Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Motown, Martin, Immigrants and More

Civil rights movement leader, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929.

All God's children - black and white - sitting together at the table is the reverberating tone and theme resounding from this man's message in my Motown before the horror of his murder in 1968, that fateful year when so much social unrest, violence and martyrdom marked the demise of my own brother, Lucas Ventline in Vietnam.

Fresh air filled my cup of coffee Monday with the Wall Street Journal's front-page, banner headline: REVITALIZED DETROIT MAKES BOLD BETS ON NEW MODELS.

"But today, there are renewed signs that Motown is back. The latest evidence of its revival will be on full display this week at the North American Internatonal Auto Show in Detroit," writers Jeff Bennett and Neal Boudette declared in that same WSJ story.

Amid that evergreen hope, Detroit's financial problems haunt it while hands-full of metropolitan Detroit-area leaders from civic, church and citizens meet to list concrete ways to fix the ailing town that continues to shrink from its 1.2 peak once upon a Motown.

A fifth in a series of supportive sessions seem to hand a huge hug around my birthplace near Van Dyke and Lynch Road, near the once booming Detroit City Airport. My dad drove the seven of us siblings there on Sundays to watch planes rise into the blue sky to compete with the Big Three auto companies now bouncing back from near collapse.

A helping hand reached out from the U.S. President despite naysayers powerful protestations.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, that rough places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together," the Rev. Dr. King thundered out to a restless nation.

And, while we celebrate the American Catholic bishops unheeded, Economic Justice for All: A Pastoral Letter on Catolic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy," a quarter of a century ago, "fresh air" fills my bones and being no end these days when we observe Monday, King's call for the church to be the "conscience of the state," addressing those with power and influence. Prophetically, he intended to preach punching words the Sunday after his assassination, entitled, "Why America May Go to Hell."

Detroit has been through hell, and back, I believe.

It bleeds with more than 46 million Americans, including 16 million children who are poor, with 50 million medically uninsured, 9 percent of workers unemployed , and, shamefully, 40 percent of the nation's wealth controlled by the richest 1 percent of the population.

The common good demands justice for all, and, the protection of the human rights of all, the voices of conscience challenged, including a local bishop, Thomas Gumbleton, of Detroit who helped pen the penetrating piece asking:

(1) What does the economy do for people?

(2) What does it do to people?

(3) And, three, how do people participate in it?

Tax cuts for the wealthy loom large, nevertheless, as my Motown, and many more, manage with so little, or, go without as families, among others, seek lodging, sanctuary, and, the Warming Center at Saints Peter and Paul Jesuit Church, in the shadow of the towering Renaissance Center on Jefferson, in downtown Detroit, for example.

These are signs of the time to be discerned as the ecumenical Second Vatican Council hoped.

Conversations need to continue as people hammer out ways to make my Motown work well for all its inhabitants, including the immigrants we need that no cities are warmly welcoming.

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