Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Timely and Depressing

Tonight, E. and I watched Roger and Me, Michael Moore's first documentary about the trials of Flint, Michigan as General Motors started closing down the plants that the city had, for so long, relied upon. Given the time that I spent less than an hour away from Flint, I am ashamed to say that I have neither visited the town nor ever watched Roger and Me before tonight. The movie is really depressing — and it's meant to be so. The tragedy of what happened in Flint is really catastrophic. Moore's documentary is filmed as the slow trainwreck unfolds, everyone waiting for their next day of reckoning getting laid off two, three, or four times from different GM plants.

What struck us both is how eery it was to watch this film as the entire country looks like it might be on the precipice heading towards a similar fate as that of Flint. In fact, I was listening to a story on the Marketplace podcast last week about money that states and local jurisdictions received to stablize neighborhoods. In many places, this means providing money to fix foreclosed homes and get them on the market so that they don't bring down the property values of the surrounding homes (which would then cause more mortgage-holders to be underwater, thus fueling the housing mess further); but, sadly, in Detroit (and, presumably, Flint) this money is not going to fix up homes — it's going to demolishing them. It's really sad that the best hope that places like that have to stabilize communities is by destroying them.

Perhaps what rung out most clearly in my mind listening to this tonight is how many rich people, many GM executives, were telling the poor workers of Flint to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and start over. Several had comments about lazy people on welfare and a couple had the attitude of, "Well this is the way capitalism works..." I wonder how many of them are now executives at GM, a company that might go under no matter how much they borrow from the U.S. Treasury, are going to be singing the same tune now. As E. presciently pointed out, I think that the rules are going to change about what the government and corporations should do for people now that it is their job on the line. In the end, we were wondering if there was any way that we could help former workers like those from Flint and those going through similar situations now. We couldn't come up with anything large but thought of a couple that we might start as we try to figure out the best way that might be able to help. If anyone has any ideas, let us know.


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