Detroit: The Raw America, Past and Present.

If you haven’t heard of what’s been happening to Detroit in the past couple of decades, there’s a reason for that.  After all, before the 2008 recession hit, the city was a slowly fading phantom of America’s industrial past.  With each passing year, more buildings crumbled into oblivion.  In 2013, Detroit filed for bankruptcy.  It was virtually unheard of for any city prior to do so.  But here’s the thing about Detroit: the city just can’t give up.  The article I read from the New York Times is man’s personal reflection on the vitality of the city.  It begins by describing some small businesses that have sprung up because of this vigor, and then it continues to describe the people who keep the spirit of the city alive.  The author, Frank Bruni, best describes the city’s impact with the words, “Detroit is a gauge of our soul.”

I’ll be honest; I didn’t just stumble upon this article.  I looked for it.  I find Detroit absolutely, hauntingly fascinating.  I remember watching an Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown episode about the city and feeling a curiosity about it.  The images of the city are apocalyptic, to say the least.  Windows are broken, there is more cement in ruin than intact, and there is trash everywhere.  By all means, the city looks beyond hope.  But to me, it is the most raw reflection of the “true America.” Detroit is kind of like the drunk uncle whom no one wants to talk about.  He’s a little rough around the edges, but beneath the surface, he has stories of the past parties, people, and the heyday.  Somehow, we all root for our uncle.  We all want him to get better, and we all defend his oddities because we know he’s been through hard times.  The same can be said for the motor-city, as Bruni cites.  Detroit has its bad moments; nonetheless, the people of the city keep struggling because they know that Detroit can and should be better. 

Small businesses are returning to the city.  The inner-city is becoming a hot-bed for entrepreneurial risk-takers who just want to see Detroit make it out okay.  Ultimately “…we’re all tied to this city and reflected in it, because it’s so central to the American narrative, so emblematic of our triumphs and humiliations, such a referendum on what we’re capable of, in terms of neglect and in terms of salvation.” We can’t let the city falter because if we did, we’d be allowing the veracity of the American Dream to die.  America’s growth in the 20th century is so intertwined with the growth of the auto-industry that names like Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet carry more recognition than many presidents.  Detroit was where this industry really boomed.  Globally, it was the symbol of America’s economic greatness. To ignore Detroit is to ignore our history, the luxe of the past that caused our rise and now is a reflection of what could be our fall.  That’s why we can’t close the door on this city and drive away.  Because when examining America’s resilience, Detroit “'[is] one of the cities in the United States that the whole world looks at.’”



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