Just recently, my girlfriend returned from the Mackinac Policy Conference and brought back with her lots of great insights. By spending time with many of Michigan and, in particular, Detroit’s movers and shakers, she was able to interact with people who will direct Michigan’s future. One of them is Detroit’s importance to Michigan and its complicated relationship.
The easiest way that I can describe Detroit is as your crazy relative. You know them. You love them. You talk about them. Only you and your family could love this person. Yet God forbid that somebody outside of the family talk about this person the way that you do. The privilege is reserved only for family.
In the same way, we see the craziness that always seems to be tied to Detroit. I wish to be perfectly clear in saying that I in no way feel that Detroit is abnormal or worse than the rest. Many of its problems (i.e corruption, scandal, etc) are also symptomatic of just about any other major city. However, since we are area residents and since we constantly hear about Detroit’s foolishness, it remains fresh in our collective consciousness. For us, it is our reality.
Having said this, I feel that we need to move forward. Not forget, but begin to forgive. I feel that any scandal that further damages Detroit’s public image or results in mismanagement of funds should be addressed and, if necessary, prosecuted. Nonetheless, I don’t that the emphasis should be on what Detroit is not but on what it is.
As much as many of us have fallen into the trap on piling on the bash Kwame Kilpatrick bandwagon, how many of us have piled on the great things about Detroit one? Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is not Detroit. Let me be clear. He is a resident who is mayor of the City. In the way that we view what’s happening, should draw the distinction between Mayor Kilpatrick and Detroit. Furthermore, we need to step up and make things happen for Detroit.
Suburbanites might ask themselves, “What does Detroit have to do with me?” They might live in another county or not even spend any time in the City. What do my statements have to do with them? EVERYTHING! I hate to break it to everybody: if Detroit fails, then we all fail. While Michigan’s government is seated in Lansing, its core is in Detroit. Michigan began with Detroit. Michigan’s auto industry started when Henry Ford build his first cars in Southwest Detroit. When traveling out of state, one of the cities that first come to mind is Detroit. Everything revolves around Detroit. To try separate oneself from Detroit is to be a fool.
If you’re a suburbanite, go into Detroit to catch a game or to support the business. If all that you’ve known is your own small community, try to get acquainted with varied ethnic areas. Try to Detroit’s cultural centers (Detroit Institute of Arts, Orchestra Hall, Detroit Opera House, etc). To close oneself off from Detroit is to starve to death. Detroit is slowly starving. However, if we take action, it can be revitalized and return to its former glory. If its leaders wake up and if we look outside of ourselves, Detroit and Michigan also can come back.