Tuesday, March 25, 2008

One more blow

Kwame Kilpatrick

Sometimes blogging about politics and current events in the state of Michigan has all the charm of being repeatedly hit with a baseball bat. You try to get in a groove, accentuate the postitives, and Bam! something comes along that is so big, so tragic, that it steals all the oxygen out of the room, breaks your heart, and leaves you to pick up the pieces in some vain attempt to put your emotional Humpty back together again.

The endless budget battles last year. The ongoing drama with the Democratic primary this year. Setbacks, stumbling blocks, hurdles of such incredible proportions, there is nothing left after using all your energy to rise to the occassion of the latest "challenge". You find yourself drained, gasping for air, and scrambling to your feet so you can be prepared for the next blow, because after all of this, you just know it's coming.

Such is the case with our newest tragedy, Kwame Kilpatrick.

Living in Grand Rapids, it is difficult to feel the full impact of events "over there". It was easy to ignore the city and its problems because I simply am not there, and don't have many occasions where I need to go there anymore. But being a "Michigan blogger", I now realize how important Detroit is to the fortune of the rest of the state. This is the city we show the nation. The Detroit media, along with the AP, set the conversation and tone of Michigan, and they have been consumed with this for months now, and they will be consumed with this for months to come. Yesterday, Both papers put out editorials calling for the mayor to resign as his mug shot was shown all over the country. Not exactly a "Pure Michigan" moment that we can be proud of.

As a result, the fear is that the city will become more toxic than it already is. Conventions? Campaigns? New business moving in? Can you see any of that happening with the cloud over that city? Even when events do happen, and they will because life does have a tendency to go on, there will always be the mention of the "troubles", the footnote at the end of the story, everything will be announced low-key and with little fanfare so it doesn't draw attention to the fact that the mayor is either a) there or b) not there. Instead of a healthy pride in how we are striving to grow and change, we will hide in shame and sorrow, or even worse, display a defiant anger and attitude towards those who might be rightly hesitant to believe in us.

That is not a face we can sell to the country at a time when we really need to be promoting what Detroit and the rest of the state has to offer. Investors, tourists, new business, that "creative class" of youth we need to woo to settle here - how do we do that now? We need to find a way.

This case will certainly take months, if not years. Perhaps we will grow used to it and find ways to overcome in spite of it. As hard as it is for us "outsiders" to see into Detroit, sometimes I wonder if Detroiters and the rest of the country realize there is a lot more to Michigan than the concerns of that city.

It's a really big chunk of land with a lot going on, and all we can do is hope that this is the last blow we have to take for a while. We can't ignore the problems in Detroit, it would be foolish and insulting to do so, but we can try to find the positives going on there and elsewhere in the state. Believe it or not, they are happening. The victories may be small and unheralded, but they are there, and they point to a better future for us all.

From despair can come great hope, if you let it. It just takes some time.

Also available at BFM - my home away from home.