The last episode of our second season of "Parts Unknown."
And I'm glad it's set in Detroit. Because Detroit, for many Americans, is an abstraction -- truly, if incredibly, a part unknown.
One only need look at some of our representatives, who, a while back, were actually suggesting it might be OK to let the beleaguered auto industry fend for itself, to leave Detroit to its fate to see how blithely willing much of America would be to point the gun straight at their own heads and pull the trigger.
Detroit isn't just a national treasure. It IS America. And wherever you may live, you wouldn't be there -- and wouldn't be who you are in the same way -- without Detroit.
Detroiters hate what they call "ruin porn." And it's understandable, the unease and even anger, that must come with seeing tourists, gawkers, (and television crews) come to your city to pose giddily in front of abandoned factories, public buildings, the symbols of former empire.
I, too, I'm afraid, am guilty of wallowing in ruin porn, of making sure we pointed our cameras, lingered even, in the waist-high grass, overgrown gardens, abandoned mansions, crumbling towers, denuded neighborhoods of what was once an all-powerful metropolis, the engine of capitalism.
But there was no turning away. It's there -- everywhere you look, right in your face, taking up skyline, dead center: the things that were left after Everything Went Terribly Wrong.
These aren't just empty buildings -- they're monuments. And we shot them, illuminated them like monuments, with, I hope, the same respect as the Parthenon, the Coliseum, the remains of a magnificent -- if ancient -- civilization. […]
So this show is not about what went wrong, or how bad things are. It's about improvisers. About what it takes to dig in and stay. I hope, that even among ruins, audiences will see what I see: an extraordinarily beautiful city -- unlike any other in America -- still.
It's where so many of our uniquely American hopes and dreams were forged -- the things that make us who we are: the automobile, the highway -- the dream of mobility -- for ALL Americans. Credit. Music. It's where the American dream was created. And it's STILL the American dream -- if a different one that we are, all of us, together, sooner or later, going to have to figure out.
Detroit is shrinking.
The artists and innovators, activists, and artisans, who are coming in will no doubt, do much to transform the city -- mostly in very positive ways.
But who will live in the Detroit of 25 years in the future?
It will still be beautiful. That's for sure.
It will certainly be smaller.
But will all the tough bastards who stuck it out for so long -- against ridiculous odds -- who fought and continue to fight for their neighborhoods and their homes -- will they still be there?
Those who watch this show, smugly thinking, "that could never happen to my city" are dreaming. Detroit's problems are America's problems.