Take a look around you. Look at your neighborhood. There may be shopping centers, or gas stations; maybe there are liquor stores cluttering the boulevard, or bodegas. Did you ever take the time to really see your community? Have you thought so far into its history to wonder how it became what it is today? Look at how the wind rustles the limbs on the trees outside. Take the time to soak in the sounds of the birds singing their early morning jingle as if nothing else in the world matters. Did you know that Mr. Andrews, who is retired and walks his dog religiously at 3:15 P.M. everyday, used to work gruesome hours at the local machine shop to afford his retirement? His wife, Geralynn, loves baking berry cobbler on Saturday mornings simply because of the smile it brings to her husband’s face every single time. Or did you know that Mrs. Williams’ husband served two tours in Iraq; and since his death, she has struggled to provide for their three small children? Did you know? Many of us never take the time to consider such things. We simply see what is right in front of us and take it at face-value without ever pondering the circumstances.
There are several cities throughout America that have both suffered and flourished. Some cities have experienced a tremendous amount of both, ranging from a booming automobile industry helping provide families with everything they had ever dreamed of to failed industrial parks causing children of all ages to wonder when their next meal will be. Famished families search for a way to provide and wish for just one solid reason to carry on in such a cruel, cold world. Those families lie, steal, and cheat their way through survival while the rest of society condemns them for poor choices. When asked to grant a helping hand, people often provide arguments that include statements such as, “let the savages fend for themselves!” Wake up America. The result of such a heartless mentality is corroded cities which were once filled with hope and beauty.
Following WWII, the automobile industry exploded, and Detroit, including its metropolitan, became one of the largest in the country. Henry Ford’s high-wage policy, known as “Fordism,” attracted the best of the best to the city. In no time flat, Detroit was dominated by the automobile industry and became known as the car capital of the world.
Life was good for the residents of Detroit. They earned great pay and benefits to compensate for their hard work and long hours. The city itself flourished and the great people of Detroit lived lavishly within their prosperous community. So, what happened to bring Detroit crashing down? Several things happened; however, for the sake of this article, the automobile industry suffered devastating blows.
Following the Riot on 12th Street, the population of Detroit residents began to decline causing the automobile manufacturing companies to lose valuable, experienced employees. Life as it once was became a distant memory as the war on drugs wrapped its skeletal hands around society’s fragile throat and allowed crime and corruption to take over. Once valuable employees became addicts. Manufacturers no longer had the best of the best employees; they had addicts who cared only about their next fix. The once booming and prosperous community of Detroit started to buckle.
So what. This sort of thing doesn’t happen all of the time, right? What does one city’s fall from success and prosperity have to do with the rest of the country? Well, it does happen. It is not just one city that has suffered the type of hit that our dear “car capital of the world” has suffered. Many other cities have also rose up simply to plummet back down.
In 1946, General Motors developed the Central Founding Division, which consisted of three plants. One of the three plants was located off I74 near Danville, Illinois. Danville grew overnight, or so it seemed, and housed many of the plant’s workers and their families. G.M. provided thousands of jobs to families within the area. The area was mostly a farming community until G.M. showed up. The job paid well and had astounding benefits. Other local businesses popped up and flourished thanks to the revenue G.M. brought in, and young adults gravitated to the city like flying insects to a neon light. There was no stopping this explosion of growth, or so the residents of Danville thought.
In February of 1994, the Chicago Tribune published an article titled “GM Closing Danville Foundry.” Stephen Franklin wrote, “After two years of searching unsuccessfully for buyers for its Danville Foundry, GM said it will shut Danville forever in mid-1996, wiping out more than 1,000 jobs.” The news that Stephen reported that day crushed the lives of over 1,000 families. It placed panic in the hearts of several small business owners. Thousands of men and women wept after having held their breath in hopes of a more positive outcome. The once gleaming city of Danville, Illinois was brought to its knees, just as Detroit was.
The point? This is happening across the map. Cities are struggling to survive after once having the world at their fingertips. Buildings are being abandoned and people left jobless; consequently, once upstanding, law-abiding citizens are being forced to do what they have to do in order to get by. The line between right and wrong is blurred. All the while, people condemn one another for decisions made in desperate attempts to rise up from the depths of poverty.
With such similar history, climate, and cultural background, it would be difficult to differentiate. The situations are so much alike that it raises an intriguing question: Is it Danville or Detroit? Can you tell?…