TL;DR: sometimes the best and easiest thing to do is ignore the bullsh*t that comes from the permanently disaffected. I’m done with the Sterling Heights City Politics Facebook group.
There are two political discussion groups in town of any note: Sterling Heights Local Politics (SHLP), and the knock-off group, Sterling Heights City Politics (SHCP).
SHLP, as most of you know, was founded by my friend and occasional co-conspirator Malcolm McEasy years ago now. He and I swapped ownership of the group back and forth a couple of times when real life precluded spending the time it takes to moderate a discussion of suburban politics. At the moment he owns it, but I’m sort of his informal co-captain. It is without question the best group to subscribe to if you want to know what’s going on in town.
Under somewhat mysterious circumstances, someone anonymously started an imitator called Sterling Heights City Politics a couple of years back. The owner finally revealed herself a lengthy period of time after the last election. Unsurprisingly, the group was formed as a sort of counterpoint to SHLP; it doesn’t compare well in my admittedly biased opinion. Yet, I joined along with a lot of other people interested in politics here in town. I didn’t want to miss anything.
SHCP & The Politically Disaffected Cabal
SHCP‘s membership is roughly a third the size of SHLP, and many of the frequent posters there represent a bitter opposition to the current city council members. Some of them are failed candidates for office or former office holders. Some of them appear to hail originally from Neptune. Overall, the group is a who’s-who list of the politically disaffected in town. None of them are particularly fond of me, as I’ve been a pretty tough critic of their politics for years now. They are collectively the Politically Disaffected Cabal (PDC), some of them extreme right wingers, some of them, well, it’s really hard to say; I’m not sure there’s a political point on the spectrum for cranks and those of dubious sanity.
Geoff Gariepy the Racist
Lately, the PDC have taken to a new meme: “Geoff Gariepy the Racist.”
There’s certainly not a shred of truth to the accusation.
People who read my stuff regularly know the source of this meme: it was a late-night post on SHLP two years ago that was a poorly considered joke. My apology and explanation are out there, and there’s no need to repeat it. It’s old news.
Well, the PDC promptly took that post, excised it from its context, reframed it as racism, and used it to serve as part of an attack in a PDC member’s campaign against the mayor in 2017.
I find being called a racist to be upsetting, but I’m considering the source. In making that post, I unfortunately gave the PDC an opportunity I shouldn’t have. As my friend Malcolm states, the PDC had been waiting for years for me to make a mistake they could use against me. When they got this opportunity, it was far from perfect, so they had to distort the truth in order to make it work. Not being firmly attached to the idea of the truth reigning supreme, they unscrupulously twisted it to suit their needs.
Which group did I supposedly attack?
Over the past two years the PDC have variously tried to frame the post that started all of this as my attack on Chaldeans, or my attack on black folks, or my attack on Albanians, or, bizarrely, my attack on Christians in general (my own family is devoutly Christian.) If there has been a politically convenient group to frame it as an attack upon, they have made an attempt to do so. So far, they haven’t reached a firm consensus yet, but right now it appears to be trending towards an attack on blacks. Since that’s seemingly the most politically charged choice, I assume that’s where it will rest.
For the record, I knew nothing about the ethnicity of the people who were in the picture included in the post when I chose it from a Google Image search. I was later told they were Muslims, and I assumed when I apologized that was correct information. I picked the picture solely for its shock value. I never considered the ethnicity of those depicted, and I didn’t really know anything about the event that was depicted. My blind spot in all of this was that I naively don’t usually view things through a racial or ethnic lens, and I failed to appreciate that others most certainly would.
My attitudes on race and racial politics
As far as human beings go, I will take you as you are, regardless of where you’re from or what you look like; in my mind, a decent human being is a decent human being, anything else is just a detail. I most value people who are educated, thoughtful, good-hearted, well read, well spoken, and willing to lend a hand. Even if I disagree with you profoundly, I’m not going to hold you in low regard just for that reason alone. There is a member of council or two who can testify to that.
Your color and/or your ethnicity simply don’t factor into the equation. It’s about your character.
Personally, I abhor racial politics, I generally conclude that when people pull the race card out in a discussion it’s because they perceive they’re losing.
Having lived in the Detroit area since birth, I’m beyond tired of the constant, endless racial and ethnic polarization that takes place here. The PDC trades heavily in racial and ethnic identity politics; it’s their favorite tactic.
Anyway, the ‘Geoff Gariepy the Racist’ meme has gotten out of control over on SHCP, and there are things being said about me that were I an ordinary citizen would be defamation lawsuit material.
Public officials and defamation
Unfortunately, my read of the law has left me to conclude that my $30/month ($27 after taxes) paid position as a Planning Commissioner makes me a true public official instead of a volunteer. This raises the bar for a defamation of character lawsuit to soaring heights; the case law on this appears to be pretty clear even to a layman non-attorney. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the cost of trying to be useful in my community. When the defamatory poo gets flung, apparently I don’t get to take the perpetrator to court unless I can prove malice. Proving malice is not easily done. Oh, I know it’s there, but proof is another thing.
So at this point, the only rational course of action is to ignore it and the PDC in general. It’s not easy; I want to defend myself, but facts, logic and reason don’t mean anything to these folks, and the law is no help. The PDC Gariepy/racist meme is a mantra, and they won’t be confused with contradictory information. Cognitive dissonance only happens when one cogitates, apparently.
So I’ve taken down my posts and deleted my SHCP group membership. The alternative was to launch an expensive and probably unsuccessful legal battle, and I don’t have time for that. And frankly, if I want to know what the PDC thinks about me, all I need to do is tune in to the council meeting on cable every two weeks and they’ll happily repeat the same idiotic crap they’ve said for years.
So if you’re a member of the PDC, and you know who you are, you’ve “won”: I have left the argument. Conclude whatever you wish from that. It was pretty clear the discussion was on par with the same old poo-flinging we see at council meetings during Communications from Citizens on a regular basis. It was simply not worth my time beyond what I spent telling one of the main PDC agitators what I have been wanting to tell him for years now. His responses lacked thought, insight, any desire whatsoever to bring this to a resolution, much less spelling or grammar. Satisfied in that, I’m done talking.
Opposing simply to oppose
I have become convinced that the PDC, and people like them, have come about because their principles are so far out of the mainstream that very few can possibly agree with them. This is extremely frustrating for them.
Unable to move politics in the direction that suits them, they then instead settle into a bitter, ongoing feud with the powers that be. They’re no longer around in the hopes of changing the direction, to discuss ideas and resolve conflicts; their sole reason for participating at all becomes opposition.
Being part of the dedicated opposition can be very seductive, especially if you’re an ideologue and you find yourself at odds with the power structure. But its seduction is like that first hit off the meth pipe: you destroy yourself a little more each time you partake. With little hope of change to the original circumstance you were opposed to, you instead delve deeper and deeper into the pit of anger, pique, and despair.
Thankfully I was disabused of becoming part of the permanent opposition early in my time here. It’s made my participation with the city very rewarding for me, despite the rough patches. It has been a lot of work, and it has resulted in a lot of growth, and it is a work in progress. But it has been entirely worthwhile.
Meanwhile, the PDC is in exactly the same place they were in 2009: out of power, marginalized, discredited, ever more angry, ever more dissatisfied.
It’s too bad. They could have had the same experience I have had.
I’m not going anywhere
So if you see my name being bandied about over there on SHCP, no need to tell me, I’ve gotten used to it, and I no longer care. Does it make a material difference to my life? Probably not. The names you’re called only have the power you give them over you. Knowing it’s going on sucks, kind of like the first dent in a new car sucks, but ultimately you just keep on driving.
Now these folks would love to see me disappear from the city altogether, but that’s not going to happen soon. We are considering finding a smaller home somewhere else when our nest is empty, but that will be awhile yet if it happens.
For the time being, I’m still going to do what I like to do: Planning Commission, CERT, Sterling Heights Drug Free Coalition, Sterling Heights Local Politics, and the occasional blog post. Any one of those things might change, but overall I like being of service to my fellow man. Even if I someday am doing none of those, you can count on me making a contribution somewhere.
So for now, PDC Oxen will still be getting gored as usual, PDC sacred cows will be routinely turned into hamburger, and political ideas from all will be examined, held up to the light, and their value determined. It’s what I do. Calling me a racist simply isn’t gonna change that. The PDC don’t have that power.
And one of these days when I do take my leave from this political scene, there will be someone to replace me. They will prove to be equally maddening to the PDC. There are some up and coming folks in town who will eventually do what I do, only better. I hope I’m around to see them do it. Some members of the CERT are very promising. There are a couple of Planning Commissioners who are truly gifted individuals who might make great leaders in other positions someday. And when I see the youth coming up, like the folks I encounter in the Sterling Heights Drug Free Coalition, I am reassured that we’re gonna be just fine.