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Some Thoughts On, Well, Degenerates

By John Lindstrom
Posted: September 28, 2017 3:44 PM

For anyone who took a week-long nap and now wants to catch up on the world: President Donald Trump went on a tirade over professional football players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality, which has triggered a national debate, which led to Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue to post a meme on Facebook calling said protesters “degenerate,” which led to her eventually calling the post a mistake, and led to calls for her to either resign or be fired, which led to Governor Rick Snyder saying he wouldn’t fire her because she had apologized.

That summation is the only easy thing in this episode that has stunned, upset, enraged and baffled people.

Ms. Etue had enjoyed a relatively positive posture with the public and politicians. She was seen as hardworking, dedicated to the State Police and the state, and generally fair.

The department was not without issues, especially dealing with the numbers of minority troopers.

And the department had become the center of controversy following the death of Damon Grimes, who was pursued by a State Police trooper and then hit with a Taser. The State Police has changed its policies regarding pursuits in the city following the incident, though they said it was not necessarily due to the tragedy.

And Ms. Etue is not the only state official to opine about kneeling athletes. Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is also running for governor, earlier this week issued a statement essentially saying the protests are wrong. Yet he has not drawn fire as has Ms. Etue.

Then again, Mr. Schuette did not say that professional football players are “millionaire ingrates who hate American and disrespect our armed forces and veterans” as well as being “a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degenerates.”

The meme Ms. Etue posted, and then deleted and expressed regret over, did say that.

“Degenerates” is the billion-dollar word here. Had that not appeared, Ms. Etue still would have taken heat for the “entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American” comments. Degenerates, though, summons images of depravity and disgust that amp the uncomfortable squirm factor.

Had Ms. Etue written something on the line of believing it is everyone’s patriotic duty – Jehovah’s Witnesses perhaps excepted – to stand for the anthem, that probably would have gone unnoticed.

As it is, her comments raise a jumble of questions, arguments and counter-arguments. Does she not have the right to say what she did? Yes, but doesn’t what she said raise legitimate questions about whether she will ensure equitable treatment and service to all citizens? Is she a racist? Prior to Tuesday no one would have suggested so. In an interview years before this incident, Ms. Etue said she had prioritized outreach between the State Police and community leaders to mitigate the chance of a Ferguson, Missouri-type uprising happening here.

Should she resign? Well…um…that’s kinda up to her now. Should the governor fire her. Well…um…that’s kinda up to him now. Should she have made a stronger apology? Yes, that she should have. Should the governor have made a stronger statement criticizing her use of words? Certainly wouldn’t have hurt. Can she still be effective? Yes, but she made the job five times harder on herself.

In all the controversy, it is striking is how relatively tepid the little official reaction has been. And there has been little reaction to this point, which in a hyper-sensitive political age is surprising.

Typical of what official reaction there has been is a statement from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans which said the comments damaged the State Police’s credibility and called on Mr. Snyder to “treat this as the serious breach of trust that it is and take the steps necessary to make sure that this type of disrespect from our state’s law enforcement leadership will not be tolerated.” No call for her resignation or firing. If she were still a teenager, it almost sounds like a call that she be grounded for several weeks.

Which leaves us with the recognition, however, this will all be resolved, many will be unsatisfied.

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