Back in the late 1980's, I had a subscription to Mother Jones, a hell-raising, left-populist magazine named after a famed hell-raising, left-populist labor heroine. In the early 1990's, I was thinking of resubscribing, but an acquaintance, much further to the left than I ever will be, insisted it had become the People magazine of the left. I steered clear.
I have been reading Kevin Drum's blog for a few weeks now, and it vindicates, in some way, my previous opinion of MJ. Drum's pieces are thought provoking, more than occasionally indignant, and do not deal in either trite formulas or stale jargon. For that reason, many on the left don't like him.
While reading him this afternoon, I came across a link to this story. The author's search for understanding why a seven-year-old girl was accidentally shot and killed by a Detroit SWAT officer on a mistaken raid on her home ends up providing a portrait not just of a city in rapid physical and civic decline. The story shows, in graphic, heart-rending detail, what happens when a city is abandoned, first by the businesses that helped create it, then the political infrastructure that sustained it, and finally any sense that the city contains human beings in need. The quote that serves as the title of this post is from the 39-year-old mother of two murdered sons, a plea that seems to fall on ears deafened to the cries and pleas from our abandoned cities.
I offer no answers to the multi-layered issues and questions this article presents. I offer only the article itself, a piece to be studied, read and re-read. In the face of the overwhelming testimony of decline, despair, and death that is the current reality of so much of the city of Detroit, I don't know if "answers", as a concept, a word, a set of possible policies, even exists. All the same, the city is not some abstract thing, but the place, long abandoned by the auto-industry, that 800,000 people still call home. These 800,000, long before we start devising "solutions" to their "problems", need to be heard. They need someone to acknowledge that their cry for help has not gone out to a silent universe.
Beyond that, we need to be silent. Listen, weep silent tears for the Aiyanas and Chaises and all the rest of those whose deaths seem too routine to bring about even mourning in their communities. Listen again. Then keep listening for more Detroit voices, more cries from the depths of our American Golgotha, a place outside the walls of American acceptability, where it seems people are condemned for no other reason than they live there.
So, just read this article, always with one ear open for more voices, more cries that need to be heard.