An interesting cri de coeur in the Free Press Sunday — it was the lead story on the front page, this column by Susan Tompor, headlined, “I never knew Detroit was a dirty word.” It’s a good column, although I think anyone who honestly didn’t know Detroit was a dirty word in the rest of the country needs to get out of town more. I recommend it to you because it’s a pretty fair ground-level look at public opinion around here:
Each night when I go home and turn on the television, I find myself insulted by the righteous tone on cable or the networks. Look, I’ve always understood that many people do not like American cars or union workers or car company CEOs.
I didn’t know that some really, really hate us — and couldn’t care less if one or two or three Detroit carmakers up and dies. So we’d have hundreds of thousands of people suddenly unemployed. And the response is: Who cares?
That shouldn’t surprise anyone, really. I’ve written about this phenomenon before — I call it distancing. It’s a human trait, after a disaster, to look for differences between thee and me, so we can tell ourselves this would never happen to us. It’s actually easier to say “who cares” than to face the fact it might actually come true, and how we all might cope. I seem to recall, during the early-80s recession, when unemployed Michigan autoworkers were pouring into Texas in search of any sort of work, the natives sneeringly referred to them as “the black-tag people,” after the license plates then in use. I also remember a bumper sticker: “Let ’em freeze in the dark.” How I am looking forward to revisiting those happy days.
Let me say only this: I hope the Michiganders keep their deer rifles handy when they head south.
I’m writing this on Sunday, because Monday is going to be busybusybusy and I have the time now. Guess what’s happening outside? Fat fluffy flakes, that’s what. The whole mitten is covered in precipitation, most of it the freezing kind. And so it begins. Someone once told me more babies are born in November than any other month, a statement I could probably verify somewhere if I cared enough (but I don’t). There’s certainly nothing much to do in February, but I always link my birthday month to outright suckage, the real cruelest month. The only thing that saves it for me is Thanksgiving, which, as Jon Carroll points out, is a holiday that requires nothing of us but gratitude and approval of roast turkey. No problemo for either of those.
I’m not the only one with a November birthday, of course:
That was a lovely cake for Kate and Alan. Thanks to Jeffrey Steingarten, Joy of Cooking and the NYT for the recipe; it’s not the “birthday cake” recipe here, but the buttermilk-layer variety with chocolate-satin frosting.
The sweetness of another year, honored, the sweetness of the one to come, hoped-for. That’s what that cake was about. We’ll see what Congress thinks.
Oh, and as bad as it gets here, this was the view from Ricardo’s back yard Saturday. Here’s hopin’ for higher humidity, California:
UPDATE: Just got an e-mail from our frequent commenter (and my neighbor) JohnC, who recommends this Mark Phelan column from today’s Freep, and adds:
Couple other thoughts.
1. The main competitors of GM, Ford and Chrysler are already heavily subsidized by their governments in the form of universal health coverage. (Note: NOT socialized medicine, as some would have you believe, but guaranteed health coverage, in a private system, for all. ) This knocks at least $1,500 PER CAR off the overhead for foreign auto makers. The fact that the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not have universal health coverage is not only mind-boggling, but crippling to our industrial economy.
2. After Sept. 11, the economy, including the auto industry, went into a tailspin. You will recall that the airline industry was quickly bailed out by the government. The automakers, led by GM Chairman Rick Wagoner, rejected suggestions that they seek government help and instead lowered their prices to drive sales.