BACK TO DETROIT
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
I’m enjoying the last sensation of this high that I get every time I leave a hotel room to hit the road for another new destination. I am going back to my starting point, Detroit.
Alongside the road, several mosques. Detroit has one of the largest Middle-Eastern communities outside the Middle East. There are also abandoned schools with barred windows.
I get there the day after the official announcement of the city filing for bankruptcy. This “registration of the era” is important because it sets the mood, like Zimmerman/Trayvon case.
Thanks to filmmaker Rola Nashef, I meet her aunt who’s of Lebanese origin. She lets me film her at noon at her home near her husband’s catering store. But the most interesting, as often, is what she says with tears in her eyes off-camera: Her father spent his life in Detroit. Every year, he would spend his vacation time in Lebanon.The last time he decided to extend his stay for a week because the weather there was “so nice”. He died there. He worried on his deathbed about who would take care of 2,500 year-old family olive trees. She promised that she would take care of them each year. She since returns to Lebanon four months each year, and presses some oil that she ships to Detroit and redistributes to her family.
The next day, I meet a group of friends, through Rola still. They seem to support each other in adversity, like a sinking ship. They’re all from Detroit. Slightly worn out by life. They know how to cook and garden. “While waiting”, they hold small jobs, help in building demolition, and retrieve stuff here and there, like some old postcards or other obsolete items.
THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES
The newspapers are full of opinion pieces on the city’s bankruptcy. White America doesn’t want to bail out this city that wanted to have black power and has paid for it by a succession of corrupt leaders. The people of Detroit are bitter about the country’s ingratitude towards the city that made them win the Second World War by converting its automobile industry into military factories. A black person bitterly tells me that he’s relieved that the city was taken over by whites, he’s cynically happy and a little disillusioned by what he sees as his “race’s failure”.
Detroit is like a Sword of Damocles hanging over all of America. An old rusty sword, massive and heavy, that will hurt when it finally falls.