Apparently a whole lot of people around the country took a look at the very strange campaign advertisement for Debbie Georgatos that Wilonsky posted here Sunday morning -- a video to promote her unsuccessful campaign for chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party. Judging by the comments, most people focused on the elements of elephant abuse and incipient psychosis, but I, of course, was struck by a certain theme at the very end of her video -- Detroit abuse.
In her spooky-doo apocalyptic vision of what would happen to Dallas if she were not elected, Georgatos showed images of bombed-out buildings and decay in the Motor City, my old hometown.
It so happens that yesterday a New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman, published an online story about Detroit and the role of urban farming and local food in creating a whole new sense of community and optimism there. I guess I can't get you behind The Times's paywall to read the whole thing, but I think I can stay within the confines of fair use by bringing you a couple of excerpts:
"Imagine blocks that once boasted 30 houses," Bittman writes, "now with three; imagine hundreds of such blocks. Imagine the green space created by the city's heartbreaking but intelligent policy of removing burnt-out or fallen-down houses. Now look at the corner of one such street, where a young man who has used the city's "adopt-a-lot" program (it costs nothing) to establish an orchard, a garden and a would-be community center on three lots..."
If that seems like a lot of imagining for one day, then listen to this quote from a Detroit resident:
"As Jackie Victor, co-owner of the Avalon Bakery, an unofficial meeting place for the Detroit food movement, says to me, 'Imagine a city, rebuilt block by block, with a gorgeous riverfront, world class museums and fantastic local food. Everyone who wants one has a quarter-acre garden, and every kid lives within bike distance of a farm.'"
I have dealt with Ms. Georgatos on the phone as a reporter. She's a Tea Party person, of course, but I found her to be fairly reasonable, just very conservative. I think Detroit probably is outside her ken, but I have to imagine that if she were to go there and see what Bittmann is writing about, she would heartily approve, and maybe her heart would even fly up. Who can be against gardening?
I think the Tea Party party and I share belief in one narrow but important area. We all believe that personal destiny is a creature of morality and values.
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What Debbie Georgatos doesn't know about Detroit but I do -- because I lived there a very long time ago -- is that people in Detroit are formidable. You're talking about people whose parents came with nothing in their pockets from Kentucky, Mississippi, Iran and the Ukraine to lift their families up by building cars and trucks with their hands. People from families like that grow up tough, obdurate and optimistic.
Detroit will rise from those ashes. Its people will lift the city up with their hands. They will do it with community gardens and neighborhood farmers markets, local food and salvage art. I'm sure Georgatos knows that hardship evinces nobility in human beings just as surely as fat times corrupt them.
Nobody turns his or her back on Detroit. I can give you several reasons why that's not a good idea.
OK, if you racist commenters out there know of any other racist commenters who haven't gotten out of bed yet, could you give them a call? I'd like to get this next part over with as quickly as possible.