisfaction to lending a hand in the care-taking of a community.

As has become our habit of late, my officer-in-charge and I adjourned to a regular spot on the Detroit River for baskets of fresh perch and some careful fellowship after court. Teresa and I still do our best to avoid too many “dirty ball-touches” in the Covid Times, but these lunches are a worthy team-building exercise for me and two or three of our detectives, hence the exception.

So after lunch, I elected to motor over to Grosse Ile, the oft-overlooked island township in the middle of the river (this is not the municipality we prosecute for). Part of this lark was recon; since us Yanks have been banned from Huron’s friendly Canadian shores, I have actually been considering lodging us at the Pilot House Hotel for a few days of R and R after our Summer household projects are mostly done.

For the Detroit-uninitiated, Grosse Ile is the largest land mass in the Detroit River, part of a grouping of 12 islands originally “discovered” by the French in 1679. Detroit’s “founder” Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his flotilla of 25 canoes put in and camped there in 1701, and claimed the islands for King Louis XIV. However, the main island wasn’t settled by white men until the Brits prevailed in the French and Indian War in 1763, and the Macomb brothers cheated Potawatomi natives out of their land a few years later.

Today Grosse Ile is home to over 10,000 year-round residents, boasting acres of nature crisscrossed with canals and inlets, the only international wildlife refuge in North America, boating, fishing, swimming, birding and island living just minutes from Detroit. So why are we driving around here making lazy circles?

In the center and south portion of the island, lies the municipal airport, which in its former life was the Grosse Ile Naval Air Station for 40 years. This was home field to navy airships, squadrons, and an Ajax-Nike missile base, it was a favorite stopover for aviator Amelia Earhart, and for a time in 1945, the posting of one Lt. (j.g.) George Herbert Walker Bush, USN.

You heard me right. So when I suggest my sweetie and I might spend a weekend in the same officers club and quarters where George and Barbara Bush once cavorted with other fly-boys and their dames, it sounds a lot sexier than just staying in a musty old place on a suburban island in the middle of the Detroit River, doesn’t it?

By now most of us know the story of the 41st POTUS; raised in patrician trappings, hardened by war, drawn and dedicated to both free enterprise and selfless service, Bush was known as “Mr. Resume’” and ranks 20th out of 45 in most historian’s eyes. He is not one of my most favorites, but my family has great respect and affection for him, and he bore a striking resemblance in face, voice and manner to my own Uncle Bob, also a navy combat vet of the Pacific.

In 1988, my band-mate and law school pal Pete and I watched Bush’s acceptance speech at the RNC from Pete’s flat in Pontiac. I remember Bush going after Texas Gov. Ann Richards, rather benignly calling her “that lady with the hair.” He talked about “campin’ out with Jimmy Baker,” through a forced folksiness, making it sound as if two of the most powerful men on earth were a couple of kids beside a crackling fire. But then Bush invoked the kindness and decency, the dignity and humanity that were and should be the hallmarks of service and citizenship in the American Experiment.

Speaking to inequity, the still-vital elder Bush stated “Things aren’t perfect in this country. There are people who haven’t tasted the fruits of the expansion . . . I’ve seen the urban children who play amidst (sic) the shattered glass and the shattered lives. And there are the homeless.” Speaking more broadly, Bush continued “For we’re a nation of community; of thousands and tens of thousands of ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional and other organizations . . . a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.”

Purposefully softening edges and signaling a return to his more moderate origins, the Vice-President drew his address toward its crescendo, intoning “I hope to stand for a new harmony, a greater tolerance. We’ve come far, but I think we need a new harmony among the races in our country . . . we’re on a journey into a new century, and we’ve got to leave that tired old baggage of bigotry behind . . . people who are enjoying our prosperity are forgetting, have forgotten what it’s for . . . they diminish our triumph when they act as if wealth is an end in itself. And there are those who have dropped their standards along the way, as if ethics were too heavy and slowed their rise to the top.”

Bush capped the finest address of his life, declaring “I say it without boast or bravado, I’ve fought for my country. I’ve served. I’ve built. And I’ll go from the hills to the hollows, from the cities to the suburbs to the loneliest town on the quietest street to take our message of hope and growth for every American to every American. I will keep America moving forward, always forward — for a better America, for an endless, enduring dream and a thousand points of light.”

So why the ode to a rather clumsy Dad-dude who, as Gov. Richards said, was born with a silver foot in his mouth? Continue the drive with me for a few more miles and see if you can spot the difference.

6,000 Words of Hate, Repeated

Back in ‘88, coverage of the RNC was “gavel-to-gavel.” This week coverage went grievance to grievance. On night-one, Looking like they had just finished doing bumps in the green room, Donald Trump, Jr. and his GOP-paid girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle strayed light years away from the night’s theme, “Land of Promise.”

“They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live,” a plainly hysterical Guilfoyle shrieked. “They want to enslave you to the weak dependent liberal victim (?). They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom.”

Guilfoyle closed by screaming “Don’t let them step on you. Don’t let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future. Don’t let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren’t good enough.” His eyes bleary and wet with wholesome patriotism, Junior continued the positive vibes, warning “Joe Biden and the radical left are also now coming for our freedom of speech and want to bully us into submission,” adding “If they get their way, it will no longer be the ‘silent majority,’ it will be the ‘silenced majority’. . . Now the left, they’re trying to cancel all of those founders.”

Speaking of things canceled, (how does one cancel a founder, anyway?), the speakers roster was as notable for last-minute cancellations as for the featured selections. “Angel Mom” and Trump adviser Mary Ann Mendoza was a scratch after she propagated an anti-Semitic QAnon conspiracy which claimed Jews in the banking industry are looking to enslave other non-Jews, or “goyim,” rob them of their “landed properties,” and incite world wars.

Another scratch was Rev. Jerry Falwell, Jr., who just got fired from his own university and is having the Worst Summer Ever; nothing says Christian purity like a running three-way with the pool-boy and your wife. Former NFL safety Jack Brewer was nearly cut from his slot as one of the Black Voices for Trump, but given the paucity of POC’s speaking last week, he got his mic-time, those fresh insider-trading charges be damned; what are pardons for? Due to Covid complications, Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Britney Spears were early scratches as well.

The star-studded list of talent was rounded out by the My Pillow guy, Duck Dynasty guy, “The Bold and the Beautiful” soap guy, child-actor-turned-zero Scott Baio, and the McCloskeys of St. Louis, who made themselves famous by committing multiple acts of felonious assault against peaceful protesters walking past their home. “Make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America,” said Mrs. McCloskey. Within 24 hours, two lay dead and one maimed in Kenosha, WI at the hands of 17-year-old vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, who appears to have heard every hateful word.

And speaking of hateful words, Trump’s main event featured oration like that of a punch-drunk Max Schmeling cursing Joe Louis under his breath. Droning on for over 70 painful minutes, Trump murmured “Your vote will decide whether we protect law abiding Americans, or whether we give free reign to violent anarchists, agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens.” Raising the stakes higher, Trump continued “Everything we’ve achieved is now in danger. This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life or allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.” Can you spot the difference?

Trump’s endless screed contained nearly two-dozen false or misleading statements, but perhaps more important than what Trump was saying was where he was saying it; in a brazen violation of law, norms and decorum, the President* was speaking to 1,500 mask-less folks in “his backyard,” behind a house built by slaves. So undaunted is he by impeachment, the scorn of most of the world and the worst approval rating of any modern POTUS, that having conned his way to the top, Trump has slashed and burned countless traditions, multiple statutes, whole sections of our Constitution and nearly 200,000 Americans. So who’s up for four, or “twelve” more years?

Jack Holmes of Esquire offered up his RNC impressions this way: “It was a kind of quantum vision of the country, where it is both teetering over the edge into the chaotic abyss and the greatest it’s ever been, and the guy in charge is only responsible for the good parts. His opponent, who currently exercises no actual power in any jurisdiction, is nonetheless responsible for the apocalyptic destruction . . . That’s how the incumbent is now running on a platform to restore ‘law and order’ to a country he’s already in charge of.”

Putting it more simply, I believe Trump’s reelection platform can be summed up in four words we could just as easily hear from Tony Soprano: who’s gonna stop me?

The Fun House Mirror of False Equivalence

Merriam Webster’s defines equivalence on its own as “the relation holding between two statements if they are either both true or both false so that to affirm one and to deny the other would result in a contradiction.” Or more simply, “a presentation of terms as equivalent . . . equality in metrical value . . . .”

False equivalence therefore is a type of cognitive bias or flawed reasoning style. In operation, it means that you believe or are convinced that two things should have equal weight in your decision-making, even if they are entirely unequal and a million miles out of proportion. Say for instance, I’m prosecuting a murderer, and directing eye-witness testimony from the victim’s mother. She’s sobbing, keening, yet managing to provide the clear elements of the crime. When it’s time for cross-exam, my opposing counsel rises, strides over to the witness, turns toward the jury and says to no one “why did you think that hideous dress was appropriate for this murder trial?”

False equivalence is the plague, krytonite, absolute deadly poison to logic, rhetoric and the good order of the universe. Together with espionage, cheating, hacking and gas-lighting, use of it helped vault the least-qualified candidate in US history up into the nuclear driver’s seat. As was said in Forbes (yes, I’ve cited a GOP-leaning business magazine twice on one drive), “people were told to ‘pick the lesser of the two evils,’ even though in regards to fitness for office Clinton’s history of being a senator and secretary of state made her much more qualified . . . using a private email server is small potatoes compared to someone who has never held a public office and has a lengthy history of legal issues.”

Well guess what, kids? They’re doing it again, they’re infusing it with racial animus, and it’s working. In May when George Floyd was killed by the actions of a now-charged officer, much wind was taken out of the sails of moral outrage when protesting morphed, as it nearly always does, to looting, property destruction and street violence. And most of the folks who poo-pooed Floyd’s apparent murder were the same WMA’s (white male Americans) who swung the election to Trump four years ago. It is as if, to them, the spilling of spray-paint is equal to or greater than spilling the blood of a people who were dragged to these shores starting in 1619, and continue to be dragged around by the neck today.

Nowhere could the stark operation of this insidiously repugnant practice be more clearly drawn than with the police shooting of Jacob Blake last Sunday and its aftermath in Kenosha. Abjuring a deep-dive on the tick-tock of that lovely vignette for the moment, standing alone, the shooting brought out the best in some WMA’s on my page who asserted “Blake got what he deserved.”

Just as suggested earlier in our road-trip, less than 24 hours after the McCloskey’s sounded their call-to-arms from the RNC pulpit, young Kyle Rittenhouse had answered the additional call of “Thin Blue Line” and “Kenosha Guard” vigilante units as well. Stalking the streets of a town far from his own home, a well-armed Rittenhouse scuffled with people near a car dealership and opened fire, appearing to kill two men and severely wounding a third. And video clearly shows young Kyle walking past a group of officers unmolested, but not before he phoned a friend to declare “I just killed somebody.”

Sunday, Blake is shot seven times in the back. Monday the McCloskey’s declare open season on the “radical Democrats.” And Tuesday, two men lay dead, and a third may lose limb function. Just like Blake himself. And what did another WMA on my page have to say regarding Rittenhouse? “Kyle should get an award.”

Let’s be clear. Brick and mortar are not the same as flesh and bone. Spontaneous protests are not the same as carefully planned vigilante actions. The white and black experiences in this country are worlds and centuries apart. And chicken-shit offenses are not the same as cold-blooded murder. Friday Jon Meacham said of the week’s events, “White expectations and white fears take up too much of the American mind-space.” Y’all get that? Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not coming for your guns, your children, your bibles, your suburbs or your stuff. In fact they are trying to save your ass, if you’d just open your eyes and ears long enough to get it.

Something else Meacham once said in The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, to wit “In our finest hours . . . the soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than to clench our fists; to look out rather than to turn inward; to accept rather than to reject. In so doing, America has grown ever stronger, confident that the choice of light over dark is the means by which we pursue progress.”

From his lips to God’s ears. And so ends our drive.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

What say you, the people?