Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

Let us Now Heal the Great City of Detroit

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The restoring of Detroit will be a template for the restoration of America. But, before we can restore, we must first acknowledge our pain and begin healing our wounds. There are many people who are hurting in this town. They have been wounded by the politics of crime and punishment that have devastated their families and communities, shipped their jobs overseas and now threaten to take away their hard earned pensions and health care as the balancing of the budget is seemingly on their backs alone.

Why should the “every man” have to pay for problems that he or she did not create? Many people in this town are angry and hurting, disaffected and disillusioned with life in general. They feel ignored by local and national leaders and violated by the scorched earth, “winner take all” economics that have beaten them down and virtually snatched all life and hope from them.

They are beaten down by sub-par city services, the moral decline and criminal activity that has devastated their neighborhoods, and the rancor set off by politicians and business persons who do not seem to give a tinker’s damn about common citizens and the community – but only the well being of their own pocketbooks. Detroiters have received one body blow after another, besieged and beset by the horrendous cycle of repeated problems and the haunting reminders of their seemingly permanent defeat

The political and moral swarm of locusts that has enshrouded the city threatens to take it down even further, making it a far cry from the city that I grew up in. Now is the time to make a serious difference in our city, to develop new policies and practices that will help the entire city survive and thrive.

It is understandable that business people do not want to invest where they cannot get a good return on their investment. They want to put their money into safe places where their resources will be managed responsibly and not cast to the winds. It is the nature of businesses and corporations to make a profit for their investors, but revitalizing the city will also require making an investment in the city’s most important resource which is its people. There is no greater investment than the people.

An investment in people would mean that everyone in this community could begin seeing the turning of flood tides of hopeless and despair into the ebb tides of prosperity and good fortune. This means restoring Michigan’s manufacturing base. This means partnering with unions, which are still the most important entity in building America’s post-war middle class. This means creating newer technologies and revamping the educational system. This means providing home and etiquette training within the family. This means developing strong local leadership that engages in genuine dialogue with Lansing and Washington and implementing a consensus model of leadership where representatives from citizen, civic, religious, political, educational, medical, technological, business and other groups are at the table.

It means eliminating the deficit consciousness and thoughts of lack that see only the limitations of the city and don’t envision capitalizing on its strengths. It means the appropriation of conventional modalities of thought and action; coupled with newer, visionary more creative paradigms of thinking that are both inside and outside of the box. It will take everyone working together benefiting from our collective efforts to provide hope for a city that desperately needs healing and is still experiencing the lingering and devastating fallout and blight of the 1967 riots.

While Detroit has become the poster child of municipal bankruptcy, it can also become the prototype of a turnaround city on the mend, one that is healing old wounds – where a viable strategic plan is implemented and the entire city wins. But this requires visionary leadership; strong courageous leadership and entrepreneurial thinking that can sell that vision to all of Detroit’s citizens. It requires implementing a gradual plan of transformation where everyone can take ownership of their fair share of the redevelopment process.

It cannot be a vision where only the power brokers win and only they have the say in these matters. Albeit the voices of the powerful are important but we must also involve the everyday people because they are essential. If this approach is not taken then the result will be more disparity, more alienation and despair – with more disintegration and factionalizing of the people. It cannot be politics as usual that merely perpetuate our continuing balkanization and splintering as a metropolitan community. Top down solutions without the input of indigenous citizens are merely one-sided solutions that don’t win in the end! We must fervently develop solutions from the top down and from the bottom up.

The strategies for positive change and healing in the city must be more than of the usual “all or nothing” variety that we have experienced too much of as of late. More than the current “confiscation politics” that penalize the poor and run rough shod over the middle class, in the quest for privatization. We must have more people at the table than just the usual suspects. We must do more than pay lip service to rebuilding and healing the city. We must work from our various places to bring about the positive change that will affect a seismic, quantum profitability where everyone wins. This can be done with courageous visionary leadership and a deep-seated, long term commitment from all. This cannot be achieved without some measure of hope.

The mayoral election of Mike Duggan is a perfect time to amiably begin the healing process. The dream weavers and dream merchants must once again come forward and join with him. Every citizen with rake and fork, and plow and purpose, must come forward. Every living soul can contribute something to this new revitalization and a new city can be born where the people are made whole. This occurs when they know, when they feel in their bodies and hearts that their leaders care for them; that their leaders are not turning a deaf ear to their pain. This occurs when their meager resources are not being confiscated by the brokers of power and shifted for the inequitable settlements of disputes, when only the poor and the dispossessed are required to make more payments in pain.

Healing is what we need; a compassion that embraces and transcends race, class, education and economics. Healing the city can be achieved if we all work together with a common vision issuing from a common source, concerned about the welfare and future of us all. Now is the time to heal the still great city of Detroit.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *