Today has been melancholy (what a wonderful, expressive old word!). It's very clear that people aren't patronizing yarn shops as they used to do before the holidays -- and not just mine. It's apparently true all over the country. So we have to wait and see if people really want to have "friends" only in the virtual sense, on Ravelry, on Knitty, and so on. I prefer people myself!!!
But that's not the only reason. Today I also got an electronic holiday greeting from an old, old friend – someone I shared space with in a teaching-assistant room at University of Minnesota, a really dear fellow. His first paragraph said this: “Given the news from Detroit we have thought of you often, as it must be so difficult to watch all of this unfold in the community in which you have lived and worked for so many years. Are you still pondering your course in regard to retirement?” It made me so very sad. Why? First of all, this isn’t the first such note I’ve received. Everyone has some variant of “My God what a time you must be having in that awful city.” And each time, I feel such a mixture of rage and helplessness. The helplessness has to do with the very clear sense that there is no effective way to cut through the misinformation, the almost willful pile of distortion that leads people like Ken to think I am living in a war zone.
Recently, Anthony Bourdain had a show (CNN now carries his series) that both Larry and I looked forward to seeing. We had heard that he did a good job with the city. My God. It made me so bloody angry that I still can’t think of it without feeling the same blind rage. Nowhere did we see the vibrancy of midtown, the brave efforts to remake the downtown area, the wonderful new riverside walk with its gorgeous landscaping and sculpture, the amazing restaurants than have sprung up everywhere, the univerity smack in the middle of the city, the world-class Detroit Institute of Art, and so on and so forth – not to mention Lake St Clair and the beautiful Belle Isle and the suburbs ringing the center. No. All we saw were long, slow sweeps of burned-out houses, a make-shift restaurnat set up in somebody’s living room (where the hell was the Rattlesnake Club?), some guy who lived in a big ol’ abandoned factory. I guess this satisfies people’s need for pathos. You always need an orphan to feel bad about. But this is fraud, pure and simple. Detroit is NOT WORSE than any number of other cities – think Camden, Newark, areas of St Louis, Chicago, on and on. Why not do the same thing with one of THOSE places? Could it have something to do with the racial composition, maybe the politics, of this particular city?
We have had recent experiences as well with some of this utter trash – as when prospective vendors for the Third Coast Fiber Arts Festival said they had seen all kinds of horrible stuff on television and so wouldn’t come into the city – God knows, drug lords were going to swoop onto their cars from treetops, or maybe there would be mass homicides in the McGregor Center. God knows what. One of them actually said she was sure that the police had been disbanded. The display of incompetence in reportage associated with this old and storied city is without parallel in the history of American journalism. It doesn't help. Detroit has its problems. But so do other places. This hurts, and it's hard to think that it does NOT have to do with race, with unions, with Democrats, who have been the ONLY forces that have preserved Detroit, to be honest, from years of Republican malice in the state's capitol. One payment of all of the money owed the city could have prevented bankruptcy -- legislators had waited for decades to pounce , and misgovernment made it easier. Everyone knows that. But. Enough said. It's time to move on to constructive work. As I said in the beginning, there is really nothing that can be done in the face of willful ignorance and plain prejudice.