The Great American Reach Around - The Midwest & Greece & Turkey
Michigan, also known as "Detroit and some other cities", is the great junk yard of the United States. You know those cars you see stalled on the shoulder of an interstate? Those cars come from Michigan. If you're a member of the UAW (United Auto Workers) then you should probably skip to the next page. I have owned two cars manufactured in Michigan and I am not going to be nice about this ugly state.
Around half of Michigan's 10 million people live in and around Detroit, allowing the rest of the state and some of its smaller cities to live free in something approaching natural splendor. Michigan is the state to visit if you want to see the Great Lakes. Think of it as the top and bottom pincer of a geologic crab claw reaching in and snapping the freshwater Pangaea into its component parts.
Lansing, Michigan's capital, has managed to survive the post-industrial shift still going on in the Midwest by transforming itself into a big IT center. When all of these jobs are relocated to Hyderabad then Lansing can complete its transition into a more flexible pornography-based economy. For now it's a pretty nice medium-sized American city.
If you want to visit an even nicer medium-sized city, head to Grand Rapids. Well, okay, you're probably already headed there, because it's one of the convention capitals of America. It's also one of Michigan's fastest-growing cities, shedding the funeral shroud of the auto industry to embrace various biomed companies with sinister William Gibson names like VitaMed and NutroTox. Yakuza assassins have yet to show up on the streets.
There's also Flint, a city being slowly killed over the course of multiple Michael Moore documentaries. By the time he does his movie about the war in Iran we should be ready to finally witness the burial and eulogy for Flint. In the meantime, feel free to stop on by! Flint is a giant version of one of those "living history" Pilgrim villages in New England, only it's about the Great Depression.
That brings us to Detroit. At least in Robocop there was the promise that the whole thing would be bulldozed to make way for Delta City. Actual residents of Detroit can only watch in despair as the American car manufacturers flail around in a slow-motion death. Once Toyota or Honda figures out how to make a pickup that is not vaguely homosexual then it's all over for the American car makers.
If you don't believe me that Detroit is dying then take a look at its population statistics: since its heyday in the 1950s its population has shrunk by almost 50%. In the 1980s it lost over 20% of its population as a result of Detroit automakers suddenly realizing that other countries were capable of producing cars. Since then the downward spiral has continued every single year. Those of you who read the week one column might remember that this is a similar fate to the one avoided by Chicago and still potentially looming for Milwaukee.
Can Detroit's decline be stopped? Hell if I know. Try giving OCP's urban renewal department a call.
Ethnically, Detroit was once a white major city, but white flight has turned into predominantly dark. it does boast America's largest population of Muslims in its suburb of Dearborn. Herein lies Michigan's one advantage over Ohio: as all of the white people and jobs leave Detroit, a new and ethnically diverse group of people are coming to the city. There aren't enough of them to cover the losses, but maybe by 2050 or something we'll end up with a Little Baghdad in Michigan instead of a giant version of Flint.
We voyage on, north to the frozen land of Minnesota and then south with the Mississippi from Illinois to Missouri. What horrors and pleasures await? There is only one way to find out. That way is to click on the next page.