LeDuff: Can we agree to disagree? Not when we argue about Michigan's governor

June 25, 2020, 10:26 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

I met two white people this morning in a park north of Eight Mile Road. They were older and gray -- the type whose dogs get better health care than half the children in America.

They were nice dogs. Rescues. These people, it could quickly be surmised, were good liberals.

The guy and I absentmindedly shook hands. That's when the gal shambled over with a vial of disinfectant and dropped a dollop in his palm.

He apologized to her for taking my hand. “I haven't touched a stranger in months,” he said.

“And that's the way its going to stay,” she lectured.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

That's how the talk of Covid-19 was sparked underneath the canopy of a suburban walnut tree. 

Naturally, it ended in a scowl, because that's how it goes in America today. Nothing is worthy of consideration unless one agrees with the other's point of view. Apparently, there is no more middle ground. 

“I think the governor is doing a magnificent job,” she insisted. “Without the things she's doing, it would be much worse today.”

Like exclusive clubs and churches, America has become a place of two impenetrable towers where those within peer down, convinced of their moral and social authority.

When their assumptions are challenged with nonconforming facts, they refuse to consider them. Policy dogma is irrefutable and unassailable as holy scripture, no matter who gets hurt.

“If Whitmer hadn't done what she'd done, then the Covid outbreak would be much worse,” she said.

“That is probably true,” I said, and I believe it. “But some of the things she's done have probably made the death count much higher than it should be.”

They were scarcely aware of Whitmer's executive decision to commingle infected elderly people into nursing homes that also housed the uninfected elderly. As a probable consequence, Michigan has the highest death rate in America among those who contracted the lung virus – nearly 10 percent.

That practice continues today, and Whitmer stubbornly defends it, though most, if not all, other states have dropped it.

I called around to nurses, medical staff and inspectors of these places. In five Metro Detroit nursing homes alone, the self-reported death count may be short by at least 188 people. 

Making matters more murky, Michigan does not publish the death count in other elder care facilities, such as group homes, as other states do.

“Well, Michigan has more Black people,” the woman said with true conviction. “And we know this disproportionately attacks Black people.”

“Yes, but New York has more Black people,” I pointed out. “So does Florida, Texas, California and Georgia. We have a higher death count than four of them and a higher death rate than all of them. Why are we the only state that allows the nursing homes to stay open to Covid patients?”

It should be a fair question among reasonable adults. The answer could mean life or death for the most vulnerable among us, including her companion, who has lung problems and hasn't touched another human in months until he touched me.

“Well, I know doctors and I read data too,” she said with a face of sour milk. “And she's doing a fantastic job." 

You'd have thought I licked her hand.

Crime facts you deserve to know

The chief of Detroit Police convened a press conference this week to inform us that he expected a “spike” in violent crime last week because residents of Detroit were experiencing Covid cabin fever.

That's verbal peek-a-poo. The true picture of violence is alarming – and perhaps unsolvable considering the current climate of policing in America.

But solve it we must.

Murder and mayhem have spun out of control in Detroit throughout the entire year – half of which was spent in lockdown. 

Nonfatal shootings (444) are up a whopping 55 percent from last year. Homicides are up 33 percent. That didn't happen over a single weekend. And it was happening months before the murder of George Floyd and the onslaught of Covid-19.

There have been 19 shootings in the last 36 hours. There were five slayings and 31 shootings over the Father's Day weekend, including two children. (Twenty-two children have been shot since March 16).

Those numbers are not freely accessible to the public or members of the press.

Consider the a grisly triple homicide has been kept from the public's ear. Three men were bound and executed June 11. The abandoned east-side house where they were murdered was lit on fire in an attempt to destroy the evidence. 

Those murders have yet to be tabulated in the official count, tracking toward 400 for the year. (As a per-capita comparison, imagine Chicago logging 1,600 murders this year.)

Police brass offer this pearl: while “violent” crime is up in Detroit, “overall” crime is down.

That's something to hang your hat on, I suppose.

But come August, temperatures are expected to rise, and those unemployment checks are scheduled to end.

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