Well, the election is finally over, and with all modesty I can say it turned out exactly the way I always knew it would, down to the very last state. We’ll analyze the results later, but this week, seeing as everyone is so tired of politics and elections ... let’s talk about politics. And elections; one really big election, that is. Bigger for most of us, perhaps, than the nationals. I’m talking about the race for mayor of Detroit a year from now.
That’s a bigger deal because the situation is potentially much more desperate. By and large, the nation, as a whole, works pretty well, aside from a few big rips in the fabric.
Detroit doesn’t, if you live there. You probably don’t know what truly ghastly shape much of it is in if you live in the suburbs. The powers that be have worked hard to prevent you from noticing.
Television news never shows how desperately awful living conditions are on so many of the city’s streets. The daily newspapers, money-making shills for out-of-town corporations, occasionally nibble the edges (the fire department doesn’t work, etc.) but never really look at the big picture, much less demand something be done.
The owners don’t care; journalism of that kind costs money, and Bloomfield Hills doesn’t particularly like to read about it. They especially don’t want to see it.
You can ride into downtown or to the sports arenas on freeways largely sunk beneath the surface, so you don’t have to see much of it. Even Woodward Avenue isn’t too bad, though the scenery on either side of the street is grim enough.
But take the plunge into the neighborhoods sometime. A few weeks ago, I suggested a couple scenic drives you could take if you wanted to see the real story; here’s another. Take I-75 to the Davison and go east to Van Dyke. Then drive that south to I-94. Nobody from the suburbs ever does. Wake up and look at it. Welcome to life in one of the major cities in the richest nation in a year of tremendous prosperity.
Oh, yes — if you dare, turn off and drive up one of the side streets too. When you finish, if you have a heart, you will naturally be sorely tempted to call for the impeachment or arrest or shooting of the mayor and all the City Council. Don’t bother, it wouldn’t do any good. But there is something you can do about it.
Turn this election into a referendum on the quality of life in this city. Dennis Archer has served his masters and his constituents — Mike Ilitch, the auto companies, etc. — rather well. We now have gleaming sports palaces and casinos, the first of which are not necessarily bad. We also have streets like those I have suggested you drive on.
Now it is time to do something, anything, to fix that. Detroit really ought to be in a prerevolutionary situation. Naturally, the powers who own the media have a vested interest in making sure that nothing like that happens, that apathy prevails. This is the time to launch some kind of citizen’s movement to reinvent Detroit — to, at the very least, offer a New Deal for the city. The conventional wisdom is that Dennis Archer may well run again and win, especially if he has no better offers.
Nevertheless, it is worth trying. Even if Dennis the Menace gets back in, he’s always been responsive to his owners, and it’s time, perhaps, for the people to claim their share. The only candidate who has offered anything like a vision for the city’s neighborhoods in recent years is Sharon McPhail, whose brains have been beaten out repeatedly by the establishments. Though she would make a far sharper and wiser candidate now than in 1993, she may be perceived as a “loser,” and certainly the forces of darkness would make common cause to keep her down again. If I were her, I would probably move to Santa Fe.
But if she doesn’t, I’d love to see her lead the charge to save this city — though not necessarily as a candidate for mayor. Actually, I’d like to see her run for City Council. They’d find it almost impossible to beat her — and from there, she could ask a lot of questions, turn over a lot of rocks, and focus attention. Wouldn’t the powers love that?
School of assassins: Want to take part in a really worthy demonstration? Contact Brad van Guilder of Peace Action of Michigan (248-548-3920) and join the caravan of folks (some flying; some driving) who are going to Fort Benning, Ga. Nov. 17-20 to try and shut down the “School of the Americas,” renamed the “Defense Institute for Hemispheric Security Cooperation” this year. This so-called school uses your tax dollars to train Latin American soldiers in combat techniques used to keep their people in line. Cost is minimal, and they have inexpensive hotel rooms reserved near the site.
Hear a living legend:The Cranbrook Peace Foundation is bringing the immortal Pete Seeger in for an evening of music and their annual Peace Award Ceremony Sunday, Nov. 12, at Athens High School in Troy. This is a man who has sung for social justice since the 1940s, and who has helped launch the careers of many a folk singer now grown old. And he’s still great, and there are still tickets; call the foundation (248-345-3475) or Ticketmaster. Rudy Simons, no slouch in the talent department himself, first heard Pete sing in Detroit in the mid-’50s sometime, when Seeger was still blacklisted. As Simons notes, no one has done as much musically to promote progressive causes. If you miss this opportunity to see him, or see him again, who knows when you might have another?Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org