Friday, March 16, 2007

Calling on the Great Spirit of Michigan

Genius Loci, the sense of a place or the special guardian of a place.

I hate small talk, but I love to talk about important things with strangers, usually in parking lots or stores. These fellow citizens going about their errands, gathering the things needed to care for their families, are burdened with a sense that Michigan is in an economic free fall. Grateful to be able to shop for necessities, grateful to have employment and housing, they are worried and feeling very vulnerable. One articulate gentleman at a going-out-of-business sale remarked that being at the sale made real to him the economic news he'd been hearing, as if news can be considered hypothetical, a suggested framing of reality. He was conscious of plight of the workers inside (no corporate transfers being offered, no golden parachutes, no buy-outs) a cohort of pre-unemployed young adults. A high school student told me that he can't imagine living anywhere other than Michigan because he loves it here. Yet, he was able to recite the same dismal labor and economic statistics I hear from adults. Was he merely repeating what he heard from adults in his life? Doesn't really matter.

Where is the Great Spirit of Michigan right now? In Lansing, where partisan politics resemble the bar sport of gut barging? At Pfizer, where workers are responsibly closing shop before heading for the "Mother Ship" (that's what they call the Groton facility)? At Comerica Park (can we please rename that one)?

I have to believe that the Spirit of Michigan is NOT the bad news of late. I have to believe the Spirit of Michigan is found in the compassion of people like that man at the sale and in the affectionate loyalty of that high school student.

If you seek a pleasant peninsula, be sure to look into the eyes of your fellow citizens.