Before you decide to beat me up, please hear me out.
Glenn Beck has certainly caused a stir. As much of a stir as Chris Hansen did when he did his report on NBC. The people of Detroit are outraged, mad, offended, etc. How dare he compare Detroit to Hiroshima! How dare he lay blame on politics and government! How dare he show those images of our once treasured architecture? He is absolutely wrong in his assessment of Detroit. Period.
Or is he? Maybe there is some merit to what he was saying. I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but I think he may just be on to something. Take out the inaccuracies in his facts about the bailouts or the political blame and corruption for one moment. The perception nationally is exactly what he portrayed. It’s exactly what Chris Hansen portrayed on NBC. If you ask anyone outside of Detroit, the perception is not entirely positive so I can’t completely disagree with Beck’s assessment of my beloved city.
I know first hand that the people of Detroit and of Michigan are passionate about this place and hate to hear when people say mean things about us. However, the mean things are true and that’s why it hurts. This is the reality of Detroit today. Mayor Dave Bing in his State of the City even said Detroit was a “work in progress.” Where we often get passionate is when someone outside of us speaks the truth. To me it feels like we entitle ourselves to be the only ones that can talk about Detroit because we live here.
That’s one part of the problem. We build up walls to divide those who can and cannot talk about Detroit. It even happens locally. Urban and suburban have disagreed for decades and a wall has continued to grow higher and higher separating the very people that can be mobilized into action to make a difference. In my 38 years (soon to be 39) as a Michigan resident, all I’ve known is this “great divide” and very little has been done to break it down.
The other part of the problem (in my opinion) is the lack of action. We are great at talking about how things can change in Detroit. We are great at criticizing those that criticize us. All talk. Where is the action? Who are the people that go out and do things to improve this city? Who are the people that are making a difference?
I’m not trying to make light some of the amazing work that is happening in the city. There are people and companies doing things to make Detroit better, but change truly won’t happen until the masses of people that call Detroit home (the region, not city proper) get off the couch and do something besides talk.
Mayor Bing closed his State of the City address perfectly with a call to action:
It is time for us to look in the mirror and recognize that Detroit is on the right track. More importantly, it is time for all of us to think about what we can do to help our city. Good government creates an environment to help regular people do extraordinary things. It inspires people to work together and take responsibility for their community. That is the Detroit we want to be, and are working to become. But we cannot do it without your help. It is time to ask…what will your contribution be?
That’s the solution. Action. Action causes change. Speeches don’t. So I ask you…what will your contribution be? What are you going to DO today to make a difference and change perceptions? What are you going to do to change the minds of national media like Glenn Beck and Chris Hansen so they can do a report on how Detroit has come back like Hiroshima?