EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


July 28, 2013

Column: Detroit’s ruin was a long time coming

If you leave on the freeway well before dawn, when the early morning is dark, the skyline seems as magnificently inspiring as most any other American city — beckoning the bold and ambitious to follow in the footsteps of the giants who, in the process of building an industry and a country, constructed what once was known improbably as “The Paris of the Midwest.”

If you leave on the freeway well before dawn, when the early morning is dark, you cannot see the burned out houses that stretch for miles. The rotting buildings in neighborhoods that appear war-torn are invisible. It is possible to imagine what it once was and perhaps could be once more. But then the sun shines on the city of Detroit and your heart is broken, and you remember why leaving for other climes might be a good idea.

Much was made in Detroit about the unprecedented two-minute ad on which Chrysler spent millions of dollars (yours, mine, theirs?) during a recent Super Bowl. It featured rapper Eminem driving along Woodward Avenue in a new 200 while the voice-over artist declared that, because the city has been to hell and back, Detroiters know a little something about luxury cars, about toughness, about perseverance.

Chrysler and Eminem produced a great commercial. For two minutes, Detroiters of every age and race may have nodded their heads and felt a surge of pride for their hometown that pulsated with the beat. Some exhibited the bizarre, insatiable need for national validation of any kind by shedding tears of joy or cheering.

Already inclined to hail news of a few dozen new jobs somewhere near the city limits as a sign of significant recovery, city boosters, Pavlov-like, glommed upon the commercial as evidence that the rest of the country would suddenly begin to take Detroit seriously and the Motor City’s journey to hell and back would be complete. Paris of the Midwest would return in no time because a two-minute spot made it so. Too many ascribed talismanic qualities to an advertisement, a slogan.

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