I have been stewing for a few days on the most recent ‘article’ which offers up Flint as public sacrifice to the gods of ‘page views’ and ‘controversy’. I was shocked to see another missive on how terrible, and deadly, and dangerous the city is from another person who has never been within a hundred miles of here but I was more surprised at the generosity of everyone who shared the article on social media. Each share brought more eyes to that article and website and each look brought more ad revenue, and all of that means that the ploy of a lazy writer worked – she got lots of hits on a baited story. So my issue became not with her, but with us. Ignorance I have come to expect when it comes to Flint. Flint is a symbol of the American dream rusted out. It’s a terrible symbol for how the nation has moved away from the Blue Collar and towards the yellowed collars of staff wages. We are a city declared long dead despite the breath we still take. Flint has become the weapon of the Left and the Right. Blame it on the unions. Blame it on the blacks. Blame it on the conservatives. Blame it on the liberals. Blame it on everyone but US, the people who helped dig the grave, shallow though it is, for Flint. No, we are not dead, but we play the part of ghost very well. We let people goad us into action instead of taking action ourselves. We act outraged when we see yet another story about our crime and violence and poverty though we never seem to find ways to actually address those issues. We march, we rant, we shake our fists but we don’t deal with the issues.
We avoid them.
We talk about how Flint is flourishing. And it is. In pockets. But the city is a whole, and as a whole the body of the people is sick.
But we have become a city of self-esteem issues, and with reason. It gets hard to hear how awful the place you love is and how dangerous and how stupid you are for staying. Yet…this is the world. You can paint every place with a broad brush and have a chance to touch on some reality. Cities are dangerous, and they wither and thrive, wither and thrive. They are living just as we are. So we stand with them, by them, behind them, but we rarely lead. We can list off a dozen good things that are good about Flint as we say ‘but, but, but’ when someone brings forth a valid point as to an issue in Flint.
Some of us are violent.
Some of us are poor.
Some of us are thieves.
Some of us are lazy.
But not all of us.
And there’s the rub.
The truth of Flint isn’t to one side or the other, it’s in the middle and we shouldn’t feel we have to plead a case to people who don’t want to hear it as to why this place is special.
Why is Flint special?
Because here we are. Despite the articles, despite the issues, despite what the world thinks and says…here we are.
Flint has one of the nation’s largest classic car events, which is entering its tenth year. It draws hundreds of thousands of people each year.
Flint has a road race that draws people from around the globe to run with twenty plus thousand others.
Flint has a motorcycle event that celebrates the love of bikes and that lifestyle and we have it without major drama, crime, or chaos.
We are a city of amazing non-profits that help not just the city, but the region, and the world.
We are a city that has events going from late Spring until December, many of them free or low cost to attend.
We are a city that has a thriving arts scene where artists are finding ways to get their work out without the use of galleries. Where musicians have the support system and network to work on their craft and play live shows. Where filmmakers can work together and create films in this area using local locations and local talent.
We are Flint.
It’s time to start acting like it.
We need to stop denying the issues but also not let ourselves collapse under their weight.
We need to stop kow-towing to the people who hate us without cause, speak ill without ever coming here, and to let our actions be our response when people spread half-truths about the city. We need to invite investors, and leaders, and creators, and the world to come to see Flint. To experience the city for themselves. We are a city with four major educational institutions and another on its way. We have the youth here, we just need to inspire them, challenge them, entertain them, and most of all give them reasons to stay. We haven’t just gone through a brain drain, Flint has gone through a soul drain and it’s time to plug the hole.
Flint is a great city because it has endured.
We have endured.
Yet the enemies are not without, they are within.
They are us.
We feel an ownership of every inch of the city and make sure that people know we feel that ownership, whether we’re right in that feeling or not. We are happy when an arsonist’s flame takes away a blighted housse but cry and wail when it is our neighbor’s house that is damaged in the process. We want criminals taken care of but don’t mind when the justice of the street catches them first. And any progress, painful, hard, and controversial we try to halt, stop, and destroy.
The enemy is us.
It’s always been us.
It’s not enough to be a cheerleader, and it’s not enough to stamp your feet and try to halt or otherwise tamper with everything you don’t like that is happening. It’s not enough to sit idly by.
You need to be a part of the city.
And being a part of the city means loving it, and being active in it.
And it’s only you that can decide what that means.
I know what it means for me, and in my way I make a difference. Because I am involved. And that’s the key. We get upset when people speak ill of Flint but so few of us are part of the city. We are voyeurs. It’s hard to get upset at people who have never been here and speak ill of us when we live here but never do more than live here. We have to make Flint a home again.
We need to invest in not just tomorrow but in today as well, because it’s only that way that we can get people excited about coming here, being here, and staying here. It’s the old adage of loving yourself and others will love you. Start making Flint a city we can all be proud of and people will notice. It won’t be tomorrow, or the next day but it will happen. But first we have to convince ourselves that Flint’s a place worthy of positive attention.
There’s a point where outrage isn’t enough. It takes more to build a community, and what Flint needs is its community to be re-built and strengthened. We need to look out for one another again. We need to care what is happening here. Most of us choose to live here so we need to remind ourselves WHY we are here. I came to Flint because it was where my friends were, where the activity was, and where there was so much possibility. Flint is a city that has so many opportunities that have yet to be seen. I am someone who hated grade school, and didn’t like college, and has never done well with being social but who helped build Flint’s monthly Art Walk that now thrives. I am someone who helped create alternative events that weren’t being done here. And I helped create Flint’s first horror convention, something that draws celebrities and vendors to town and with them hundreds of fans. I never had training or skills to do all of that, but I believed in what I was doing, I believed in Flint, and I did it. I do it. And those things, in there ways, help. They help to bring people here, and to remind them that Flint has a lot of beauty and wonder left to it.
And if I can do it, anyone can.
Flint needs to stop relying on everyone else to make us feel good about ourselves. It’s time to give ourselves our own reasons for pride, and excitement. We need to stop giving our attention to the bullies and pay more attention to each other, because we’re worth it.
Flint is worth it.
And Flint is far, far from dead so it’s time we stopped planning its funeral .
3 thoughts on “On Being An Apocalyptic City And Finding Hope In The Flames”
Very well written article! Thank YOU for the wake up call! I personally have been working downtown Flint for about 3 years now and I love to walk around the city with co-workers on our lunch hour. I have grown up in Genesee County and for the first time in my life……I am really getting to see for myself just how wonderful our city is! Just this past Sunday, my family and I attended church down there and then walked over to the Torch for lunch! It has been an amazing wake up call for me and my thoughts just this past Sunday when I was down there was “It is time for us to wake ourselves and our friends up and bring ths City back to life ….because WE are the people of Flint! It is up to us and YOUR article confirms what I have been feeling for several months now! Thank YOU for writing it!
Thank you for reading and more importantly for staying!
Bay City and Midland have already found their revival…Saginaw is on it’s way and I believe so is Flint…and when done, Mid Michigan will be a center of cultural and economic activity that will be a draw to talent around the world.