And it really feels like we need to get over ourselves and start thinking more about the people. Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, said it best the other day when he wrote:
“At minimum, let’s say the people in the city shouldn’t be dying, waiting for services that never come.”
What Henderson refers to is the fact that:
“Detroit’s elected leaders have been unable, and in many cases unwilling, to confront the horrible fiscal imbalances that leave insufficient money for EMS rigs, fire trucks, police officers and public lighting.”
In other words, the present Detroit leadership – with all their hard work and policy setting – for whatever reasons – have been unable to consistently and adequately deliver the absolutely necessary for life services needed by the people of Detroit.
He goes on to say:
“Now they’ll lose power to someone who will.”
“Will what?” you ask? Well, hopefully, the new temporary leadership will start thinking less about political power, less about who is motivated by what, less about who’s getting over on whom…and begin to think more about what really matters to us all – the people.
It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the realities [for example] of power politics. The “power motive” has always been there in public policy and debate and life – from the Pharaohs of North Africa to the Tudor kings and queens of England – from the Caesars of Rome to the Tsars of Russia – from the Holy Roman Emperors of the middle ages to the democrats and republicans of the modern era – there have always been issues of power and control. And there surely are in this case as well – only God knows who in Lansing or who in Detroit city government are about keeping the power, keeping the control…instead of simply helping the Detroit citizen live his or her life.
And as for other underlying motives, what about race? Any thinking person knows that the Civil Rights Movement couldn’t cure racism that lives in the human heart – and while Civil Rights Legislation made it illegal to do racist stuff, laws have never been able to eradicate racism from a human spirit determined to hang on to hate. So, is there any racism, any trace of evil, diabolical, regurgitated, repeated “I’m better than you because of the color of my skin” mentality lurking in this whole emergency manager plan thing? I suspect so. Again, only God knows where because most leaders are too dishonest to own their latent racist, elitist spirit [if indeed it exists inside them] and too sophisticated to let their racism overtly leak in words or policy.
So, what I’m asking is this: can we simply own that this whole thing is likely a mixed bag on many different levels but that the time has long since come and gone when drastic measures are in order to at least try to do something – even appoint an emergency manager – to help the people??
Because from what I see and hear and experience in my own life, working and serving in Detroit, and talking and living with and connecting in intimate relationship with a whole lot of Detroiters – many if not most of the people aren’t really thinking a whole lot about power or race or other motive-related mess – they just want their lights on, they simply want police presence, they need to know an EMS tech or fireman will be there in their pain, that their trash will get picked up, that the busses will run on time and that their kids will make it safe back and forth to school.
One more thing. I’m also willing to believe that alongside any leaders who are hungry for power and control or any leaders still wrestling with a deeply embedded racist agenda or some completely other non-helpful mentality or motive – that there are some good folks, some honest folks, some hard-working, compassionate leader types in Lansing willing to come alongside our good, honest, hard-working, compassionate leaders in Detroit in order to partner with us, to help us get unstuck, to help us turn the corner, to help us…do a better job of helping the people.
Anyone remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Two scam artists come to town and convince an egotistical Emperor that they are making him a new set of Emperor clothes, some royal threads so special that only the most sophisticated and elite of the people can see them. Of course, there are no real clothes. It’s a scam, remember? But on the day that the emperor parades down main street to show off his special outfit, all the grownups are so afraid of not being sophisticated and elite that they can’t bring themselves to say, “I can’t see anything on the Emperor except his boxers!!” So they all play along with the scam until a young child – unencumbered by any need to be sophisticated and elite – shouts out: “THE EMPEROR’S NAKED!!” at which point chaos erupts and the town goes wild…but at least the Emperor puts on a real shirt and some real pants.
As I said earlier, I’m not the sharpest tack in the drawer. But I think Stephen Henderson is. And I’m officially joining my child-like and possibly somewhat naive voice with his – shouting out that our beloved city is naked and it is about time we did anything…almost anything within our power and within the boundaries of decency and common sense…to help her get rightly clothed again.