JACK BATDORFF: Depression from Detroit to Zimbabwe

JACK MUGI’m depressed.

I just can’t help it.

Two events collided in my mind today.

Both of which made me sad…and perhaps a bit disjointed.

The first involved a book that I had just finished reading.

Editor Jim Crees thought I would enjoy it.

The name of the book is “Detroit…An American Autopsy.”

It’s written by Charles LeDuff, a once upon a time staff writer and Pulitzer Prize series contributor for the New York Times and reporter at the Detroit News. He left the print media behind with disgust and dejection and is now a television journalist for Detroit’s Fox 2 News.

The book is gritty, tearful and chock full of depressing brutal truths. It narrates tales of pungent personal despairs and chronicles the fall and demise of what was once a gorgeous vibrant and beautiful city.

It’s a blow by blow accounting of political hijinks and under the table dealings by politicians, who were given voter confidence to lead…and instead, lined their pockets with riches as they stepped over and ignored those very people who voted them in.

It tells of the sad despair of a city in ruins, of inadequate fire equipment, police cars that aren’t, ambulance runs that don’t work on minutes and of the proud and weary people who try to piece things together and make it all work.

It’s a story about people. All types of people. People who are trying to understand the very scenes that are unfolding in front of them…praying for help and guidance…and of their despair.

It’s a story about murderers and crooks…professed and unprofessed…as they scrounge among the skeletons of a once vivid city, praying on the lives and hopes of those who chose to remain within its boundaries, rather than running to escape its ruin.

It is the sad story of demise…our very own rise and fall…a bellwether of what is happening in our cities…a blueprint for collapse and destruction.

It make me cry in anguish. For I knew Detroit when it was a pinnacle to others of its ilk. When it was strong, vibrant and teeming with enthusiasm, hopes and aspirations. When you could walk Woodward Avenue without fear. When Hudson’s held downtown’s anchor. When the little Mermaid’s Bar was the place to go. When Topinka’s was flourishing across from the Fisher Theatre and when The Rooster Tail Restaurant celebrated its opening on the River with a flourish.

It makes me sad. I read books for entertainment. I normally get enough of daily life and the unfettered newspeak that is thrown at us 24-7.

This book bit me to the quick. It brutally cast reality in its raw, uninhibited state. My mind reeled as it tried to grasp what I had just read. And once grappled, I understood with agony…the chaos and irony…that emerged like rancid diapers from the smoking landscape of Detroit that I once loved and cherished. And it hurt.

Understanding all that, it is a must read. From the murky depths of city hall to the fragile, yet brutal, topography of the once proud neighborhoods of Detroit, it is a eye opener, a warning to be understood…and to be confronted. LeDuff pulls no punches. And he does it well.

At the same time, the sad story unfolded of the Minnesota dentist who lured Cecil, a protected African lion, out of a national park in Zimbabwe and shot him…all in the name of sportsmanship.

Although I had never met the 13 year old Cecil, he was a legend when I last traveled to Africa. His exploits and shenanigans among his pride extended well outside his protected life in Hwange National Park.

For the life of me, I cannot understand “trophy” hunting.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a tree hugger or criticizer of deer hunting. This is all carefully regulated…and the meat is consumed.

But this damned dentist and his guides enticed the lion outside of his protected park by dragging a carcass behind their jeep just outside the boundaries. They knew what they were doing.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

Dentist Walter Palmer claimed he didn’t know that Cecil was a beloved and revered lion. Bunk. Cecil was stalked for 40 hours after being shot and wounded with a crossbow arrow. Found, he was killed, skinned and beheaded and the carcass left just outside the National Park. HE WAS WEARING A TRACKING COLLAR…which they reportedly tried to hide.

This is the same doctor who boasts and shows on his website his killing a magnificent rhino. And lied once before about where a bear was shot…and paid the consequences when he got caught.

Now you have to understand something: both rhinos and lions are rapidly nearly extinction. If you’re in a jeep, you can get within 100 feet of them in the wild. Shooting them is like fishing in a fish bowl. It sucks…and it’s wrong.

BUT…if you’ve got a big enough ego, have enough money (this lion hunt cost the doc $50,000), and need to stroke yourself a bit and sit around and tell your buddies about your incredible hunt, it’s always going to be there until the public makes its move.

BOTH lions and ALL rhinos species need to be put under the U.S. Endangered Species Act!!

And frankly, the doctor should be extradited to Zimbabwe to face his charges there…as are his guide and the landowner.

I hope the international attention Palmer is getting won’t go without some sort of justice.

And the next time Palmer needs to stroke himself, I suggest he take a blue pill.


I walked outside after writing this…still mentally exhausted and upset and walked over to my lily garden. A prized lily, named the Batdorff Lily, was in a beginning bud stage yesterday. Today it was in full bloom. It knew.

Thank you God.


Posted by Jack Batdorff

Jack Batdorff is the chairman of the Pioneer Group. E-mail him at jbatdorff@pioneergroup.com.

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