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Controversy Sparked by L. Brooks Patterson

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"I made a prediction a long time ago, and it's come to pass. I said, "What we're going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn."

  • L. Brooks Patterson, executive of Oakland County, Michigan, in an article titled "Drop Dead Detroit" from a January 27 issue of The New Yorker

 

L. Brooks Patterson's statements of being "ambushed and betrayed" in a  January 27 article in The New Yorker titled "Drop Dead Detroit" clearly show a man who lives in an Alice in Wonderland world of political psycho-babble and hyper-charged rhetoric and delusion. Words can hurt, not only the people in which they attack and demean, but they often injure those who utter such hate-spawned diatribes.

It's been a pressure cooker, a Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum, of weirdos, misfits, and whackos since the days of the Pilgrims. During the times of the Puritans, there was Cotton Mather, who penned more than 450 books (but is best known for his active role in the Salem Witch Trials and his pamphlet The Wonders of the Invisible World, in October, 1692, in which he justified the executions of young girls who were accused of being witches). Today, we have the likes of L. Brooks Patterson, whose words -- if taken literally -- are just as dangerous and as potentially destructive as Mather's acid-bath of verbiage. And now he claims that he was set up and betrayed by Paige Williams, who spent some time with Patterson last fall for this story.

What Patterson said about turning Detroit into an Indian Reservation is so terrible that nobody with that kind of political mindset should be in charge of any political municipality in the USA, let alone a key position in an important county near a major American city like Detroit. Nobody with political common sense would ever utter such a horrid diatribe against a whole race. Social media like Facebook went wild. Not only Native Americans, but people of every race, creed, and color posted an array of articles about The New Yorker article -- with long rivers of comment threads flowing with livid condemnations.

"Any time I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. The truth hurts, you know?" was another quote. Patterson also advised against stopping at Detroit service stations for a fuel fill-up, since they're mere mirages for car jackings. "I used to say to my kids, 'First of all, there's no reason for you to go to Detroit. We've got restaurants out here.' They don't even have movie theatres in Detroit - not one."

The 75-year-old Patterson has been around Detroit politics forever. After being prosecutor of Oakland County for 16 years, he was elected in 1992 as Oakland County's executive (and was re-elected to his sixth term in 2012). A Detroiter from birth, Patterson graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in 1957, received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Detroit, and in 1967 he graduated U of D's law school.

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At the annual meeting of the United Tribes of Michigan, numerous leaders from the 12 tribes in Michigan listened to this prepared apology from Patterson: "I apologize for my ignorance of history, and I want you to know that it was never my intent to disrespect Native Americans. I hope that my record shows that I have been a longtime supporter of the Native American community and that I have nothing but the greatest respect for your culture and history," the letter said.

Although those at the conference felt this apology was well received among tribal leaders and members, Patterson's rant, which he claims he originally said decades ago, hasn't seen any lessening of barbed attacks against him on social-media venues, which by now have become hemispheric in scope - even Indians in Canada and South America are still posting comments and articles in cyberspace concerning Patterson's horrid words and what they represent - spreading smallpox, starving a race, and turning a major city into a concentration camp.   

The blankets Patterson squawked about were laced with the smallpox virus. And although Patterson claimed he was ignorant of this fact, it created pangs of pain among Indians. At the Siege of Fort Pitt in 1763, smallpox-infected blankets were given to Indians and a smallpox epidemic ensued, with estimates of the genocide of Indians numbering between 500,000 to 1.5 million. During the French and Indian War, Jeffrey Amherst, Britain's commander in chief of North America, suggested biological warfare, using smallpox to wipe out Indians. The writings of Colonel Henry Bouquet touted such a technique to kill Native Americans in western Pennsylvania, too.  

"I personally believe that (Patterson's) apology was genuine and it was received that way," said Matt Wesaw, tribal chair for the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians and the executive director of the Michigan Dept. of Civil Rights. The Pokagon band numbers about 5,000 members - mainly in four counties of southwest Michigan. 

Meantime, Patterson's critics complain he's always been a troublemaker, a partaker of partisan politics, and a leader who thrives on controversy. He's a showman. A charlatan. Even an incorrigible drunk with a vile personality that's led to him being thrown out of restaurants.

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According to a January 21 article in the Lansing State Journal, a leading Democrat in Oakland County's primarily Republican political structure, Jim Nash, said he was "disappointed" but "not surprised" by Patterson's statements in The New Yorker.

"That's not how I operate, but that's just what Brooks does," Nash, who is Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, said after reading The New Yorker profile online. Nash became the first Democrat elected to Oakland County's top water-management job in 2012. He said that "throwing around this kind of language doesn't do anybody any good -- there's no need for name-calling."

Bill Bellenger, a fellow Republican who served in the Michigan House and Senate, said Patterson is like an uncle who tells dirty jokes, but he "stops short of going over the edge, just short of going too far... He gets away with murder. Patterson has always been able to maintain this image of not being personally or viscerally hostile to either the African-American population or the city, but he tells it like he sees it with some hard-edged jokes."   

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Samuel Vargo worked as a full-time reporter and editor for more than 20 years at a number of daily newspapers and business journals. He was also an adjunct English professor at colleges and universities in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi and (more...)
 

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You can be scathing about the man, but do not blam... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014 at 9:55:04 PM