Monday, March 31, 2008

A better Detroit is possible

Last week I discovered The Motor(less) City, a thought-provoking blog with gorgeous photos of the city's crumbling architecture. The author has left Detroit and is unafraid to say why: "Long commutes, crumbling infrastructure, a lack of cultural resources, no mass transit, an over reliance on a single industry, and barely a plan in place to do anything about any of it."

His complaints are hard to deny, but his portrayal of the region bothered me. What is the value of such dialogue? I recognize that the region is deeply flawed, but I fear that reiterating its flaws without noting its progress only adds to the "black hole of despair and self-pity" that permeates the region. That's why I try to strike a balance on this blog. I hope to herald the region's faltering progress without sounding like Sinclair Lewis's Babbit, the caricature of middle-class America with a groundless faith in "progress." But I also avoid dwelling on the negative; some of the region's flaws are so glaring I feel they nearly speak for themselves.

Yet I sympathize with the blogger's rebuttal that what the region needs most is to coldly confront reality. What disheartens me most about this region and this state is its complacency in the face of failure. The city of Detroit has been declining for fifty years; the auto industry has likewise been shrinking for decades. Yet even today we respond to this crisis with passivity and cynicism. Local leaders like Brooks Patterson continue to reject regional solutions. Our legislature is an embarrassment, incapable of passing a budget, and our governor has shown no vision. No wonder then that college graduates are leaving in droves.

But I believe the status quo can and must end. We deserve better. And that's why I focus not only on the region's flaws but also on the efforts to confront and resolve them. A better Detroit is possible.


Anonymous said...

Good post! I've added your blog to the links on my site. I may be bitter and cynical, but I do believe Detroit can do better, and it's good that not everyone shares my perspective.

Cooper said...