The campaign against Detroit is the latest battle in a long war against the American social contract. For that war to succeed, millions of Americans must be convinced to see their fellow citizens – working people, retired people, students, the poor – as the Other. From Social Security to decent jobs, from a life’s education to a living wage, the implicit agreements among us can only be broken if we think of our neighbors as Other than ourselves.
That’s why Detroit’s fate is so important. Breaking Detroit’s pension
agreements would pave the way for breaking our national agreement with all retired Americans, and then with the rest of our national community.
The people of Detroit are not Other than us. They are us. And if we sacrifice their neighborhoods, our neighborhoods won’t be far behind.
Outside the Green Zone
It’s true that Detroit is an extreme case. In places the landscape
looks more like Fallujah or Kandahar than the typical American city.
And the statistics are staggering: 40,000 buildings lie abandoned. 40
percent of the streetlights are broken. Unemployment and crime are
almost unmeasurably high.
Cities like Detroit may seem like the badlands of our economic war,
outside that Green Zone of relative security where most of us huddle
together and hope for survival. That makes it the perfect test case
for the dismantling of the American Dream. Detroit just seems so … different.