I could give you all the conventional reasons why you’d leave a Detroit, but, for the most part, those wouldn’t be mine. The reason I was eager to leave was that Detroit was proud to be stuck where it was. It knew it was having huge problems; but it was NOT going to change the way it was doing any thing. That’s not a good attitude to have when things are going well, and an even worse one to have when things are going badly. I knew a fighter pilot who had fought in Vietnam and I asked him what he would do if he spotted an enemy plane “in his six” (directly behind you). He said, “Anyway you go is better than the way you’re going now.” Detroit seemed to think it could stand being shot at better than it could change course. Why be proud of not changing? That isn’t it exactly, it’s rejection of how you’d perceive yourself in the course of changing. Detroiters (or is it Midwesterners generally? Discuss!) reject what they would perceive as the arrogance of EastCoasters and the flakiness of WestCoasters for a more “reasonable” view of the world. Even if that perception were even vaguely true, it forgets how virtues often degenerate into parodies of themselves. What was once steadfastness becomes calcified stubbornness, well past the point of being “reasonable.” Now they wake up, find themselves billions in the hole and thinking about selling everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot that is. Maybe some arrogant flakiness would have been better when times were more flush.
But times are less flush today, and flaky arrogance is now the rule rather than the exception. Still, I side with the fighter pilot: the most unacceptable path is the current one.