Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Tragedy of Detroit

The above image is from a stunning photo montage by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, called simply The Ruins of Detroit.

Detroit has been the convenient butt of jokes for a number of years. Crime rates. Corrupt government. Corrupt unions. Greedy, irresponsible industry. We can argue until we've lost our voices over what Detroit has fallen into ruin, but one fact remains undeniable: This is one of the great tragedies in our country's history.

As Marchand and Meffre state on their website, "Nowadays, (Detroit's) splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great civilization."

I admit I am not an objective observer. I'm from Michigan, and grew up going to Detroit to Tigers games, the Henry Ford Museum, Greek Town and the Fox Theater. I have family who live(d) there and work(ed) there. I'm from a family of automotive workers. There was once great pride in that, by the way.

The Detroit of the early 1900s was, in large part, responsible for the creation of this country's middle class. We were manufacturing actual things. Things people wanted to buy and use. No more. What do we manufacture in this country now? Electronic transactions. Fake money. Intellectual property. That's just about it. So bye bye Detroit.

Again, I'm not here to argue about who or what is at fault. Anyone who thinks there's a simple answer to that is a simple person. I care about the people. Lost homes, lost jobs, lost families, lost lives. No matter who you are or what your political beliefs, these are fellow Americans. Not to be confused with a bunch of book-cooking crooks who were bailed out by our inglorious government to the tune of 700-something BILLION dollars, mind you. These are my relatives.

Go click the link above and look at the pictures. The one of United Artists Theater literally made me cry. Cry for what has been permanently lost.


Natsthename said...

Such a great loss to our country. I have several uncles/cousins who have worked for GM, Internation Harvester, and Ford in IN and MI, and I know exactly where you're coming from. Our family would visit Detroit now and then and I recall the glory days. To see it now is to feel that gaping hole where pride used to be.

Other ciites are affected, such as Akron, OH, but Detroit has been decimated. It's so sad.

thank you for this post, Jeff.

Paula Light said...

It's a tragedy. My dad used to visit Detroit frequently on business when we lived in Illinois back in the '70s and early '80s and has great memories of that city. I only wish I'd seen it then.

PJ said...

I'll never forget when, as a little girl, my parents took me to the Detroit "Cinerama," a splendid theater like I'd never seen before in my young life.

We saw "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," and I remember that my dad was laughing so hard that he was crying.

The whole adventure of traveling from Lansing to Michigan's Biggest and Most Exciting City is ingrained forever in my mind and in my heart.

I will never forget it.

And it's so far beyond sad that the city has been reduced to what it is now.

Gotta go, feel sniffles coming on. Must be damned allergies.

Don said...

These images are fantastic. They invoke Britain's decaying Roman villas in the century after the Empire had receded.

There are always people to blame, and environmental factors, but economic change is a constant, and whatever business model the automakers used to build Detroit did not evolve fast enough.

I work in industry, albeit a different industry, and most of my work is generated by the energetic and ambitious peoples of Asia. From where I sit, this collage is a Cassandra warning the rest of America in vain.