Living in Flint it gets hard to see the future beyond the crumbling facade of the past. Every few months it seems as if there’s another article, another opinion piece, another poll that lists Flint as a horrible place to work, to live, and to spend your time and money. It’s as if Flint is not just the punching bag of the school but has become the pariah, the symbol for why you hated being there in the first place. Flint has become a symbol, a warning against corporate life and corporate towns. Yet, who could blame a city for latching onto an industry and letting it become your culture in a time when American pride and American industry were not only synonymous but were all that existed? For me, I am long past blaming GM for the woes here, just as I am past blaming filmmaker and adoptive son Michael Moore for the stigma we have. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the country. Here there is still an obsession with how GM left, as if we are gilted lovers, and how Moore took advantage of that situation and profited by telling the story of our collapse. There is a lot of bitterness still here, a lot of pain, but as frustrating as it is I can see why it exists. It’s hard to heal when the people around you won’t let you heal. How can Flint get over its past when at every turn there is a pundit or magazine using the city as an example of ruin and decay?
There is a point where it has to end. Where our need as a society to kick someone when they are down, to ogle the rich and lambaste the poor, and the decision to keep pointing out our cities in decline as we pat the cities on the rise on the back has to end. What purpose does it serve? Beyond the headline, beyond site hits, beyond the flame-out fame you get when you bully the defenseless, what good does it do?
In the end we’re in this together. As a city, as a state, as a nation, as a world. If we keep kicking one another when we’re down there’s going to be awfully few of us left to help the rest of us up eventually. This is about carving out a future day by day, person by person, a future where all of us, our kids, our families, our friends, and the friends of those friends, can live and thrive. I am not saying we will end poverty, and greed, and the dark things in our hearts. I am not claiming that by simply greeting one another as we pass each other by we can change a culture but I am saying that there has to be a point where we stop fueling the fires of decline. We have to stop the engines of decay. I want Chicago, and Cleveland, and Milwaukee, and Beijing, and Flint, and Moscow and every city to rise. I want a new golden age where we encourage one another and stop throwing mud at each other. A time where we don’t have to like one another but can love one another for our very humanity. A time when we can stop being local, national, and global bullies to one another.
Flint has a lot of work to do. We have a lot of crime, a lot of blight, a lot of poverty, and a lot of pain, and it’s going to take some time and a lot of work to change the culture here but it can be done. It’s hard to get the work started in earnest though when with every step there is another stone thrown at you from the past. And the older I get I wonder if it’s the culture of Flint that has gotten so bad or if it’s the culture of America that has become so mean, and cruel, and bad and they hate Flint for what they see reflected in the city. They see their futures.
But it doesn’t have to be.
As a race, humans will always falter, and will always sway more towards the easy, selfish way more than it sways toward the giving and generous way but in the end, we all see that there is one simple truth that shines past creed, color, religion, sexuality, and all the rest, and that is that we’re all in this together now and the only way we’re gonna make things better is to stop making them worse.
There is no bravery in bullying.
There is no victory in despair.
There is nothing to gain from watching someone suffer.
And in the end we’re all in this together.
It’s time we started acting like it.