What American city better illustrates the diminution of the United States over the last couple of generations than Detroit? A century ago, the city that straddles Lakes Erie and Saint Clair boomed and became one of America’s industrial powerhouses. Today, it somewhat resembles a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The factories have closed, the talented continually leave, the politicians are corrupt and moronic—even by American democratic standards, and the city’s survivors remain in a forgotten town. Good job, U.A.W. and Big Three visionaries!
Detroit’s populace only has Vernor’s Ginger Ale for comfort and the ridiculous People Mover for a laugh. Oh, I forgot “Comerica Park”—even baseball has been ruined in Detroit by their obnoxious companies. Comerica Bank is not even headquartered in Detroit anymore, having carpetbagged down to Texas. Bastards! Cincinnati has likewise suffered, as all the “Rust Belt” towns except, it seems, Chicago. However, Detroit’s decay is more striking, and the rot is regional rather than limited to the core of the town. De-industrialization has devastated Michigan.
On Slate, Witold Rybczynski has a “slide show essay” on Detroit and its ruins. You can see it here. I find the Michigan Theater pictures rather emblematic of the city as a whole. Henry Ford would weep.
Of course, those resigned to their doom may amuse themselves by the spectacle of their failed city. Urban politics often make for a colorful circus show, and Detroit does not disappoint.
The councilwoman who causes a scene is Monica Conyers, the wife of Congressman John Conyers and the current president of Detroit’s completely Democratic city council. Note that John Conyers is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the second longest serving member of the House, as well as being yet another crooked Detroit politician. Yes, this is what the American government has become.
You can see more Conyersesque wonderfulness in an interview with Charlie LeDuff. Here is the first part, and here is the second part. I experience the same sort of joy with Mrs. Conyers that I had watching Saddam Husein’s Information Minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf (a.k.a. Baghdad Bob). If you are going to represent bad government, you can at least entertain the world while doing so. Kudos Monica Conyers—you at least have a sense of humor, if not of propriety!