21
Aug
08

Rock and Rubble in the Motor City

There is a fantastic little site that everyone with an interest in urban decay should check out. It is called The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

It is a particularly delicious oxymoron, because they are in fact fabulous — in their grandness and in their sadness, documenting the “agonizing path” of the city through the ’90s.

As the site itself asks: “What went wrong?” and “Where to do we go from Here?” An entire online community has risen out of this site to debate these questions — the DetroitYES project, a discussion forum about the city’s problems and its future.

I am from the suburbs, but I call Detroit my home. I am not a baseball fan, but I wear a Tigers ball cap, because it is a piece of home, and it connects me in a real way to a place I have not lived for more than 13 years.

My home town has seen some rough times. Anyone with family there has heard stories of the fabulous 50s, the riots of the 60s, white flight and the decay of the following decades. Detroit city government is a mess and has been for decades, with one bright spot: the term of my last great hope, Dennis Archer. It is rife with cronyism, loyalism and blind racism, all at the cost of the citizens, who number fewer and fewer year by year. And the latest exploits of its current mayor, effectively stopping the course of local government, are not helping matters much.

But it’s a tough old town. Down, but not out, as they say. What fueled this site’s inception, and the community that has grown around it, is a clear love for the city. Not just the city of Detroit, but “the city” as a concept. It is worth saving and it is worth remembering. And in looking back at the former grandeur and pride of Detroit, we can begin to draw inspiration, and we can begin to hope that a phoenix will one day rise from the rubble.

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