How Detroit got Scrooged: A Christmas story

Abandoned factory in Detroit

Last week, Detroit became the largest U.S. city to enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Conservatives are blaming unfettered liberalism and especially “unions” for Detroit’s economic woes. This carping is nothing but a prelude to the “cut your way out of bankruptcy” narrative that will surely follow.

Instead, if you want to understand what happened to Detroit, you need to understand the power of the Christmas story as told by Charles Dickens.

In 1843, Charles Dickens created the famous character of Ebenezer Scrooge in his story, A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge represented the 19th century horrors industrialization visited on the poor and working classes. The story is well known: Three ghosts of Christmas visit Scrooge and show him, past, present and future, the true portrait of the society and the relationships he has helped create. Scrooge realizes the error of his ways, repents and changes for the good.

In the 20th century, and into the 21st, Detroit has been Scrooged. Detroit has become the victim of the worst aspects of predatory post-industrial forces of capitalism ranged against this city, and against American workers overall. These are the forces of deindustrialization, globalization, failed government policies, and the legacy of intractable racism.

Read the rest of this article at the Huffington Post.


About Susan Thistlethwaite

I am President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Chicago Theological Seminary; I write for the public here and in local papers. I am interested in what I call "public theology," or how deeper meaning is made and contested in the public square.
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