Charlie LeDuff’s The Americans on Fox 2 News, Detroit, recently released an amusing video titled Squatting on the Squatter. The video is currently making the rounds on sites such as Failblog, garnering thumbs up by a majority of viewers, and harkening in a slew of witty, cynical comments that may make you laugh even more. But much as, on the surface, the segment can give one a chuckle, and even somewhat of a hell-yeah sense of justice, the deeper resonance of the video is anything but funny.
It’s not that one can’t have a sense of humor. Nor is it that one cannot find a sense of justice in seeing a squatter get his or her due by being evicted from a home in order for that home to be rightfully claimed by the owner again. And full disclosure, under many circumstances, I am certainly sympathetic to squatting. I’ve often dreamed of taking over whole ghost towns in my home state of Michigan and creating an eclectic arts community along the lines of Ruigoord, in the Netherlands, a wondrous place I was fortunate enough to visit in 2003, completely settled and reconstructed by squatters devoted to art for 30+ years.
And yes, there is a big difference between squatting in an abandoned home with no owners seemingly present, ever (especially if the property is also falling into disrepair), and squatting in a home clearly owned by another who happened to step away for a month.
All of that does allow for a possible comedic intervention by someone such as LeDuff; but if viewers take a moment to really consider the culture and conditions that bring this reality about, it’s likely one’s smile starts to fade. The laughter begins to grow thinner.
You see, while LeDuff does seem to be standing up for justice by helping the homeowner regain her rightful property, he’s really championing a misdirected victory while applying a Band Aid without ever considering or addressing the actual mortal infection surrounding the wound. Nor does he address the weapon or violent instrument responsible for inflicting such wounds and causing such gangrenous conditions within the country at large, of which Detroit is only an especially indicative microcosmic example. It is often the infection that kills, not the wound.
The corporate looting of America is largely responsible for the conditions Detroit now faces, among other issues, such as racism, destruction of democracy, rampant corruption in both the public and private sectors, etc. LeDuff steps in to make fun, gain ratings and revenue at one squatter’s expense while helping the owner of the property, but he never addresses the real problems that create such economic devastation (and the inevitable wake that follows), such as outsourcing of jobs, corporate tax breaks, and yes, again, that old “race card” racism.
Nor does he offer solutions to the national societal issues that could be altered in order to create economic opportunity and gain in communities throughout the country, thereby cutting down on unemployment and homelessness in the face of empty real estate slipping into dilapidation.
LeDuff doesn’t stop to think about where and why all these poor folks are poor, why all these houses are empty, why people take to squatting in the first place.
Instead, viewers are to simply take it for granted that these people are simply crooks, deadbeats, and that they need to be admonished and punished, all for our entertainment. Just look at them and laugh, will ya? That’s what LeDuff is selling.
Only “they” are you and I. They are us, our fellow Americans, our would-be neighbors, family members and loved ones. They are our friends, our community being marginalized and trivialized, pushed away like pariahs instead of helped, stood up for, not by allowing them to stay in houses they don’t own – that’s clearly wrong – but by standing up and tearing down the corrupt systems that cut people’s cords and leave them to freefall into poverty, where they flounder and end up making desperate, wrong decisions for the sake of keeping a roof over their heads. Tear down Citizens United. Close the corporate tax loopholes. Stop outsourcing jobs. Bring economic opportunity back to America so people can afford to live again.
In short, give people a chance to support themselves, have a life, and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Recognize for them to be able to do just that, they need boots (jobs) in the first place. Just because you may have a job doesn’t mean the entire country is thriving. It doesn’t mean the recession is over just because the media tells you so. That media represents the haves and we’re talking about the have-nots, here.
To summarize a conclusion for impatient readers, stop exploiting the poor and desperate for a laugh and opportunity, LeDuff.
Stop marginalizing people to the point that we no longer recognize them as people. If you really want to rescue the helpless homeowners from those desperately seeking homes, even to the point of squatting, address the real crooks and criminals burglarizing the American tax payer, pilfering the federal, state and local coffers. Start addressing the cause, rather than beating up the symptom. Otherwise, you’re just a false champion with a perverted sense of justice. There is no wind in your torn and dirty cape (in this case, an average white bathrobe).
Take a look at the video below and ask yourself, Is instigating, exploiting and laughing at one squatter’s arrest going to solve Detroit’s squatting problems, or is addressing the white collar, corporate and governmental crooks in their glass and marble towers going to bring Detroit and the rest of the country back around? Does Detroit have a squatting problem, or an ugly Koch habit?
(Featured image courtesy of YouTube)