I have to think that there must be times when even the most dedicated politician has to wish they were an anonymous shoe salesman in Bay City. And for Governor Jennifer Granholm, last week may have been one of those times. First, there was the fiasco over the convicted felon who scammed the state's economic growth authority into granting him $9 million in tax credits for an apparently phantom business he promised to bring to Flint.
Then there was the enormous reaction to the governor proclaiming last Saturday "Michigan Meatout Day." She encouraged every resident of the state to give up meat for a day and, quote, "explore a wholesome diet of vegetables, fresh fruits, and grains."
The moment she signed that proclamation, the meat industry and its spokesmen descended on her like a mob of avenging angels.
In one of the more moderate comments, the Michigan Farm Bureau called this an "insensitive slap in the face" to the state's livestock farmers.
The hunters' lobbying group, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, proclaimed Saturday -- and every other day following -- "Michigan Meat Eaters Day." Both houses of the legislature, which normally can't agree on the color of grass, voted to denounce Governor Granholm for this.
And even Jerry Schneble, the man who started this all by asking the governor to proclaim "meatout day," wasn't satisfied.
He wrote the Detroit Free Press an e-mail to defend himself against the charge that he was a "food elitist," and then sniffed that he was disappointed that the governor didn't add a clause to the meatout proclamation that "touted Michigan's fine produce -- apples, asparagus, beans, blueberries" et cetera, et cetera.
The governor stood firm and didn't back down. Now, I have often been a critic of Governor Granholm's, but in this case, I think her critics need to get a grip. The governor isn't a vegan or even a vegetarian. She didn't attack carnivores. She merely suggested not eating meat for a day, presumably because she believed that would be a healthy thing to do. In fact, there are legions of doctors who for years have been telling their patients to go easy on the meat, especially red meat.
Governors issue proclamations all the time proclaiming "cherry week" or "secretaries' day," without much reaction at all except from the group that is being honored. My guess is the governor thought this would be like that too. But instead, people went ballistic.
Exactly why is hard to understand. Maybe with the economy the way it is, everybody freaks out at any perceived threat to their livelihood. Maybe it is because vegetarianism and veganism seem to be gaining popularity, especially among the young.
For years, a fellow named Gary Yourofsky has been going around Michigan proclaiming that it is immoral to "eat anything that ever had a face, a mother, or a bowel movement." That could make the pork producers a bit jittery.
Still, my guess is that the meat lobby ended up benefiting from the fuss over "Meatout Day." And I would be willing to flatly predict that we'll live a long time before we see another governor do this again.
Now if only we could get people this riled up over threats to their children's education.