A man who earlier this month called for GOP lawmakers to be sewn into bags with rabid animals and thrown into a river to die wrote a column expressing concern about the “insulting language” being used in the debate over Detroit’s failed government schools.
Stephen Henderson, the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, repeatedly called for the violent deaths of Republican lawmakers after they voted to give $617 million in aid to academically and financially failing Detroit Public Schools. That wasn’t the problem so much as the portion of the legislation removing some constraints on charter schools in the city.
“It is every bit deserving of an old-school retributive response. A sack. An animal. A lake,” he wrote. He also said the lawmakers “deserve worse than hanging” for their legislative attempts to reform the failing system. He also said, “We really ought to round up the lawmakers who took money to protect and perpetuate the failing charter-school experiment in Detroit, sew them into burlap sacks with rabid animals, and toss them into the Straits of Mackinac.”
When the targets of his violent rhetoric complained, he was defiant that he would not apologize, for which other liberal journalists cheered. He said his repeated calls for his opponents to face a violent death were mere “historical hyperbole.”
So it’s odd, or funny, that someone with such a permissive view of violent rhetoric would write a column despairing over Republicans’ use of the term “bailout” to describe a massive $617 million, er, bailout of Detroit public schools.
But what I can’t figure out, for the life of me, is why Republicans in the Michigan Legislature and the highly financed charter school lobby feel compelled to use the most insulting language to describe the recasting of public education here in Detroit. It has become so common that even press reports now refer to the legislation as a bailout.
Henderson, who keeps his own children out of the failing public schools, chalks up the use of this term to “privilege and manipulation.”
His case, such as it is, is that it’s unfair to suggest money is being “given” by state taxpayers to keep Detroit public schools from collapsing because the state had some oversight and control in the last 17 years of this decades-long morality tale of how adults betray children.
Fine, but bailout is a word meaning “the act of giving financial assistance to a failing business or economy to save it from collapse.” Obviously taxpayers are giving to the public schools to keep them from collapse. It they weren’t giving the money, or if it were a foregone conclusion that they would, it wouldn’t have been the subject of a fierce legislative battle.
That Henderson puts some greater suggestive meaning to the regularly used term is his business, but it is in no way comparable to calling repeatedly for the violent deaths of people with differing ideas about how to reform a failing institution.
Henderson’s attempt to deflect blame from Detroit for its own mismanagement is noted, but it’s a hard sell for a city whose last Republican mayor was born in 1897 and left office in 1962. Detroit has been run by Democrats for decades and has struggled with a corrupt government engaged in profligate spending, union control in public and private sectors, and an inability to tackle crime.
It would be nice if Henderson and other liberal opinion makers had been remotely as mad at the city’s governance over the past several decades (when it became a war zone) as they are at Republicans who have taken a stronger hand in attempting to save the city in recent years. Where was the outrage, faux or otherwise, as Detroit politicians dug this hole and betrayed generations of children?
In no case should members of the media who have called for the murder of those with whom they disagree cry about the use of the term “bailout” to describe $617 million in taxpayer funds from Michiganders.