It’s hard to take in the experience of a place past the periphery of personal existence. We are constantly numbed and distracted by daily experiences, disengaging us from the breadth of events unfolding all around. The ability to even hone in on that fact and acknowledge how incredibly difficult it is to be truly present in such a tenuous environment, is a step in the right direction. That is especially powerful in this period for those who have involvement in the City in one way or another; whether that involvement is in government, the myriad start-ups, autos, or they’ve stuck it out as a resident.
All these experiences are real, and they all matter. Yet, it is highly unlikely that the bulk of those who apply to relevant and related categories are truly able to recognize the magnitude of what is unfolding and use it to propel the City forward.
This broadened perspective is crucial in order to give an honest narrative, and make inclusive choices as the political and social environments are constantly changing. Amidst hubbub from the national media, and editorials from urban farmers and tech gurus, I’m afraid that the complex mood of Detroit is not being conveyed.
And Detroit is a very moody place. This is especially clear on the national stage where only sound bites give a glimmer into our story.
My own perspective has largely been formed from experiences that have been unsettling, impassioned, and even infuriating. Having spent the last few years on the inside of City Hall, I have seen the constant vicissitudes, while the City has gone from pre-Consent Agreement, to the unraveling in bankruptcy court.
Working with politicians, seasoned businessman, young entrepreneurs, and often frustrated residents, I have been often troubled and even confused by the starkly different realities that exist for those who live in and are involved in the City. What I have ultimately seen is that we all want Detroit to make its way out of this slump and be a better place for ourselves and for our families. Yet, how that conclusion is drawn from one individual to another can create quite a bit of tension.
In order to be aware of the forces at work, we must all have a dose of realism. Those who are staunchly focused on the merits of one issue or effort over another have it all wrong. There has been decline for decades, and not everything can be mended in light of the revolution we see both in bankruptcy court and in the dedication of those on the ground.
The challenges our nation sees are playing out a little earlier in Detroit, and perhaps in a more exaggerated fashion. What happens here will come to define what democracy will look and feel like. It would be a tragedy to take for granted your ability to influence that. Yet, our ability to make change and compromise comes back to the power of perspective, as so many different interests are at play. So I ask you to think outside yourself. Think outside the box. There are monumental shifts happening every day, and it is our responsibility to share a story only we can tell.