The old home town

July 26, 2013 at 3:07 pm (By Ron)

That great sage of American culture, Beavis, of Beavis and Butthead, summed up what I think should be the approach Detroit takes to its new future:  “This sucks.  Change it.”  I was born and raised in Detroit.  I didn’t leave until I was 26, and it’s not like I went that far when I did;  Ann Arbor is only about 40 miles west of Detroit.  But…Ann Arbor is worlds away from Detroit, in so many ways.  The air for one.  I didn’t notice how bad it was for most of my life until I moved to a city without enormous factories everywhere.  When you live in a place with an actual downtown you can walk on a Saturday night without the ambiance of random gunfire, you notice these things.  Hell, I even worked for almost two years for the City of Detroit.  Yeah, I got a ton of stories from there, and I’ll regale you with those at some point, but even then, I knew I couldn’t stay.

I could give you all the conventional reasons why you’d leave a Detroit, but, for the most part, those wouldn’t be mine.  The reason I was eager to leave was that Detroit was proud to be stuck where it was.  It knew it was having huge problems; but it was NOT going to change the way it was doing any thing.  That’s not a good attitude to have when things are going well, and an even worse one to have when things are going badly.  I knew a fighter pilot who had fought in Vietnam and I asked him what he would do if he spotted an enemy plane “in his six.” (directly behind you)  He said, “Anyway you go is better than the way you’re going now.”  Detroit seemed to think it could stand being shot at better than it could change course.  Why be proud of not changing?  That isn’t it exactly, it’s rejection of how you’d perceive yourself in the course of changing.  Detroiters (or is it Midwesterners generally?  Discuss!) reject what they would perceive as the arrogance of EastCoasters and the flakiness of WestCoasters for a more “reasonable” view of the world.  Even if that perception were even vaguely true, it forgets how virtues often degenerate into parodies of themselves.  What was once steadfastness becomes calcified stubbornness, well past the point of being “reasonable”.  Now they wake up, find themselves billions in the hole and thinking about selling everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot that is.  Maybe some arrogant flakiness would have been better when times were more flush.

Certainly I’ve been reading plenty o’ punditry across the spectrum about the upcoming bankruptcy of my old town; there’s more finger pointing than  Uma Thurman on David Carradine at the end of Kill Bill V.2.  Megan McArdle has a pretty good summary of them here at her new digs on Bloomberg.

Here’s the funny thing:  Detroit will be a leader in an entirely new area for entities of its size, dealing with a humogouse bankruptcy.  It’s not that everyone else’s (Chicago?  California?) bankruptcy will be identical to Detroit’s, but often the first one through the door will establish patterns for the others.  As Detroit goes, so goes the Nation?   Geez, I hope not.


  1. mockturtle said,

    Ron, I’d say that we, as a nation, have an enemy at our six. And, as Pogo would say, the enemy is us. Years of pilfering of the government by crony capitalism, congressional power brokers and ‘progressive’ spending programs have left the country irretrievably in debt There is probably no hope even if people cared. And most of them don’t. :-(

  2. chickelit said,

    The reason I was eager to leave was that Detroit was proud to be stuck where it was.

    Pride went before the newest fall model.

  3. chickelit said,

    According the latest Drudge, the bailout of Detroit is highly split along racial and partisan lines.

    As an outsider (and one who lives in deeply indebted state), the problem is the lack of a reform plan. People look at Detroit and ask when the next round of bailouts occur.

  4. » An overly familiar Motown record said,

    […] A former resident of Detroit explains why he left: […]

  5. karen said,

    i know nothing of race or the race wars– and what i am about to say may be taken as insensitive or racist, idk– but, it seems now would be the greatest time for black people to take hold and take back.

    ~Take back~ is a NEKingdom saying as in ~Take back VT~ which was stolen by libs in every campaign since. Of course, it was most likely stolen by the crusty VTers from somewhere else.

    I’m just thinking– it could be such an opportunity to build something that no one could ever take away and to build trust and strength in a community that knows only hard times and in-fighting(seen from an outsider and one w/not much knowledge).

    This morning my family went to collect two pigs in Hardwick. There are lots of Hardwick jokes, but they no longer really apply due to the influx of green-thinking hippish types. My friends built a nice home(small cape, no garage) and a horse barn- modest 6 stall- and w/60 acres their taxes are 7100$$. Every other place leading up to theirs is a Boston Globe treasure trove of dumps. He works at a mj chain store full time, she works for the state in Trans and they raise their own beef, pork &chicken- w/a little more to sell to those of us that can raise them.

    What is the point offered by society to keep a clean and happy home when you have to fork over so much for the town and state to divy up &spend?

    Just asking…

    Hi Ron!!!!

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