Last night was a lovely night in Paris. I had a great dinner with wonderful service on Ile Saint-Louis. And as I was strolling back to catch the Metro, I stopped on the bridge to look at the Seine. It was beautiful. The light was sparkling on the water. The police blew by on their patrol, causing more sparkly ripples, creating their own special dance of delight on the river. Down below, at the river’s edge, there were a few people sitting and enjoying the view. The bridge was lit up in that golden light that fills Paris at night.
I stood there for a few minutes, taking it all in. Gorgeous.
And suddenly, I felt very sad for Detroit. There is no way I could do this at home. I was a woman alone, on an empty street, pausing for a while to admire the beauty. And, while I was aware of my surroundings, I did not feel even slightly afraid. I would never do something like this at home. Not in the city of Detroit. And not in the suburbs, either. It would be foolish. It wouldn’t be safe.
And I wondered how many beautiful nights and views had gone unappreciated in Detroit because of this lack of public safety. How many lovers’ strolls and kisses gone underground? How many peaceful moments, and picnics with wine, and time to hold hands and reconnect had been forever lost for Detroit.
Detroit’s climate and geography are very much like Paris. We have a big river and a large lake. We have beautiful buildings. We have a lovely island in the middle of the river. Why couldn’t this situation happen in Detroit?
But there are no guns and little racial strife here in Paris. You just don’t have the extreme “haves” and “have-nots” here that you have in the States, which means less crime. I also think mass transit has something to do with it. You can’t just get in your car and run away from the city every day. You’re in the city proper every day; you’ve got to get on the subway with people; you have to walk by many areas of the city every day to run errands and to get to the subway. You have to make it work.
In six weeks so far, all over Paris, I’ve only felt worried about my safety twice. In both cases, though, it would likely have only been being robbed without weapons, not a matter of being injured. Unlike at home. And, I might note, I ultimately did not get robbed in either situation.
The difference is huge. It is what a lack of a strong social contract with all levels of our society, a lack of investment in our cultural assets and lax gun control have done to our inner cities in America, and especially Detroit. It’s unsafe for a woman, or anybody, to wander around at night alone.
What a sad, sad thing that is.