25 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Filed under: Hard times, Music

John Rich, Detroit, and the culture of blame

There’s a country song out right now called “Shutting Detroit Down.” It’s a sad song by a singer-songwriter named John Rich about the economic crisis in Detroit. And it’s good! Except for one line in the chorus:

“While they’re living up on Wall Street
In that New York City town
Here in the real world they’re
Shutting Detroit down”

I don’t want to hear your damn song blaming Detroit’s problems on New York. There are no car companies in New York. The rusting of Detroit (and Cleveland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Gary, etc.) is a decades-old story about Amercia’s shift away from a manufacturing economy. Kid Rock and Eminem have been singing sad songs about Detroit for ten years. “Roger and Me” came out in 1989.

That said, the economic crisis is bad and calls for a little populist outrage. Go ahead and blame financial services companies for the credit crisis. But to your list of cities to hate, add Seattle (Washington Mutual) and Charlotte (Wachovia, Bank of America). Do you think people are “living it up” in Seattle and Charlotte?

Here in this New York City town, 270,000 people are expected to lose their jobs. These are working people with bills to pay. I’ve watched several of my friends get laid off. City services are stressed, storefronts are going dark, and a feeling of malaise is settling over Gotham.

Detroit deserves a sad country song, and its people deserve help from places that are better off. But nobody’s climbing out of this hole if we keep blaming the other people in it.