Astroturf politics in Michigan; or, I’ll suck YOUR Lower Peninsula

Agnostic’s latest shitlords of realtalk stunt is an attempt to lure the real, righteous, manly Michiganders of greater Detroit into a beef with Grand Rapids, “this most cucked region in Michigan.” It’s worth keeping in mind that Agnostic is (or claims to be) an Ohio transplant to the District of Columbia with Scotch Appalachian roots. That’s what you get for living in a swing state at campaign time: sleazy astrotufring by out-of-state political operatives with an admitted history of bullying. I live in California, even if I don’t always stay there, and it’s a blessed thing to know that we’re too solidly shitlib blue for the scumbag PAC’s to bother with us most of the time.

The part of Michigan that Agnostic is baiting into intramural battle with its fellow Michiganders, the industrial southeast, is one of the nastiest civic dumpster fires in the United States today. Grand Rapids and the cherry belt, which Agnostic is smearing as a bunch of cuckolds, is pretty damn well put together by comparison. Western Michigan has some rough rust belt towns, including Benton Harbor, but these haven’t become national watchwords for civic disintegration. The really, truly bad shit that has come to light has been in the southeast, most notoriously in Flint and Detroit. Maybe Grand Rapids is holding its shit together through some form of parasitism on the rest of the state or the country, but there’s something to be said on its behalf for its having avoided the horrific outcomes of a number of so many other Midwestern cities. I’m probably more process-oriented than eighty or ninety percent of the Michigan electorate, but outcomes matter, too. For example, they’re helpful for not getting shot dead by out-of-control hoodlums in a city with a failed police department.

Detroit and Flint are outcomes you don’t want. Grand Rapids is more than acceptable by comparison. Maybe the line can be held against chaos only locally. That’s some shitty realpolitik, but realpolitik is usually shitty, and given the horrific nature of the alternatives, it’s hard to lower the boom on voters for wanting to protect their own cities or townships against the out-of-control dysfunction of other municipalities when a statewide solution has repeatedly proven itself politically impossible.

The sick truth of it is that Detroit isn’t so much a city as a category error premised on a crude myth of a fall from industrial grace. Yes, it has city limits, and a city government (barely), but huge numbers of the people claiming some civic or cultural identity as Detroiters are either parasites on the City of Detroit or doing everything in their power politically to destroy the city and its government. The racial problem in and around Detroit is vicious and entrenched. Having lived in Philadelphia and (more or, unfortunately, less) Sacramento, I have every reason to believe that the racial situation in these cities is much, much better than it is around Detroit. I’ve been exposed to some pretty ugly racial invective from Philadelphians on Facebook, and I had that polar-bearing scare in Black Kensington, so I don’t think I’m sheltered on these matters. By all appearances, the actual, concrete racism of Michigan voters and the governments they elect is objectively more destructive and entrenched than anything I’m aware of around Philadelphia, and fully deranged by prevailing standards in Sacramento.

In fairness, neither Pennsylvania nor California has a major urban area anchored by a supermajority-black city with a hapless, wretchedly corrupt municipal government. This isn’t just a function of race, though. Much wringing of hands has been done over white flight from Detroit, but the city has also suffered from catastrophic black flight by its middle class, probably with more destructive effects for those left behind than the loss of white cryptosegregationists. The Cooper Center racial dot map shows majority-white but integrated neighborhoods north of Eight Mile Road, in the suburbs, and solidly black segregated neighborhoods to the south, in Detroit proper. A dangerous number of kill whiteys have probably been left behind in these ghettos, but they’d be less dangerous if they still had the sort of upstanding and (crucially) competent black neighbors who make sure that the kill whiteys are policed up, not so much for why-can’t-we-be-friends reasons as for purposes of getting hoodlums off the streets and checking the chaos. The upstanding people left in the ghettos are often too harried, exhausted, mentally ill, intimidated, or adrift to effectively demand adequate police service, and besides, they face waits of an hour or two for a police response when they do call 911.

This failure of state happened in tandem with a collapse of heavy industry. Philadelphia has always been industrially diversified, and Sacramento has never been more than a minor center of industry. Detroit had big money from the Big Three, until the automakers started pulling out, leaving behind a city with no viable economic fallbacks and a heap of unfunded liabilities. It was a company town that got ruined by the withdrawal of a tiny number of keystone businesses. Michigan is left with a hollowed-out-shell of a nominally leading city whose old-school values everyone claims to admire but whose actual operations no one is willing to fund. It’s hard to imagine an Indianapolis-style Unigov plan going anywhere. There’d be riots before that happened, even if Whitey Manor–I mean, Grosse Pointe, etc., were carved out as upmarket answers to Speedway. The entire municipal structure in Michigan is designed to funnel poverty and its attendant dysfunction into certain disfavored municipalities, and the political will to reform this structure does not exist, as it did in Indianapolis.

This bigotry is about race until it isn’t about race anymore. Flint is majority-black, but not supermajority. It has a large, but mostly non-Michael Moore, white minority. It’s over a third white. Does Rick Snyder approvingly flash these crackers the Whitey Sign? Of course not. They’re poors. Just look at them. They don’t deserve clean water. It’s unlikely that anyone in the Michigan state government was content to cause 37% collateral damage to white constituents in order to poison a 56% majority of black constituents. What was really happening was that the municipal government of a poor city of poor, marginalized citizens had been taken over by state technocrats who proceeded to poison the water supply because the victims were not politically powerful enough to put an immediate, preemptive stop to the plan.

Much of the trouble in Detroit really is about race. The Flint scandal, however, is really about caste, in a state whose electorate and government have come to value caste over community. This explains Agnostic’s allegedly “most cucked” voters around Grand Rapids, too. A critical mass of bougie voters voting to wreck the labor market for the native working class is not self-abasing, but other-abasing. They probably figured that the economy in Grand Rapids was too postmodern for this to be a problem, anyway, and they may have been more or less correct. In any event, any damage to the prospects of their own downwardly mobile children is most likely inadvertent: like, they were supposed to go to grad school, not try to take beaner jobs doing grunt labor in the cherry orchards.

There’s a cultural angle that Agnostic mentioned in passing which can help explain and partially justify the importation of third-world surplus labor into the Michigan Bible Belt. I’m not saying that it’s admirable in absolute terms, but it’s a lot better than having wetbacks work the orchards because your own kids were supposed to all become account managers. Grand Rapids, home to Calvin College, is a power center of absolutely batshit fucking crazy reform theology zealotry. There are families there whose children play Heaven. It figures that they don’t play Hell, in the same way that the past lives of woo-woo necromancy fanciers were always princesses, never peasants who died during childbirth at the age of twenty, already looking like old women.

The religious stance of these people is truly fucking insane. It’s inevitably crazymaking to anyone who really takes it seriously. It was a cradle Catholic reform theologian who offered to summarily baptize me in his bathtub during an otherwise subdued evening party, driving me into the arms of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, &c. These people are fucking nuts, and not in the sense that they have their dongs balls-deep in a jar of cashews; that’d be all right, relatively speaking.

These nutters have some objections to mainstream American culture, including pop culture. Does this, too, make them crazy? Nope. I have similar objections of my own, and I’ll be damned if I’ll shut up just because some conformist dipshits are badgering me to get with the program. To wit, Indiana Jones is a terrible B movie with a terrible message and a crappy, overrated score. Streets of Fire, with its sledgehammer showdown, complaints about habitual misconduct by “Ardmore cops” (Lower Merion Township PD represent!), badass protometrosexual crossdressing, extensive whining by alternate-universe Bill Durden Billy Fish, repeat cameo appearances by the CTA El, and score by Jim Steinman, is a much superior B movie with a much less appalling message. “I can’t go there! That place is the shits!” is whiny and childish; using the Ark of the Covenant to perform a Muadh al-Kasasbeh of the face on enemy soldiers is a war crime.

No, I’m not trying to be facetious about this part. This is not conduct that any society should celebrate on the part of its warriors under any circumstances. Full stop. To kill enemy soldiers during an active battle is reasonable and lawful; to immolate them and feel good about it afterwards is evil. This is what ISIS does. We should be above this.

There’s a lot of garbage and poison in American pop culture that I do not consider admirable or even tolerable and which I would not want children under my authority absorbing. Some five-pointer Calvinists feel likewise about a partially overlapping suite of American pop culture mainstays. That they’re out of their minds about everything having to do with spirituality doesn’t make them wrong about large parts of mainstream American culture being wrongheaded, destructive, and worthy of permanent disappearance. Frankly, I consider them useful allies just because they push back against the sort of idiots who annoy the hell out of me by freaking out because I haven’t watched all the correct blockbuster movies, most of which sound like a pile of shit and an hour and a half I’ll never get back.

Leaving aside the socioeconomic and civic effects of what bougies in Grand Rapids seem to be doing, and which I find objectionable, their interest in assimilating Mexican immigrants into a religious culture that they consider edifying instead of watching Americans get assimilated into a secular pop culture that they find destructive seems reasonable and honorable enough, no matter how strenuously I disagree with the religious culture in question. If the common culture that they’re forsaking is garbage, it’s garbage, and I agree that much of it is exactly that. Not acculturating oneself or one’s children into a trashy pop culture of no civic use to one’s country or community is a damn fine stand to take. Does that make it harder to relate to idiots who can’t think of anything to talk about but that same trashy pop culture? Fuck the idiots, then.

Get your homeschooling curriculum into order, so that you’re ready to yank the brats out of the state schools the moment they or their students start trying to socialize your children into a bunch of bullshit. And be sure to include in this curriculum the civics lessons that not everyone who’s crazy is always wrong, and that not everyone whose politics you find objectionable is prepping his wife’s bull.

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