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I have been grumpy.

Partly it's the heat. We're not the sort with Air Conditioning and the weather's been in the 90s. Sweltering nights and sweat drenched pillows. We go to bed late. Late. We stay up, the four of us, until the air outside is cooler than in, and the fans are blasted.

We shuffle down to the Big Lake for some cooling. Dunk the head under the bluegreen waters beset by sandy white. Swim until our lips are blue and our backs red and peeling, then back home with sand in our shoes. Fine sand. Sand in our hair. Sand in our shorts. Sand everywhere. Singing sand....the silica sand here in West Michigan is so fine grained and such high percentage of silica it squeaks when you walk on it. Squeaks. Audibly.

Then the hot summer night. Windows open. The occasional breeze.

Then the news and the blogs.

I can't tolerate hearing how things were. Over and over again.

I can't take it.

Once liberals were liberals.

Once Detroit was a booming town of prosperity.

Once there was a thriving middle class.

Once Muskegon was a booming lumber town.

Once there was security and once a family could get by on one income.

Once an education meant something.

Once the shuttered Paper Mill employed 700 people for generations.

Once this empty lot was was home to a foundry that employed 4000. But now it's just an empty lot full of industrial slag and brick.

Once this street was a thriving place of commerce where you could safely walk at just boarded up decaying buildings.'s an endless barrage of Onces.

Once upon a time................................................

...................a world we're urged to miss. A world we're urged to understand is now gone. Other peoples' worlds we're urged to re-create.

It's gone. It's not the experience of tens of millions of American. We never knew it.

In 2013 we now live in a world of an aggregate of other people's half remembered utopias. Best intentions wrapped in blood and sweat and work and a lifetime of struggle....and memories of what was. What was intended. What became and what never became.

I read story after story after story about what Detroit WAS.

And more and more it makes me angry.

It makes me ANGRY.

What WAS makes me angry.

Because from where I'm standing it's all a ghost. It's all somebody else's world.

It's not mine.

It never was.

It was never mine.

For many Americans we've just walked into the room. We've just joined the game. And what we see is what is. What we SEE is what is ACTUALLY here before us RIGHT NOW. The decay. The boarded up buildings. That's what is.

Don't talk to me about how things were with a sad shake of the head.

We just got here. And what we found is decay. And what will be will be something very different than what was. And it will be better.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes, let's forget the progressive gains.... (4+ / 0-)

    ...from FDR through Johnson.

    Let's forget what happens...

    Let's ignore the words of FDR

    “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”
    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, April 29, 1938. Message to congress
    Let's ignore Edmund Burke
    “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”
    ― Edmund Burke
    Let's ignore Harry S. Truman
    "The only thing new in the world is the history you didn't know."
    --Harry S. Truman
    Let's ignore Satchel Paige
    "Don't look back, something might be gaining on you."
    --Satchel Paige
    But, Barack attention to him...
    --Barack Obama

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:28:30 PM PDT

    •  Or, we can remember the words (10+ / 0-)

      and move forward.

      Detroit won't be what it was.

      Muskegon won't be what it was.

      America won't be what it was.

      The way forward is not to replicate what was.

      •  The way forward is to study our past mistakes... (3+ / 0-)

        ...and LEARN from them.

        I lived in Michigan for the better part of 1980, where I worked professionally, at a very young age, as the Press Secretary for the Carter/Mondale re-election effort that year. It was a turning point for America, and certainly for Michigan and for the UAW (where I also acted as the campaign's on-the-ground media liaison with that group). I have always given much thought to the history of Michigan and Detroit, ever since.

        To hear a Michigander (of all the residents of all of the states) tell us we must turn our backs on the past tells me you're a lot grumpier than you acknowledge in your post.

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:40:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Gotta say to both you and Muskegon... (4+ / 0-)

          ...that we can't have one without the other.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:48:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Henry Giroux just sent me this post... (0+ / 0-)

            ...for cross-posting here. Another one of his Op-Eds in Truth-Out: "The Violence of Organized Forgetting." (Title's pretty uncanny, considering the matters discussed in this thread!)

            "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

            by bobswern on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 09:06:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, we do need both. but our selective (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Meteor Blades, dizzydean

            outrage leads to a fatal myopia, and Muskegon
            Critic is correct to reject the false nostalgia about
            how great everything was before the present age.

            Longing for the industrial age is usually done
            by those who don't remember their fathers and brothers
            being brought home to be laid out on the kitchen tables
            from the coal mine or sawmill or logging camp or steel mill.

            It was the accepted practice back in the good old days.
            Most kinds of work was brutally hard and dangerous,
            not to mention it wasn't all that well paid until the end.
            Many overlapping reasons for that, and the changes since.

            Nowadays, the number one cause of work related death is
            being killed in a job related automobile accident. There are
            still many needless deaths and dangerous jobs, but progress
            is definitely being made. Too slowly for the ghosts of our ancestors?

            Yes, indeed, but there are already many in our society who
            are bewailing the end of our human controlled transportation 'lifestyle'.
            My human pride as a member of the million mile club
            hates to admit it, but the streets will be safer when
            we leave the driving to google or whatever rather than
            my too human foibles of advancing age and declining vision.

            And it was great to go cruising the drag when you were
            young, even if you didn't have the muscle car or hotrod
            and had to drive the shame mobile of the family sedan.
            It was going somewhere fast or slow but mostly away
            from authority and the strictures of our respective families.

            Not so great to live out the Thunder Road or Johnny Angel
            pop music mythical tragic melodramas in real life though.
            In many ways it had elements of the mythology we need,
            but in others it was every bit as shallow and trivial
            as the behaviors of youth derided since forever.
            Wasn't that era the highwater mark for Detroit,
            and really, the entire great lakes midwest region?

            One man could support a family as an auto mechanic then.
            Just working at the 'service station' pumping 'taine?
            It was a good job to get spending money for the weekend.
            The purchasing power of that low paying job versus
            a similar one today? It was better, no doubt.

            Where I grew up out west, they actually have ghost towns.
            Many once booming cities and towns that busted soon
            after the mines all played out. Forgotten decrepit resorts
            from the last gilded age, or other failed speculations.

            Even to cliff and cave dwellings, abandoned so long ago
            the actual real stories of their good old days can only be
            imagined and pieced together patchwork quilt style as
            they too crumble under the weight of time and wind and weather.
            Or the stray clumsy tourists or avaricious grave robbers.

            And really, even where I live now, in the mid south,
            there are decaying tobacco barns and small crossroad
            villages that lay fallow from the changes wrought by the
            'green revolution' that ensured my own father would not
            be a farmer as his own was. His hometown is almost deserted.
            Would he trade today for yesterday, all things considered?
            All he told me is that it was real hard work. I believe him.
            And I know none of his ten brothers and sisters
            derived their primary incomes from farming itself.  

            Think about it. Almost all of our 'media' and the related
            narratives we use to find meaning is about the past, even
            if only just very recently. There is big money in looking back.
            Even if it is a sanitized and homogenized version of it.
            Or a hyperbolic and exaggerated agit prop persnicketive.
            Even most Sci Fi fantasy is retold as events that have
            already occurred in a galaxy long ago and far away.

            Change clearly brings both good and bad. I think it is in
            our natures to both revere and upend the past, which
            just happens to include our all too human ancestors.
            There is a great historical burden of collective shame,
            but if the equally present progress is ignored, or vice
            versa, will we be condemned to repeat it? Should we
            focus entirely on the evil that men do, and neglect the
            good in hopes we will be forced to repeat it?

            Hopefully we will retain what is necessary, and discard
            that which no longer serves us well. Don't worry, the
            future will judge us as harshly as we now judge the past.

            But Upton Sinclair or Jack Kerouac weren't so fond of the
            'good old days', back in the day. There were others, too.

            Thanks for all of your efforts.


      •  The reverse of this (0+ / 0-)

        is a common delusion:

        The way forward is not to replicate what was.
        To use one example, I hear a lot about "back to nature" and "back to the land" movements, as if it was indeed possible "replicate what was" before cities were built. "We just move out to the country, we live off the grid, and it'll be just like before the white people got here. We'll be 'primitive." It'll be awesome..."

        Uh, no you won't. What about the gasoline you'll need to get back and forth into town, to do things like, oh, buy groceries? You'd be amazed at the people who don't think this far ahead.

        The way to live  "in harmony with nature," is NOT to try to sever your ties with modern civilization; you won't succeed there.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:25:26 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Now is the time to completely re-imagine (6+ / 0-)

      the world.

      That is the heart of progressivism.

  •  It will be better! thanks to folks like you, MC (9+ / 0-)

    Speaking of "Once", I keep seeing annoying TV ads for the eponymous musical on Broadway. Hope to never see it! The snippet of song in the ad rhymes 'so' with 'gold'. shudder

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:42:18 PM PDT

  •  So how exactly did Snyder get elected in 2010? (4+ / 0-)

    How come the legislature flipped?  I don't think you get off that easy for what complacency allowed to happen in Michigan, and Wisconsin, and other places. Don't try to tell me I'm blaming the victims either.

    This HAS to impact what we do in 2014. Because it won't be better otherwise.

    Columbine, Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Boston (h/t Charles Pierce) Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:43:46 PM PDT

  •  I got back from Haiti a week ago (4+ / 0-)

    and, even with the crushing poverty, lack of infrastructure, lack of basic services and mostly dysfunctional government, they are moving forward.  I got the sense from most Haitians that they are very proud of their history up till Duvalier, but have a very strong sense of making something of the now.

     And there have been some big improvements--most of the earthquake debris has been removed, there's a lot of construction going on in Port au Prince as well as the countryside and there is a sense of optimism.

    Interestingly, the Haitians hold the NGOs and international community in contempt for squandering money intended for the victims.

    So, they take pride in having done a lot of the work themselves and hope to make their country a better place on their own terms.  Maybe unrealistic, but pretty inspiring.

    We can do the same here--I wish there was more about how to move things forward than complaining about the present (loved your diary though--not the target of that statement).  We can push the reactionaries back if we want to--just a matter of whether we're willing to do what it takes.  

    End the gerrymander.  

    Get SCOTUS back by winning in 2016.  

    Push for campaign finance reform.  

    Fix the structure and good things will happen....

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 05:52:54 PM PDT

  •  Take sheets and wet them down - (9+ / 0-)

    wring them dry, and then hang them up in front of the fans.  The moisture will cool the air and make it much more tolerable.

    Big blocks of ice in front of the fans works too, but they melt eventually... as will the North Pole.

    I find it easier to think about what's next, rather than what's been done. It keeps me from being too depressed.

    I see you drivin' 'round town with the girl I love / And I'm like / Please proceed, Governor. - Dave Itzkoff

    by Jensequitur on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:20:53 PM PDT

  •  There Has Only Ever Been One Solution to Making (6+ / 0-)

    a society and economy democratic. There must be heavy brakes on excessive wealth and opportunity at the top end, for both business and individuals.

    The reason you keep being reminded that it really was better once is because of how radical the principle that brought it about is to the experience of everyone too young for gray hair.

    The older liberals are terrified of future and better ideas than old time liberalism. Remember we've already lived "better" ideas than the only ones that ever built a large middle class, for the last 40 years.

    You're living in the wreckage of why we're not excited about yet another generation of better ideas.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:22:48 PM PDT

  •  The past was NEVER like that. (4+ / 0-)

    Everything was always worse than it is now.  

    Things are always getting better.

    And we have always been at war with Oceania.


    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 06:38:38 PM PDT

  •  Detroit's (white) suburbs -- they doing OK? (0+ / 0-)

    No service cutbacks, no swathes of abandoned houses, no city pensions in danger, no decaying infrastructure?
    Because I never hear about them, I assume they are a ring of prosperity around a city they abandoned.
    Racism. America can hide it in more ways than any other country. USA! USA! USA!

    Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizzam!

    by fourthcornerman on Mon Jul 22, 2013 at 07:12:13 PM PDT

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