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Detroit is Misunderstood

The Spirit of Detroit

When I arrived in Detroit I had, like most Americans, many misconceptions. The first thing I noticed as my cousin drove me through the downtown area, then along Jefferson Avenue, and then out to her suburb, was what a beautiful old city Detroit is. It was founded by the French in 1701 and is the second oldest city in the United States, after Saint Augustine in Florida. Many of the buildings now standing were built in the 1920s and 1930s and have gorgeous art deco architecture. Once the fourth largest city in the nation, Detroit had a storied history during prohibition due to its proximity to Canada. As the auto industry grew the people of Detroit became prosperous. Midwestern money, mostly from Chicago and Detroit built the Los Angeles we know today. The Big Three were very important in creating the American Middle Class, which is now on life support.

Yes, there are ruins, and yes, the city has been hit hard once in the sixties and seventies and again in this most recent

Some Ruins

economic crisis and the ensuing depression. But, there is also much reason to love Detroit and to work for a renewal and a return to prosperity. Long stretches of wasteland and ruins are punctuated by thriving areas where the more well-heeled Detroiters watch sports, dine on fine food, and drink at their favorite watering holes. And even in the wasteland there are signs of life. I plan on returning to the area in June to see the gardens that are being cultivated in those beleaguered areas.

What happened here in the time span from 2004 to 2008 should have been a wake-up call to members of the middle class everywhere. But not many saw what any of this had to do with them. Very few connected the dots until those weeks at the end of 2008 when we all watched in horror as Wall Street went tumbling down. Of course Wall Street was bailed out by our tax dollars and is back to business as usual, while Main Street sags under the weight of what appears to be just the beginning of a long depression.

Most people love the place they were raised in and that they call home. Detroit is no exception. There has been no poison rain, no salted earth, no nuclear disaster here. Just a string of economic decisions, by companies, governments and private citizens that have caused an entire region to lose economic viability. If this slow motion catastrophe has happened here, in this beautiful, old, once prosperous city, how can any of us feel truly secure?


  1. April 12, 2011 at 7:19 PM

    When the upper echelon of the democratic party decided to claim that Hillary Clinton was divisive and polarizing back in 2007 and early 2008, I believe it was to pave the way for a Barack Obama presidency.

    Barack Obama was a dream come true for the democrats, he would be willing to do what Wall Street desired while being very popular with community activist groups. But what about main street? Just kind of ignore them as millions of americans have their homes repossessed by unscrupulous mortgage lending and servicing practices.

    Two years later, I see a very divisive Cable News Network that has polarized the left against the right. In the middle, where most americans believe and where Hillary Clinton thrives, has been left in a vacuum. Read more at Polarizing Cable News Channels are ruining the United States

  2. Shirley Newbold
    April 12, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    Annabel, thanks for writing about our Detroit.

    • michelle dunn
      April 13, 2011 at 10:11 AM

      This is as usual, brilliant and relevant. You need your own radio show.

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