The caravan of "global motorists," expected in last fall for the climax of the Kilpatrick mishegos, appears to finally be arriving. More motorists are no doubt out there, somewhere on I-75, doing breakneck speeds. They must get here quickly, you see. They must Write Things About Detroit.
This makes sense. Taxpayers want to know where their billions of dollars are going, after all.
Also, it is probably best that the light shine in for a change, because it doesn't seem clear that taxpayers actually have an accurate picture of just what the hell is going on, up in this bitch.
A rather lurid - entertaining, even - feature in the Weekly Standard is a definite must. Far more thought-provoking, though, is nutty Ben Stein's column on Yahoo!. Essentially, Stein is asking one very important question:
Why are Americans such major-league assholes?
Those were not his exact words. But he kind of went there.
Stein's thesis: Americans let the government spend money on so much. We're usually never all that far away from the beginning or the tail end of a costly war; we pay out millions to influence elections, to stage coups that will help our political interests. We give away the store to countries who fought against us in wars, who committed terrible atrocities, simply because when all is over and done, well, hey - let's be friends! You name it, America spends on it. We really like to impress the world with our money.
"...we cannot find it in our hearts to save our fellow Americans in Ohio and Michigan and Indiana who make the cars and trucks that about half of us buy....we cannot help the children and grandchildren of the men and women who fought our war and made us the arsenal of democracy?"
"Something," Stein says, "is very wrong here."
Simplified to the extreme? Of course. Maybe that's what is called for at a time like this.
I stumbled upon Detroit by accident, nearly 10 years ago. I've considered it a second home ever since. As time wears on, I find it tough to be elsewhere for extended periods. No, I am not an urban explorer, a DJ, a Synergist or a scrapper, a graffiti artist or a student; I don't own any rose colored glasses. I do not believe that greenbelting and a bit of light rail will morph Detroit magically into the new Portland, Oregon. Not while nearly 50 percent of the adult population remains functionally illiterate, it won't. I love Detroit for what it is: A mountain of bad beside enough good to make it all worthwhile.
My education happened pretty quickly. Once I was finished worshiping the empty buildings, I cracked a book or two, you know, just to find out what happened here, and also, if there was any hope of actually turning this thing around. About ten minutes later, it had become painfully clear that mostly, this whole mess was Detroit's own fault.
Nearly all of what has happened here, happened elsewhere. The difference is that Detroit is content to roll around in its own feces, reminiscing about the good old days, totally missing the boat as other badly damaged cities rise up and walk.
These other cities don't spend much time bitching about who started it, or whose fault it is that things are getting worse. They're too busy moving on, forging a new identity for themselves and their region. Detroit continues to limp; one step forward, four steps back.
Still, after all this time, after waiting - and waiting - for Detroit to save itself, shouldn't We The People finally give a damn? Deep down, everybody knows that letting the domestic automotive industry fail is bad for the entire country; but beyond that, beyond economies and the larger impacts, it seems to me that now would be a good time for Americans to think about what they want this country to look like in years to come.
Should we really just let an entire region, one that's such a large part of our heritage, wither on the vine, simply because we -- and by we I mean millions of people who have never set foot in Detroit and likely never will -- can't be bothered? Simply because we drove a Chevy we didn't like back in the '80's?
You're probably thinking yes, and also STFU, but for the love of God, stop for a minute and think about how well our collective selfishness has been working out for us. Think about how our relentless commitment to wealth and happiness of the individual, at the expense of the good of the whole, is biting us square on the ass.
Why not try it the other way for a change? Why not rebuild our country into something we can really take pride in again? There's no question that our country is truly one of the great ones, but think about what could happen if every American cared a little bit more about their country - really cared, not that dimbulb, xenophobic, post-9/11 caring - and a little less about themselves. We could light the fucking world on fire.
Whatever happens, here's hoping that 2009 grows us all up, just a little bit -- there certainly are going to be a lot of opportunities to give a shit about something besides ourselves.
UPDATE 5:30 PM:
“The Talmud teaches that a person who only looks out for himself and his own interests will eventually be brought to poverty....Unfortunately, this is the metadrama of what’s happening in our country right now. When you have too many people who are only looking out for themselves and they forget the other piece, which is to look out for others, we’re brought to poverty.”
-- Rabbi Jennifer Krause in the New York Times, 12/23/08
What she said.