SCENE SIX : TIM GOES TO DETROIT – DYING CITIES
Tim’s entourage was on its way to Detroit for the next public meeting.
Detroit is where Americans lived the big American dream. It is where Hollywood made its movies and the world got its cars from. Today the city is only a faint shadow of its past glory. It has assumed a grey color with an overwhelming population of the aged and the homeless. Cities like Detroit, which mourn their bygone affluence, have become ideal breeding ground for the vision of a better future. The city still stands, and just like Kentucky, looks sullen. It is home to hundreds of thousands of people who got a raw deal from the American economy and now have nowhere to go. They eke out a living with whatever limited opportunities the city offers. The skilled have left for other cities and it is now home to the aged and those who refused to leave despite the decline of the city. Until not very long ago, the city was a favorite haunt for visitors to the States. Even in the third world, Detroit had gained in popularity because of the name it had carved out in the manufacturing sector. The movies that were made here were beamed around the world and the culture and life of the city seemed like it had always been around.
When the recession arrived, no one imagined that Detroit would get hit so badly. Not just Detroit, other cities like Philadelphia too bore the brunt of the economic collapse. The pundits in New York look at this as part of a business cycle that behaves like a wave. The loss of one city will, according to many, give rise to a new city, and this will translate into new opportunity, new jobs, new vision and a country that marches on. America’s loudest applause is reserved for those who fight odds to continue living the great American dream.
Behind the crystal palaces that offer Americans a colorful imagination, Detroit is an example of defeat in this ugly war that is fought on this Promised Land. The war creates in its wake, economic cycles that bear forth causalities by the thousands, and this seems a just war to fight for the big presidents of the firms on the Wall Street who exhort the working classes to keep striving and work towards the mirage of bettering their lot. Each cycle creates little oases of hope, and destroys several others where a way of life comes to an end and people start all over. While America goes about bombing the world for achieving its own foreign policy ambitions, many cities within this great nation look bombed out and dilapidated.
The venue chosen for Tim’s speech is the Banker’s Retreat. Known for surviving the great depression, this building is home to one of the most significant banks of the 20th century. It, however, went under in 2007 and ever since has been attached as part of a law suit involving the promoters and the state. The republicans have managed to secure the auditorium which is attached to this old building through a special order of the court. Tim’s persistent habit of using symbols of America’s legacy to make his speeches has certainly added a punch to his campaign. Standing before buildings that were known as signs of America’s prosperity, he drives home the point that the country has erred in managing its internal affairs.
In Kentucky, it was the old auditorium without electricity. It was Tim’s decision to go with it just so he could add to the symbolism of Lincolns candle lit speech made a couple of centuries ago. Moreover, he feels politicians should be able to go to the darkest and poorest corners of the world to preach righteousness; because it is there that the real challenges lie. Such places are often avoided, because often it is there that leaders face the ire of the crowd. Choosing Kentucky and now Detroit was Tim’s way of fanning the fire that was beginning to sweep across America.
As Tim watches the fields on either side of the road fleeing past, his mind is fighting a losing battle to brush aside an uneasy thought that makes its unwelcome appearance persistently. Debby is becoming more demanding, and has started behaving as though only she should comprise of Tim’s world. She wants to see more of him and her incessant text messages have begun to play on Tim’s nerves. The more he tries to ignore her messages, more pestering she becomes, and her language takes the tone of accusation and veiled threats. He tries to keep her amused, and in the shortest possible way he texts her pacifying replies. Chris cannot be blamed for becoming annoyed, because Tim’s attention is divided between the briefing on the day’s schedule and the passionate messages that were filling his inbox.
“I am on my way to Detroit. In a few hours, I will be addressing a gathering. Honey, I need to be prepared.”
“The sweetness is seen only in your words.”
“I am being briefed. Can you let me concentrate?”
“That reminds me of the brief you forgot to pick up from my room. The red one. Very un-republican. I mean the color. Should I show it to my republican father?”
“No, it won’t fit him. As a matter of fact, since 2000, our party is identified with the color red.”
“Suits you. A paradox.”
“Thanks to your father.”
“The moment you are in your republican rob, you forget me.”
“I am always a republican.”
“Except when you are over my naked body.”
Tim looked up at Chris who was looking intently at him. Tim feared that Chris was able to read his mind.
“Forgive me for just another moment. I will catch up with you. It is damn urgent.”
“It ought to be”, Chris replied.
“I need you always with me. Why don’t you understand that?”
“I do understand. Why don’t you understand my political commitments?”
“Take me along. Maybe, you can pimp me for more votes. I’m sure I’ll be of great help in pleasing your political allies”
“Shut up! You’ve lost your mind. I’ll put up with no more of this nonsense.”
“Bastard!” Chris couldn’t have missed noticing Tim’s body suddenly stiffening.
“Alright, how about meeting in Washington in a few days? We can sort this out and perhaps you can understand where I am coming from.”
“Much better.” A smiley appeared on Tim’s screen and she was gone. Tim took a deep breath and looked into the eyes of Chris for any hint of suspicion. Tim couldn’t see what he looked for. On occasions like this, Chris would put up a poker face. He was an old bird.
Debby was becoming more of a burden. While he enjoyed his time with Debby, it just was not fitting into his scheme of things. He thought about the party at Warren’s farm, and how he had missed the opportunity to meet the collective. If it was not for Uncle Theodore who managed to secure a meeting with them after the public address in Detroit, Tim wouldn’t be able to forgive himself. Agreeing to meet Debby was a bargain to secure a temporary truce. He knew for sure that he had to stop succumbing to her frequent demands. He also knew it was going to be tough given his relationship with Warren. Debby was getting him into a labyrinth, wriggling out of which was becoming more and more difficult.
On the way to Detroit, Ray was busy sending out media messages, uploading Tim’s social media broadcast and answering calls from local correspondents about Tim’s whereabouts. Ray was the kind of man that politicians and businessmen just loved; an amiable go-getter. Politics for him was a space that allowed him to make a comfortable living. It dint matter to him what the politician’s vision was. What mattered was whether he had faith in Ray’s ability to manage his public image. It was this trust that drew out the best of Ray’s abilities in serving his pay masters. There were no enemies in his world. There were only colleagues for him even if it meant attacking the opposite camp which had old friends and acquaintances.
Tim’s schedule for the day would start with his arrival at the Michigan War Memorial at 9 am. The memorial was built in honor of those who had laid down their lives in the civil war. The venue was chosen by Tim to remind America about the debt they owed to those who fought on the southern side. If it wasn’t for the war, the United States would not have existed. Obeisance had to be paid to those who died on either side for their participation in an event that was to change the history of the people living there.
The local press was all eager to capture this moment at the memorial, and hundreds of curious onlookers had gathered there after learning that Tim’s entourage would be stopping by to pay respects to the fallen heroes. Seeing the large number of people there, Tim decided to make a short address to them before proceeding further.
“This great nation was built upon the sacrifices of the people in whose honor we stand here today. We need to recapture the spirit of Detroit, and bring the city back from its ashes like a phoenix stronger than before.”
“There is no greater substitute for man’s labor, and this lovely city is a shining example of this.”
He waved out to the crowd and handed over the mic to the presenter who now urged everyone present to head towards the “retreat” to hear and meet their dear friend Tim. Tim was then whisked away towards the banking center. While approaching the banking center, Tim’s spirits were further raised. The streets were lined with placards and banners. There was a formidable presence of the republicans on the streets, something that told Tim that the party was getting more warmed up towards him. He remembered having a brief altercation with James in Kentucky. There seemed to be a sense of support amongst the cadres here. The young certainly loved him. He would have wanted the older members to soften up to him. Only time would tell if that would happen.
Perhaps Warren had worked his charm over his colleagues within the more conservative sections to come forward and support the republican cause. There was still time for a rival candidate to jump into the fray, but for the time being there seemed to be a silent approval for his candidature. As his cavalcade approached the venue it slowed to a halt just so he could walk the last hundred feet. On Tim’s way to the main entrance there was a row of little children who had turned up in their Sunday bests to greet him. Some held up American flags while others wore T-Shirts with embellishments of the republican elephant. Tim reached out to a little girl, carried her in his arms and smiled into the waiting camera.
Chris had the picture promptly posted on Tim’s Twitter handle #Annie (thank you for your support).
The auditorium was equipped with a green room and it was here that Chris and Ray were to brief Tim. The place had not been used for a very long time and the local volunteers had put in some good work in giving the place a decent look. Tim’s speech had been prepared keeping in mind the present state within America, the dying cities and the people who lived through the death of their homesteads. After Kentucky, Chris had decided against debating much with Tim though he knew that Tim stood on a slippery ground by advocating a far left ideology while representing a conservative right party. To Chris’s mind it was important for Tim to highlight the marvelous story of this great nation. In its brief history of existence of just a few hundred years, America has become the superpower and guardian of civil rights and democratic principles. These attributes of the nation was an achievement to be proud of when other civilizations had taken centuries to evolve, only to crumble away. What mattered to Tim, it seemed, was America’s moral debt to the people of the world who in their own way have contributed to making America the advanced country it is today.
Chris did occasionally let in a few of his thoughts which he felt were essential for Tim to keep a note of. For instance, he wished for Tim to also set aside time to address rallies in the more influential parts of the states where the republican votes were concentrated, and it was there the people needed an assurance that Tim didn’t really mean all the socialism he so vociferously spoke about. He also hoped Tim did not rake up issues like homosexuality. From the election point of view, it would not act as a game changer in deciding which way the balance would tilt, but speaking less and less about it would galvanize the ecclesiastical society behind the Republicans. These societies had not just the money but also interests overseas which Tim could tap into if he got elected to the office. If America needed to remain the torchbearer of the 21st century, it needed on board every significant pressure group that could help it frame policies for the third world. The Evangelical project around the world has entered the most poor and vulnerable nations posing as saviors of the marginalized. With the financial muscle they display, governments are only too keen to co-operate with these bodies in spreading education, developing health facilities and for image building exercises. The republicans have had a close relationship with these organizations, and it was extremely important to make the right noises in the run up to the elections.
The local republican head, Mr. Jenkins, walked in to greet the three. A democrat who believed in change two presidential terms ago, he had now firmly etched himself within the Republican cause believing that Timothy Arnold was the future this country wished to lay its bets on. He saw the occasion as an opportunity to acquaint himself with the new leader.
“I’m very glad to be hosting you today.”
“Thank you, and I must say you have done a marvelous job bringing the event together”, Tim responds with a genuine smile.
Having been a democrat, he offers some interesting insight on local politics here.
“Despite all the economic mess, the voting population still has faith in the Democrats. They largely disagree with the Republicans on a variety of issues that they hold dear to them. Families here have handed over their sons for America’s war on terror, the old have been on the receiving end of rising health care and then there is a housing issue that seems to be in the dumps. The people here see the Republicans as the evil that got America into this mess in the first place. To them, the Democrats need another term to pass the important legislations that are central to the economy’s revival.”
He continues after pausing for Tim’s response which doesn’t come. “The recent announcement by Richard on controlling gun trade has been received really well in areas like Detroit which has seen rising crime ever since people have started losing jobs.”
These inputs from Jenkins help Tim shape his speech in a way that he can with all honesty communicate his vision to a public that is any way looking for a ray of light in difficult times. They are in misery and they will appreciate a remedy if presented in a straight forward manner. Tim is also aware that his vision is one that addresses the issues of these very people in the dying cities. As a politician who is also engaged in business, he begins to echo Chris’s thoughts that it was important to reach out to a wider audience and have a dialogue with them on the issues he wishes to address. It was important for America to re-think its foreign policy doctrine as well as its thoughts about issues as serious as health care. The rich of today might be the poor of tomorrow, and while their views might be in tune with the conservative American view point, it is essential to think about the larger consequences of adhering to policies that have only hurt the American interest in the long run.
The three leave the room escorted by Jenkins and proceed towards the auditorium. The room is packed with people waiting to hear Tim. There are those who have skipped work for the day. There are moms who want their little children to see what someone so young could achieve. Then there are the aged and infirm hoping to find a crutch through what Tim is about to say.
As he enters the room, he is welcomed with deafening applause. Moving around the stage waving to all sections, he raises his hand turning it into the customary fist that the press was so used to capturing and beaming across America.
Tim approaches the mic and begins, “Hello Detroit!”
To this the crowd responds with a loud cheer. It takes a while before the cheers subside and Tim can continue.
“This is a great city –Detroit, and you’ve been at the head of the great American dream leading the way in showing the world what our industries are capable of doing.” “If America can tide over the financial slack we are in, it is because of the sacrifices of cities such as these. I can see leaders in this gathering, and I will help you lead this country. Yes, there will be new cities but our legacy lies in the old. If we forget our past and move on insensitively, we are no different from the marauders of the past who ransacked and left. I know it’s important to move on as the world progresses, but while doing so, we cannot afford to forget our roots.
“Is it wrong for me to ask for the world to be a just place and for this city to be a habitable place?”
“I won’t ask ………………..”
“I won’t question pollution of the air, the water and the soil. I shouldn’t question the consequences of the compartmentalized thinking of the modern era, along with the assumption that the earth is ours to exploit as we please without regard for the future, for our children and for the earth itself. I must not question the absence of justice and fairness.”
“I won’t ask why the natural resources are running out, or why they are being degraded.”
“I won’t ask why there isthis reckless pumping of oil out of the earth to be sold to the highest bidder.”
“I won’t ask why drinkable water is being sold in stores for the same price as colas while the underwater reserves are running out.”
“I won’t ask why we are insensitive to the depletion of the ozone layer or why we keep arguing over the legitimacy of the problem while species are on the path of extinction.
“I won’t ask why this irrational and anarchic situation is in the clutches of powerful corporate and military structures that see their solutions only by means of war or corporate bailouts.”
“I won’t ask reasons for the unequal distribution of financial resources.”
“I won’t ask why modern thinking gives permission to international anarchy that does not demand justice and human rights in the allocation of land or does not demand prudent ecological practices in the use of agricultural resources.”
“I won’t ask why the US is throwing away food to control food prices while global poverty and hunger is increasing.”
“I won’t ask why multinational corporations have an overwhelming sway over the government.”
“I won’t ask why government policies are more oriented to maintaining the economy’s stature than in the economic and physical well-being of the population.”
“I won’t ask why modern structures of domination and force inevitably lead to genocide.”
“I won’t ask why as an advanced country we still have to grapple with racism, sexism and hatred of homosexuals.”
“I won’t ask why UN peace teams move around with war tankers and ammunition.”
“I won’t question major defense contractors owning CBS and NBC, and sponsoring NBA events.”
“But, I will ask you all one thing. Are you all going to stand and live in a country like this or actually make a difference? The reasons do not matter. I’m more interested in the solution.”
“So, let us change the face of this earth and prosper together, Detroit. We have done this in the past, and now let’s do it again, together.” Tim shouts out lifting his fist in the air.
The crowd roared and cheered for him. He walked off the stage smiling and waving at the crowd which now stood up and clapped in unison amid the incessant flashing of the cameras.