Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Detroit: some hope and defeat

Title link goes to a Rawstory article about how homes in the city of Detroit are going for $1300 at auction and how the economy of the Detroit area is basically collapsing.

God. The Detroit area is where I'm from. It's hard to see that happening. Mainstream economics will tell you that the jobs lost will somehow be replaced elsewhere, but that's of little comfort to the several million people who live in the Detroit area, and have lived in the Detroit area, due in some way to the auto industry. The question is what's going to happen to several million people now that the thing driving their economic livelihood is collapsing? This isn't a trivial number of folks.

That's the defeat.

The hope also comes with a somewhat downcast demeanor. The Detroit Free Press reported that a hundred people demonstrated against the Iraq war in downtown Detroit, with candle light vigils held in Troy, Royal Oak, and West Bloomfield, all suburbs. A hundred people isn't exactly a lot, but at least it's something. The coverage of the vigils and the protest were dripping with condescension and hostility. Especially the report on the vigils. West Bloomfield is stereotypical suburbia, Troy is upscale although not on the very top of the heap, and Royal Oak is a suburb identified with the international Commie-Liberal conspiracy, although in reality it's being gentrified pretty quickly.

The message seemed to be that the only place the war had opposition was in chicken shit suburbs, not in places where 'real' Detroiters, whether they actually live in the city or outside of it, actually live.

Why is it that the Detroit media, at least the mainstream media, treat things like this? Partially it has to do with a sort of backlash against liberals that started when Macomb county, where the northern working class suburbs are, went Reagan Democrat in the '80s. Partially it has to do with, and the Reagan Democrat phenomenon is a misinterpretation of, the radical history of Detroit, where there's an ethos of "You call that radicalism? We'll show you radicalism!". True enough; the labor battles in Detroit where some of the most pitched that the country has ever seen, but to channel that into a general anti-liberalism is misguided to say the least.

Hell, I even saw Reagan speak as a kid, also George H.W. Bush, at a highschool in Sterling Heights, where they'd stopped in order to rally union workers to their cause, a very cynical move based on the idea that if workers could shift the blame of where the economy was going onto the Japanese that maybe they wouldn't notice that Reagan himself was fucking them over with his rabid pro-business policies.

Sterling Heights was a very intentional location for them; it was long nicknamed "Sterling Whites" because of it's racial composition. Home to many members of the white working class white flight that happened after the riots. Having a rally there, in semi-racist whitelandia, was surely intentional.

But liberalism in Detroit in general? There's a basic sense of liberalism throughout the Detroit area, but it's more moderate and based on pro-Democratic Party sentiment than anything else. Oakland County, which is much richer than Macomb and is where all the white collar people live, does have some real liberal enclaves and even smidgens of radicalism here and there, but for the most part isn't flamingly liberal. It does have, however, some of the small suburbs which are very visibly gay friendly in the Detroit area: Royal Oak, Ferndale, and Berkeley. That's not chicken feed.

Anyways, where all this is going is that Detroit is sadly anti-liberal for the most part in many of its areas but hopefully some of the progressive culture that's coming to be on the internet and elsewhere is coming through, or trying to at least. I hear the Green Party in Ferndale is getting pretty established.

Oh, and don't even mention Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor has never been part of the Detroit area and probably never will be, unless it's totally swallowed up by sprawl. Ann Arbor might as well be a foreign country for a hell of a lot of people that live in Detroit.

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