On Saturday I marched with ten thousand people in downtown Detroit demanding “Good Jobs Now” as part of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Rebuild America” rally. I then visited my desolate boyhood westside Detroit neighborhood, Brightmoor, to remind myself what happens when an advanced nation foolishly refuses to have an industrial policy. Brightmoor was a thriving community in post-World War II society, when we actually manufactured things at home instead of outsourcing them to oppressive Third World regimes.
I visited the shell of my burned out childhood home at 12802 Stout and tried to recall the neighborhood when all the houses were occupied by autoworkers and those who worked in related industries like tool and die. My Dad worked just across the street from our house at O. Keller Tool and Die. Now in that 12-block radius, where I delivered the Detroit Shopping News, there are whole blocks without occupied houses. On Vaughn, a street where I used to deliver papers, there’s only four unoccupied houses where there used to be dozens. My old junior high school, Harding, looked like it had been shocked and awed in wartime as it lay half in rubble, being knocked down because no one lives in Brightmoor anymore.
They’re now talking of letting this thriving former working class neighborhood to overgrown meadows and orchards. This would be an improvement over the desperate poverty and gangs that remain in the area. The massive destruction of a working class neighborhood would not have been allowed in Canada, Japan, or western Europe. In Detroit, the complete devastation of one of the richest cities in the20th century is accepted. In my travels to the 9th ward in New Orleans, I saw stark devastation. On TV I see the ravages of natural disasters in Haiti and Pakistan. But the unprecedented destruction of Detroit is not caused by natural disasters. It was made by politicians – made in America – through policies of greed. The unnatural disaster in Detroit is little more than the result of patterns of disinvestment by transnational corporations and a misplaced mantra of “free trade” that found more profit in outsourcing jobs to authoritarian China than making things in the Motor City.
People need to see the destruction for themselves. In the case of a few of us who attended the Brightmoor reunion just outside the city in Hines Park, we actually remember what Detroit was like when we had a saner industrial policies in those forgotten pre-Reagan days. We know exactly what a neighborhood feels like and a community of people with actual jobs living in occupied houses. The Rebuild America rally says it all. As long as we spend 3 trillion dollars illegally attacking Iraq and hundreds of billions more fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan, there will be o rebirth of Detroit or America.
Glenn Beck can talk about America’s divine destiny, but if he was a righteous man, he would fight for the displaced workers of Detroit, not shill for the wealthy who destroyed it and ruined the American dream. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis fighting for better pay for sanitation workers. For Beck, who spends most of his time attacking any moderate attempts by the Obama administration to prop up the economy, to any way to associate himself with social justice, is an injustice and travesty. From Father Coughlin to Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck, the bribe tools of the corporate media structure, they will always blame those who are powerless and take the thirty pieces of silver from those who have the real power.