Burning It Down

There are few things as satisfying as orchestrating a good takedown. I speak from experience. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t necessarily mature, but man alive does it feel good to take someone or something down that has done you wrong.

Even if the ‘you’ is bigger than just you alone but you are the one that is able to stand up and say ‘No’. There’s something profoundly righteous in that but righteous though it is it is also a hollow enterprise. You expend so much energy tearing someone down instead of building something that you don’t notice that you at the end you are among the ruins yourself.

But we need to destroy.


People and things need to be held accountable.

There needs to be a standard, even if it is built on sand itself. There has to be something we stand for or as they say we stand for nothing/fall for everything.

But if you are going to build fires, you will get burned.


Take the tearing down of Flint and Detroit.

Both cities were jewels in the industrial landscape and were molded by the hands that drove the nation forward. When the cities fell it shook the nation because their falling was the falling of industry itself and there were many, far too many, that danced among the flames. History. All of that is history. Both cities are just now pulling themselves out of the darkness, the hands on the rope wealthy men again and the question we ask now is – is this real, or another balloon that will find the atmosphere and fall once more?

And we can’t know.

Blind optimism is a fool’s errand but so too is an equally blind cynicism. Neither is the truth and neither sets us free.

For those of us living in Flint it feels as if the surrounding suburbs want nothing more than to see our city bulldozed into the ground and the earth salted. Their own bitterness at the fall of the city and the anger at what they see as the city having become making them see the city in truly black and white. I am sure Detroit gets the same ire from its neighbors. It’s sick and myopic and racist and heartbreaking. It didn’t take long for people to start gnashing their teeth at any story about Flint’s water problems, seeing it more as a lazy populace that wanted handouts and free rides. The horrors were seen as overblown and played up and the image people have of a city of poor people refusing to work only grew. People didn’t want to look deeper, to see the families and children that were suffering because of the horrible decisions others made about their water. Ah, but bit by bit this story is spreading, isn’t it? More and more cities are getting a glimpse of the horror of how very much we have let our public infrastructure fall apart. Ah, but you know, those folks in Flint were faking.




But let’s not act as if it’s rosy here either. It IS dangerous in some areas. There IS poverty that is crippling people. There IS corruption that has wormed its way throughout the city. It goes on and on. We don’t have to like these things, or the other bad things we face here, but to act as if they don’t exist doesn’t make you a champion of the city, no, it makes you a liar. And this city doesn’t need more lies.


It is going to take a lot of work to turn it around and you can’t do that work unless you are willing to see the whole city.


The same can be said as well for the way we tell our stories and spread our news. In this time more than any other the availability of news and its false counterpart are everywhere. The problem is that news, like truth, can be a precarious thing. We like to think of truth with a capital ‘T’, as if it is something inalienable but the fact is that truth has always been something that we trusted in and in those who we learn it from. But truth isn’t necessarily the whole picture, it’s just as much of it as we are given or care to see. Such is news. The news is always going to be colored first by those who report it, then by those who it serves and is about, and then by those who experience it. America is in a time of lefts and rights it seems and the news is consistently colored with that lens. You can see beyond, can see through both lenses and make up your own mind, but is that truth? That’s up to you.


If anything is clear though it’s that we need journalism and journalists more than ever. We need their voices. We need their lens. We need someone to be our eyes, our ears, and our mouths because even if what they are conveying is colored, it is still a view of the world we may not have. Beyond what they report it’s up to us to look deeper. Look further.


The shame of it is that our nation has made the decision, over many years, that corporations are better shepherds than wolves and that they need to be trusted at all costs. Which all sound swell until they gobble up everything and create conglomerates. The news isn’t what it was. That much is clear. And it’s frustrating, and it’s aggravating, but instead of banging our head against the corporations why don’t we focus on creating new pathways to information?

We invest so much time in being negative or acquiescent that we lose sight of the difference we can make if we choose to see beyond one dimension.

That doesn’t mean that some things are not true – girl, the earth ain’t flat, I am JUST sayin’ – true in a True sense, but that we can also make our own truth, good and bad. We can focus on one side or the other, can focus on the good or the bad, or we can learn to find a middle.

A path that takes in both good and bad.

There is little honor in tearing things down.

Just as there is no bravery in smiling during a firestorm.

Strength comes from accepting that things can be both horrible and hopeful at once. THAT is what life is, isn’t it? Horrible and beautiful at the same time?

Past and present and future all existing on the same plane at the same moment because we are pieces of all three.


I wish Flint was in a better place, but it’s getting better, and will keep getting better and if more people work on it and get involved then it will have a better chance to show a more true and diversified success.


I wish the news, local, regional, and national, wasn’t tainted, but it is, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t ALWAYS been tainted. Part of the problem, the part we don’t want to say, is that we sometimes get what we want. News has been dumbed down because people don’t want to invest time and effort into investigating for themselves. They don’t want to see, hear, or know the news. They want to move forward and hope for the best.

But this doesn’t mean that news can’t be better.

Can’t be held to higher standards.

It just means we need to work to hold those standards and exemplify them and as consumers we need to work harder to seek out news that tells us more than just what we want to hear.


None of this is easy.

None of it is fair.

But both things can be rewarding, if we are willing to invest ourselves beyond the simple notions of fanning or ignoring the flames of change.



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