On this Fourth of July, as we revel in the bombastic nature of patriotism, remember the many things we have to be thankful for, we Americans, and remember the things that must still be changed in this nation of ours, it is also a good time to remember and honor Those That Remain.
Hope. Re-Birth. Change.
These are things that Americans hold close to their hearts as silent but crucial parts of the dream we believe to be ours and ours alone. We believe that it is our manifested destiny that in all our nation has done that we have earned, that we deserve certain things which, though we say out loud that they are life, liberty, and the pursuit of freedom I think we all hold close as well to the notions of hope, re-birth, and change.
We hope that things will get better.
We believe that we can find re-birth.
We trust that we can change.
The We in question can be ascribed to the individual or the nation itself because on both ends it is true.
This is a good time to remember those that never left.
Not just those that chose not to leave but those who never had a choice.
Some choose to remain where they are. They choose to set their rooms firm and deep into the community and to become a part of it. Through good, through bad, they see it through and raise their families and make their friends in those places. In a place like Flint there are few it would seem that choose to stay here. And with good reason, the laundry list of ills is long enough – political ineptitude and indifference, cultural corruption, systematic failure, and a deep seated hatred of the self and the other that has sunk in so deeply with some that all they want to do is burn everything around them. But people do stay. They choose to stay because they can make a difference, or at least have faith that they can. They have built a world in a place, in the case of Flint in THIS place, and it is here they will stay. And if you look past the veil of bad press and plain old bad there is much to stay for – There IS culture, underground and above.
There are people, people who believe in this place and fight for it even against all reason and logic.
There is opportunity here, for change, for re-birth, and for hope.
There is that drive, that need, that obsession to re-make this place, all places into a thing of beauty. To save it from the abyss. Perhaps we vainly feel that to save the place is to save ourselves somehow. Maybe we just like a challenge.
But some remain by choice.
Some remain because they have no choice.
For any number of reasons these people are held here in a sort of purgatory, unable to leave and unable to change their station.
You can ask ten people why these people stay and you may get ten answers. Answers like poverty, addiction, laziness, breeding, any number things that take away the people and make them things, make them numbers, make them a color or race.
We look at those that remain, those that are trapped with a mixture of pity and anger, sorry that they are stuck with no way to un-stick themselves but frustrated at things we know in no depth but perceive as issues that are surmountable if one works hard enough.
Never seeing –
The legacy of poverty that begets itself, the hole you are born in getting deeper and deeper and deeper until all you can do is survive and hope that those that follow you can find a way out of that hole.
Never seeing that lack of options to get out of those holes, the jobs that lead only to minimum wage, the places that don’t want you because you are on assistance, and the people who judge you based on skin, on income, on past, and on perception.
There are those that stay because staying is all they can do.
It isn’t an inheritance based on race, on color, on creed, but on things that start small and add up. An inheritance sometimes begun two hundred years ago or begun with a poor decision, a greedy decision, a stupid decision that dropped like a noose around the neck.
And for both groups that never left, the ones that have chosen to remain and the ones that are trapped alike they are at the mercy of hands beyond their control.
A city like Flint is seeing change, it is seeing hope, and it is seeing re-birth. There are hands at work remaking the city in the image of new owners, new landlords, new masters. Much of the work is laudable, taking back the misused, abused, and abandoned and making something new and whole out of those spaces. Rebuilding the downtown to draw more people there and to make it a Place again and not just a collection of streets. There is great risk in the projects being undertaken, ah, but there too is great reward.
Never believe that the hands that re-build a city do it out of a sheer act of benevolence and altruism. No. There is always something behind the the work, a motive, a reason. And so be it. There is no great sin in benefiting from investment and work that does not subjugate or harm a people. Beyond that I will leave for others to debate. I have no issue with profiting from investment and work you have done. The concern I have, as someone here, as someone now, as someone that, for now, remains, is what image is being built, and to what end.
In a city like Flint private parties can indeed buy up much of a city and do with it as they please. All we, the populace can do is give our input and hang onto our hats. The fact is that for decades the city waited for someone to step in to do something, ANYTHING, and no one did, ergo you can’t have some sort of secret rage when people DO finally step in and DO put their minds to transforming the city. Ah, but there is an implied responsibility when you take on a project as such. You must not simply reflect your ideals, your goals, and your wishes but the needs and wishes of the CITY and ALL of its people. It isn’t enough to pander and say that it’s ‘all for the greater good’, you must MAKE it be for the greater good. And there MUST be a greater good. You that have the wealth and power to have closed door meetings to grease the wheels of progress, that have the wealth to target and buy and transform land, and you that has the means to keep away interests that are not conducive to your ideas.
A city is not merely a collection of streets, and buildings, and properties. A city is a collection of memories, of histories, of PEOPLE – those that chose to remain and those that had no choice.
If you are going to re-build a city, if you are going to re-make it it cannot be in your image but in an image that reflects that city itself. Not those of a certain social or economic strata but the people of the city itself. this doesn’t mean dollar stores and welfare markets on every corner but it also doesn’t mean expensive restaurants and high priced clubs either. It means that mixed with the higher end you need the things that the blue collar and working class need. Things that draw in strangers but keep the rest of us here as well. You can’t keep the arts, and commerce, and entertainment for the chosen few, you must make these things accessible to all of us, whether we choose to remain here or not.
In the end we are all waiting to see what happens next.
Hoping that the city, this city will reflect the many of us that remain here.
We will trust those hands that are re-shaping things and that these hands will be gentler than they are harsh and will take our collective history into consideration.
And we will believe that in the end this revision of the city will not just be about one place, one downtown, but the city as a whole and that the spark that began the change will become an inspiring blaze that will set other hands in motion elsewhere to change the rest of the area.
Whether we like it or not, in the end, we are all in the same place – here. Those that choose to be here and those that have no choice. There is a gulf between us but one thing that unites us – here. This place. We can burn together or we can change together, but it’s up to us. Those with means can change the city as much as they want but the real change comes from the people, and on a day like today, on a day that honors the freedoms hard fought for and hard won, it is good to remember that even in war there is hope, there is change, and there is re-birth.
And for those that remain, we are certainly in the middle of a war.
It’s up to us to win it.