“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Seneca (Roman Philosopher)
Kwame Kilpatrick’s conviction of multiple counts of corruption, racketeering and tax evasion leaves most Detroiters a bit dazed. It’s not happy news. It’s more like hearing that a long and fatal illness of a friend has finally run its course. Not cause for celebration but relief that the suffering is over.
Like so many I wanted to believe in Kwame. I voted for him twice. In the first year of his second term I got a call from one of his staffer asking me to host an informal meeting with my neighbors. The agenda? Anything we wanted to talk about. He sat in my living room with about 40 neighbors and conducted a two hour charm fest. Three of us wrote about our impressions in the Palmer Woods Neighborhood Newsletter. My comments included;
First, it’s clear that Mr. Kilpatrick wants to be a very good mayor. He exhibited strong listening skills and seemed genuinely concerned about the issues important to us. Given his relatively young age and Detroit’s political dynamics, he is likely to have a long tenure as mayor if he chooses. His willingness to listen and desire to do well was reassuring.
My neighbor Brian Johnson took an even bigger gulp of the Kawme Kool-Aid;
On the walk back to my home, I remember feeling a strange satisfaction that has seldom, if ever, come from a brush with a political figure. I felt proud. Proud once again, that Mr. Kilpatrick was the mayor of the city that has adopted me as a loyal son. I felt that this indeed was the person that I had voted for the first time around and I was optimistic that, perhaps, the job of leading the Renaissance, leading the rehabilitation of our beloved Motown, was still something that, not only he could do, but that he could do…well.
Betrayal is the word that most readily comes to mind. I don’t want to say that it was all bullshit. Pathological liars are so good at lying because when they say it they really believe it. But we now know that Kawme didn’t have an administration so much as he had a criminal enterprise. What are the lessons?
It’s our obligation — especially journalists, but really all citizens — to be skeptical and at times openly adversarial toward people with power. This thing called self-governance is not a team sport and the rest of us needn’t play pulling guard so some mayor/governor/CEO/labor leader can run one in.
I’m hopeful that Kwame’s conviction marks the beginning of a new era in Detroit politics. Time to throw away that 70’s playbook with chapters on “protecting Detroit Jewels” and “being vigilant against a take over by suburbanites”. Real and sustainable solutions to Detroit’s problems are going to be regional in nature. It would be nice to see the grass cut on Belle Isle. I could care less who cuts it.
We will be electing our city council members by district for the first time since 1919. This is an opportunity to launch some new political careers. It’s an opportunity we need to maximize.
Old Time Religion
I’m a recovering Catholic. I spend eight years in Catholic grade school and four in a Catholic Seminary High School. Yes, we had fifty students in a classroom and corporal punishment was not unheard of – but I remember it all fondly. The Sisters of St. Joseph taught me to read and the Profs at Sacred Heart Seminary taught me to think. But I’m not so fond of that Church today.
I was reminded of the Vatican II church who’s social gospel inspired me in the 60’s and the 70’s when reading Shane Claiborne’s article in Esquire titled “What if Jesus Meant All That Stuff?”
The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.
I’m praying for the Cardinals in the conclave but I’m not holding my breath.