I‘m normally a fan of democracy and all. The more I read the Detroit papers, though, the more I realize that Metro Detroit would be far better off if some king were to raise an army and conquer southeast Michigan.

Jess Cox

Hear me out on this one. Yes, in theory, an elected, representative government is a nice thing to have. But every year, more issues pile up that affect everyone in Metro Detroit – an antiquated water system, a pathetic lack of public transport and an inadequate, aging convention center that might eventually drive the auto show from the Motor City. Most recently, of course, there’s all the squawking and howling over the Detroit Zoo.

Everyone agrees that someone needs to take some sort of action on all these problems. The area’s leaders, however, are too busy bickering on behalf of their own constituents to come to an agreement over who should pay what and who should be in control. Sometimes you’ll hear people say that what the area needs is more regional cooperation. But no one knows how to achieve that either.

I admit that I too was long flummoxed about how on Earth to achieve more regional trust and goodwill in a sharply segregated metropolitan area with a bitter racial past and lots of current economic anxiety to boot. But then one day in lecture, my philosophy professor mumbled something about some guy named Hobbes and this political system called “absolute monarchy.” It’s just what Metro Detroit needs!

Think about it. Under a monarch, we wouldn’t have these artificial municipalities that encourage distrust and political division. It would be impossible for Metro Detroiters to think of themselves as anything except citizens of the whole region. Or rather, as subjects of the kingdom, but you get the idea.

Take the zoo debacle, for instance. Proud Detroit residents have been unwilling to yield control of the city’s zoo, while suburbanites are hesitant to contribute their tax dollars to anything they don’t own. As Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson argued in a letter to the editor in yesterday’s Detroit Free Press, the dollar amount of a tax to support the zoo might be “piddling,” but any zoo tax would be taxation without representation. I’ve seen that same Boston Tea Party-era concern voiced in a comment on the Michigan Citizen’s website to defend the Detroit City Council’s initial vote against transferring control of the zoo because the plan would still have required Detroit to cover some zoo costs.

But an absolute monarchy, from what I hear, is all about taxation without representation – the principle’s not even up for debate! Besides, isn’t the Zoo already in “Royal” Oak?

The zoo situation, of course, highlighted the persistent tensions between the city and its suburbs in all their racially tinged glory. Sure, race relations in the region aren’t as bad as they were in 1942, when white Detroiters opposed to an integrated public housing project could openly post a billboard reading: “We want white tenants in our white community” . or in 1943, when there was a race riot . or in the early sixties, when a few blocks from where I grew up in Sterling Heights, a black family tried to move in only to have their house firebombed . or in 1967, another riot . or in 1972, when Michigan voters chose George “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” Wallace in the Democratic presidential primary. The race-laden rhetoric from public officials on both sides of Eight Mile in the zoo debate, though, makes it clear we still have a long way to go.

Now, I’d say the fact that Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated areas in the country has something to do with our awful race relations. When people grow up in homogenous communities – whether all-white or all-black – it’s more difficult for them to trust people who have a different amount of melanin in their skin. Ongoing segregation, though, is another one of those problems no one knows how to solve. We’ve gotten rid of racist housing laws and restrictive covenants; what are we supposed to do about de facto segregation?

This is another area where absolute monarchy reigns supreme. Once the king has dissolved the borders between Detroit and its suburbs, it’s a short step to ordering forced repopulation of whites into Detroit and blacks into the suburbs. Extreme, perhaps, but it might be the only way I see an integrated Metro Detroit in my lifetime.

Now, I realize some of you loyal Americans, with your “freedom” and your “rights,” might find monarchy repugnant. And I’ll admit that repopulation scheme sounds a little too much like a politically correct version of ethnic cleansing.

I still stand by monarchy for Metro Detroit. Say it happened, and it went horribly. Well, then everyone – whether they live in Westland or on West Grand Boulevard – would join together to rise up and overthrow the king. Maybe I’m cynical, but even that would be more regional unity than we have now.

Zbrozek can be reached at zbro@umich.edu.

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