Sour grapes and sick cardinals

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I am totally in favor of affirmative action, always have been, and I am a middle-aged, white, Anglo-Saxon male, of class origins lower than those of that intellectual pinup girl for today's trailer park, Jennifer "Adenoidal Whine' Gratz.

I fought against Proposal 2, knowing all along that it would pass, that every laid-off metal bender in Center Line was just itching to stick it to the blacks, who, some of them really do think, get an automatic free ride, full scholarship to the University of Michigan, just for being Negroes.

And indeed, the voters of this state overwhelmingly and disgracefully chose to outlaw affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring. Affirmative action lost by a landslide everywhere except in Detroit, and the two counties surrounding Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

But it isn't over till it's over, and, last week, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP filed suit in federal court asking, essentially, that the courts overturn the will of the voters. "We have come too far to allow the doors of opportunity to be shut in the face of the American promise of liberty and justice," intoned the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP.

He claimed that "affirmative action is still the law of the land." He was joined by Kary Moss, who is executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.

She referred in a press release to the twin U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the U-M cases. She said those 2003 rulings "made it clear that it is entirely within the law for universities to consider race and gender as one of many criteria in selecting their student body."

Now, full disclosure on my part. I firmly believe in the American Civil Liberties Union. I give them money. I am on Kary Moss' advisory board. I think she is one of the best things Michigan has going for it.

But on this, she is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Yes, I would like to see affirmative action.

But I want even more for the feds to throw this ridiculous lawsuit out of court. And I am mad at the ACLU for filing it. If the clear will of the voters means nothing, then our democracy is meaningless. True, dirty tricks were used in an attempt to get this on the ballot. People signing petitions were deceived.

However — once on the ballot, it was crystal clear. Nobody with the IQ of a golden hamster could mistake what it meant. And the people voted to outlaw it.

The Supreme Court decisions Kary Moss referred to did not say that universities had to use affirmative action — only that they could.

Nor did the high court say the people couldn't decide not to use it.

Now I am completely baffled as to why the ACLU and the NAACP think they are going to get this U.S. Supreme Court to rule in their favor. This court is about one appointment away from reinstating the Dred Scott decision.

Regardless — elections are elections, and sour grapes never became anyone. What we need to do is fight on other fronts. Here's an obvious one: Proposal 2 does not prohibit affirmative action based on family income level.

Nor does it outlaw weighing applications based on different quality of high schools. A little intelligent finessing of this would accomplish much the same thing as the old-style affirmative action. After all, Bill Cosby's kids don't need help.

Incidentally, Michigan State, which traditionally hasn't used affirmative action in admissions decisions, has virtually the same percentage of blacks in its student body as U-M. There are legal and creative ways to accomplish the goal. Trying to overturn the will of the voters isn't one of them. That happened not that long ago in a court, by the way. Does anyone except me remember Bush vs. Gore?


The real scandal in the Roman Catholic Church: Normally I would never dream of criticizing the church, any more than I would criticize devotees of the "cargo cults" in the South Sea islands (primitives who worship World War II airplanes, hoping they will return with K-rations and candy). I don't pick on either for the same reason: I don't share their superstitions.

However, injustice is injustice, and in one of the stupidest brutal moves I have seen in a long while, the morons who run the Catholic Church are expelling the best Christian I have ever met, Bishop Tom Gumbleton, from St. Leo's, the inner-city church he has lived in and looked after since 1983.

The Rev. Harry Cook, an Episcopal priest at St. Andrew's in Clawson, told me, "Tom Gumbleton is as much the Christ-figure as anyone I've ever known or met. That includes the late Mother Teresa." Cook is exactly right. I've interviewed the bishop in his drafty living quarters on a January day that was so cold I was shivering with my winter coat on. He was beaming, of course.

Thomas Gumbleton has never quarreled with church doctrine, and has helped raise consciences here about injustices all over the world, traveling to Haiti and Iraq and countless other places where starvation stalks souls.

And he has looked after his flock here. There is a vast shortage of priests, and, as the bishop told his parishioners in a recent letter, "The usual diocesan policy allows for a retired priest to continue his ministry on a year to year basis, if he is willing and health allows it."

If you know the bishop, you know he has more energy than the average 50-year-old. But his main crime seems to be that he persists in subtly reminding the church who Christ was and what the church is supposed to be. He once told me he thought his mission was to try to make this planet as much a model of Christ's kingdom on earth as possible. This means fighting for better lives for the oppressed, healing the sick and other things that won't get you a parish in Bloomfield Hills, a cushy job in the Vatican or a really ugly red hat.

Naturally, the good bishop doesn't want any fuss made, though he and his parishioners are heartbroken. Publicly, he is only asking people to pray for St. Leo's. Privately, Gumbleton has told friends he thinks this "vindictive" behavior is retaliation for a speech he made in Columbus last January, when he revealed that he, too, had been molested by a priest. He urged lawmakers to enact a one-year period in which the statute of limitations could be suspended.

"Some perpetrators have not yet been brought to account. I do believe that the abusers need to be exposed. I also believe that this can only be assured if the possibility exists to bring these matters into a civil court of law," he said.

He also argued that "by bringing these cases to full exposure and full accountability, we have a better possibility of restoring credibility in church leaders as moral teachers and guides." He quoted an old saying that "Anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes."

That evidently wasn't popular with the former Hitler Youth boy (ja, ja, of course Der Kleiner Joey really didn't want to join) now installed as pope.

The Roman Catholic Church may not care, but this would be a good time to let them know you do. No wonder the church was so anti-Kevorkian; they know more than he does about committing suicide.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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