This week I’ve had more conversations than I’d really prefer with (my) friends who live on the internet/in the computer about Michigan. Some about the Tigers (Yay!), some about the Lions (Tentative yay!), some about Detroit (Kinda yay), some about Snyder (You may be a geek, but GTFO), some just about Michigan itself. I have a few internet-y friends who live in Michigan, most bloggers whose blogs I read and Twitters I follow and whom I adore, but most live in other states or countries. Simply put, most of my (online/internet) friends don’t “get” Michigan.
Example: A certain friend of mine, whom we’ll call P, lives in Boston. Whenever he complains about something going on in Boston or Massachussets he dislikes, he often ends his rant with “but at least we’re not Michigan :D.” Most of the time I chuckle or reply with the ever-witty “SHUDDUP,” all the while gritting my teeth against what I really want to say — what I want to say to most people who criticize Michigan and/or Detroit, or dismiss it out of hand: “You’ve never been here; your criticism is based entirely off what you think Michigan and/or Detroit are like, what you’ve heard about it/them. Either come here and experience it or ask someone who knows and loves the state/city or kindly fuck off with your MI/Detroit hate, kthx.”
I generally don’t say these things, of course. I want to — I really, truly want to — but I don’t. I don’t because defending Michigan and/or Detroit is a losing game. People have too many preconceived notions of Michigan, too many mostly-unfounded fears and prejudices against Detroit, to ever really listen to any argument I may make. They’ve heard that Detroit is the “murder capital of the world” and that Michigan is a “hopelessly sinking ship” too many times to let me, or any other Michigander, change their mind.
Things like the bailout of the automotive industry and crime in Detroit don’t help, either, and their coverage in the media has made things worse. Between “I’m So Bad, I Vacation in Detroit” t-shirts and inaccurate and border-line offensive portrayals of the state and city in film and on TV (Detroit 1-8-7, I’m looking at you), it’s painfully obvious just how most of the world views the state I love and the city I’m terribly fond of.
See, the problem with people who bitch and rant about how pitiful Michigan is and how Detroit should be razed to the ground is that they don’t live here. Most of them have never even been here in any meaningful way.1 The Glenn Becks of the world who compare Detroit to Hiroshima and constantly — and, sadly, without much repudiation — denigrate the state and its largest city do so without any real, functional knowledge of that which they slam so reliably and effortlessly. With most of these people, America itself is off-limits to criticism — BEST COUNTRY IN HISTORY!!!!111one — but Michigan, and especially Detroit, are viable and acceptable targets of mostly-baseless, needlessly hateful national vitriol.
I’ve never said or claimed that Michigan isn’t without its problems, or that Detroit isn’t a city on the precipice of catastrophe; both things are clearly true. Detroit has profound problems — top-level corruption in city government, an abysmal public school system, unbelievable crime rates — and both Michigan and Detroit have serious budget issues and crippling unemployment rates. Michigan has, for the past half-century, been a state that relied far too heavily on the auto industry it helped birth, never realising, it seems, what a dangerous tail-spin the collapse of said industry would throw the state and its people into. But — and let’s all be honest here — the auto industry did not collapse on its own, and Michigan is not alone in its problems. The entire country — the world, really — is in dire financial straits; the auto industry does not exist in a Michigan-only vacuum. Without the recession, without the bursting of the housing bubble that led the entire country to the gates of Hell, none of us would be in the position in which we find ourselves. Clearly, Michigan leaders should have tried to diversify Michigan’s economy years ago, as they’re trying (some would argue in vain) to do now, but to be blunt, Michigans problems are not entirely its own doing.
As for Detroit… oh, Detroit. A city of extremes, Detroit. Massive crime and debilitation corruption, yes, but also amazing people and an incredible culture. The people who dismiss the city out-of-hand have never spent a day wandering through Greektown or taken in a Tigers game or talked to any of its 713,777 citizens, most of whom would defend the city to their deaths. Detroit is the perfect example of the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater: bad exists, without a doubt, but so does good.
These people, these “burn it all down and start again” people, also fail to realise how important Detroit is to the state as a whole. Not only is it our largest and best-known city, it also lends the entire southeastern Michigan area part of its identity. In what other state would you find people who don’t live in an actual city, who live fifty miles away, decorating their cars and homes and bodies with the symbol of a city? Do people in western Massachusetts drive cars with a giant B emblazoned on their rear windshield? Do people in northern Florida have large, Olde-English Ms tattoos on their body? If they do, they do it discreetly, because I’ve never seen it. They do, however, do these things here. People in Livonia have Detroit decals on their cars; others in Monroe get the D etched into their skin. Hell, people born and raised in Romeo, 40 miles north of Detroit, have careers based in part on their Detroit roots (real or imagined). If you live in the Detroit metropolitan area — Metro-Detroit, as it’s usually called — your identity as a Michigander is at least partly influenced by Detroit, whether or not you like or accept it. The state has its own identity, of course, and as many on the western side of the state and “up north” are wont to point out whenever prompted, Michigan does not equal Detroit. The Benton Harbors and Oscodas and Sault Sainte Maries of the state are removed enough from the city to, at times, be a bit offended when someone assumes that because they live in Michigan they live in or near Detroit.2
…Y’know, this post didn’t start out as a “I HATE PEOPLE WHO HATE DETROIT AND/OR MICHIGAN” post. It started out as a “OMG I LOVE FALL IN MICHIGAN” post, it really did. I don’t know how it turned into this. I also don’t know how to end this, so how about I end this “people suck” part and get on to the HAPPYHAPPY post I intended, hmm?
So: AUTUMN IN MICHIGAN IT IS LOVELY AND THERE ARE THINGS I WANT TO DO. Specifically, this weekend I’m hoping to spend a day at Apple Charlie’s an orchard/cider mill I’ve gone to almost every year since I was just a wee little thing. I do want to hit up a few other orchards/mills, including Parshallville Grist in Fenton and Franklin Cider Mill in, er, Franklin (which I keep hearing has the best donuts of any mill in the state), but Charlie’s is kind of a tradition, so it’ll be the first stop.
Once the leaves are in their full colourful glory, I also want to hit up some of the better parks and preserves, like Crosswinds Marsh. I’d also love to find time to visit Tahquamenon Falls in the UP, though that’s a bit iffy. In late October, I’m also spending a day at Crossroads Village with my BFF Marcia and her crazy family (which I say lovingly, of course!).
And then there’s Hallowe’en, for which I have a few options but no solid plans yet. A few friends of mine are taking their children trick-or-treating and invited me to tag along for nostalgia’s sake, but the sad state of trick-or-treating in the 21st century depresses me so that I’d end up being a gigantic hosebeast and pissing people off so… better I don’t do that. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing, but as I (think?) I’ve said, if I dress up at all it’ll be as an Ender(wo)man. If I do, I think I’ll devote one side of the block I carry (paper-mache diamond ore or pumpkin, maybe. I had an Enderman walk off with a pumpkin yesterday. :\) to an explanation. Said explanation will be on the side facing me until questioned, at which point I’d turn it around for the questioner to read. Better than a hundred rounds of “I’m a neutral-to-hostile mob from Minecraft, blah blah blah.”
The closer Hallowe’en gets, though, the more reluctant I am to dress up at all. I’d need to find a blank mask, something to make my arms longer, totally-black shoes… so much effort, so little payoff. Maybe I’ll just make up a sign that reads “Too lazy to dress up, but had I more energy, I’d have been a Minecraft Ender(wo)man.” That counts, right? TELL ME IT COUNTS.
- And I’m sorry, but an hour-long stop at Metro Airport doesn’t count, mostly because, despite way 99.9% of people who’ve been to Metro think, Metro Airport is not in Detroit. It is, instead, in the little-but-lovely town I grew up in, Romulus [↩]
- Though I live in Taylor, about twenty minutes south of Detroit, even I get annoyed at this assumption, though it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did when I lived in Romulus, the city travelers annoyingly and relentlessly assume is (in) Detroit. [↩]