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“Fifty years after the atom bomb, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are gleaming, thriving metropolises. After 50 years of failed government promises in Detroit, the money has dried up, welfare has run out and the city is headed for fire sale. With cities and states across the USA not far behind and teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Detroit is no longer just a punch line. It is a warning of the future to come for millions of Americans.”
‒ Charles Hurt
This is a story about the politics of anger. The quote above forms the last paragraph of a review of Charlie LeDuff‘s gut-wrenching book, Detroit, An American Autopsy. It’s a powerful book that speaks volumes not only about Detroit but also about most big cities in America today – cities where petty crime, gang violence, drug addiction, prostitution, poverty, vandalism, vagrancy, filth, abandoned buildings, arson, and despair have been on the rise for decades. Remarkably, LeDuff’s chronicle of Detroit’s descent avoids partisan rancor. His is a story of a city suffering from a chronic condition that has taken an ugly turn and become terminal. And, yes, he’s angry; very angry.
There’s a lot of anger in America, Europe and the Middle East and, come to think of it, everywhere. Anger like everything else has gone global. We recognize it when we see it – in others, that is – but it’s here, too, it’s on the rise, and it explains as least as much about politics in contemporary America as such other deadly sins as greed and power lust. In fact, it’s probably more central as a motivating force behind our dysfunctional politics than either.
Take Charlie LeDuff, for example. LeDuff’s anger is visceral. He makes no attempt to hide it – and no apologies. He’s angry with leaders who don’t lead and politicians who make promises they don’t even try to keep. He spares no one and directs his anger at both of our major political parties. And, of course, he’s right to do so.