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Help Michigan: Buy What They are Going to Make

It’s everyone’s patriotic duty to help Michigan. We are, indeed, at war, but it’s not with terrorists, it’s with the worst elements of ourselves. I never thought I’d be saying this, but it  has been a powerful day for me, a person who abandoned Amercian cars when her new college graduation gift, a 1963 Chevy convertible, lost its brakes on the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City two weeks after she got it.

It’s everyone’s patriotic duty to help Michigan. We are, indeed, at war, but it’s not with terrorists, it’s with the worst elements of ourselves.

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I never thought I’d be saying this, but it  has been a powerful day for me, a person who abandoned Amercian cars when her new college graduation gift, a 1963 Chevy convertible, lost its brakes on the Major Deegan Expressway in New York City two weeks after she got it.

It was a lesson, and I learned it quickly, never looking back.Not my responsibility, I said, as I bought Hondas, BMWs, Mercedes, Volvos and Audis at various stages of my career.

More than 40 years later, I realize that the government can’t help Michigan, only American citizens can.  We have turned our back on Detroit for decades, abdicating our roles as customers to provide constructive feedback. Perhaps if we hadn’t just slunk away from those bad cars and bad decisions on the part of Chrysler and GM we could have made a difference. I know I sure didn’t call my local Chevy dealer every three years as I went out and bought my next (foreign) car. And when I heard things were bad in Detroit, all I said was “tsk, tsk.” 

I’m not making a case for the car companies as well-managed, thrifty, or right in what they’ve done during those decades.  But I am making a case for  the connection between GM and everything else in the United States that is now haunting us:  crime, gangs, inadequte health care, deteriorating public education, the financial crisis, and yes, even the murder of Dr. Tiller and the descent of our government into torture.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the notion that we are connected to one another, and that we are a big community that has to learn to be resilient and take care of itself and each other. We’ve begun to think that, on the one hand, we can do it all individually, and on the other hand, if we can’t the government will step in and save us.

Neither one of these is feasible.

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Jennifer Granholm gave great interviews this morning about how Michigan was prepared to lead the country into the green revolution, generating new, green jobs for the one million people in Michigan who have been displaced by the auto industry.

But if no one buys the green products that will be manufactured by the retrained workers at the re-tooled factories in Michigan, will the stimulus and the cheerleading and the speeches work? 

Of course not. As long as we pursue the easy (cheap) way out, buying inexpensive trendy, nearly disposable clothes that are made in third world countries that use child labor (this is what I realize I have been doing), buying Hyundais from Korea and fruit from Chile, we are enriching others.

We don’t need a trade policy about this, or a stimulus package. We need common sense. We need a sense of community. Let’s make this creative destruction, not just destruction.

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About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998

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