I have to start with Detroit, so as to diffuse any efforts to contradict and derail my thesis here with the rejoinder, “Yeah, well, what about Detroit?” So I’ll give you Detroit. Detroit is a good example of how anything that can go wrong will, and did, and yes it’s a microcosm, (though not so micro), of everything that went wrong in American cities. And wow, did things go wrong.
Let’s focus on the ‘what went wrong’ thing for a minute while I’m on that, because if I hadn’t seen it happen, I wouldn’t have believed it. The wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world, RIGHT AT THE EXACT INTANTANEOUS PEAK of its wealth and power, witnessed the near collapse, (and sometimes out-and-out collapse), of many of its great cities. Astonishing. Everybody fell in love with the Suburban Idea, the Wonder Bread of American geography. People moved out of cities, and never looked back. The not-looking-back was a collective, and colossal mistake we made. The glee, yes, smug glee, with which suburbanites dismissed the travails of THEIR VERY OWN cities, was a blot and a disgrace on the American project. Project? Do we have a project beyond shopping and TV?
But anyway, to my point, if I have any energy left to make it. Cities are coming back, is what I want to report, in case you haven’t heard. People want to live in cities again, and young people are moving into them. This is a great thing for America, and everybody should be happy about it. If you are very NOT happy about it, then, well, count me pleased that you are miserable.