When a relative of mine told me they were going to Detroit en route to China, they expressed a concern to me about arriving to an unknown place filled with crime, lawlessness and danger. When I replied that China is the most capitalist communist country around, my relative shot back “I am not talking about China, I am talking about Detroit. We will feel safe once we get to China.”

When I look at Detroit, I see a city that represents successes and failures that are directly related to the human condition. As a Jewish person, I see Detroit as a city filled with Arabs. It is impossible for me to see Arabs without seeing the Arab-Israeli conflict. My religion is a powerful lens that I look through. No viewing glasses on the world stage are rose colored. I say this because like many, I want to know why Arabs in the Middle East are such a colossal failure, when their brethren in Detroit are such an overwhelming success. In seeing why Arabs are a Detroit success story, a parallel can be made to Detroit’s biggest spectacular failure…a once proud success…the automobile industry.

In the 1980s, the Japanese were supposedly buying everything in sight. Despite the fact that American Television shows such as “Dallas” and “Dynasty” reflected an American mentality that was often mimicked on Wall Street by Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky, somehow Japanese people were not supposed to have the same desire to buy, sell and spend as we Americans were. As GM, Ford and Chrysler began bleeding dollars, Toyota and other Japanese carmakers began thriving. Politicians spoke of tariffs, quotas and other protectionist measures. As a 14 year old I enraged a room when I meekly asked a simple question…”Why don’t Americans just make better cars?”

That was a day where the idea of “free speech” was a myth. I had said the unthinkable. I have never thought that Americans were stupid, lazy or slackers. We are not French. We never will be. Yet if we are consistently losing in a battle we used to win, isn’t it healthy to reevaluate where we slipped off track?

This brings us to the Middle East. Arabs are at the bottom of many world categories, and they used to be at the top. They were the best and brightest. They made valuable contributions to mathematics, science, medicine and literature. They had the strongest military. Then everything changed. The Arab empire fell. Why? Well for one reason, all empires fail. The Crusades happened. The European Christians beat the Arabs, and beat them decisively. The Arabs were humiliated. They then had 2 choices. 1) How can we fix ourselves and get back to # 1 again? 2) Who can we blame?

Regrettably, the Arabs chose option 2. For the last 1000 years, they have blamed others. America is the “Great Satan.” Israel is “Little Satan.” Some Arab nations treat beating their women as a spectator sport. Non-Arab Muslims are “Infidels.” Education is reserved for the rich and powerful, and almost never for women. Beheadings are practiced on a routine basis.

Which brings us back to Detroit. The Arabs in Detroit are the best and brightest. They are educated, and they are successful. They have strong thriving communities, and they are gaining political influence. Spencer Abraham, a proud Arab-American, became a U.S. Senator before becoming the U.S. Secretary of Energy. They prefer living under U.S. law to Sharia law because they see the difference in results.

Which brings us to football. Football works because it is based on results. No one cares what race, religion or ethnic background you have. The bottom line is winning on Sunday. The NFL has 32 mini-empires, and they rise and fall as all empires do. In 2002, the Oakland Raiders were in the Super Bowl, and the Chicago Bears were near the bottom of the barrel. By 2006, the Bears were in the Super Bowl, and the Raiders were in ruins. Most teams make adjustments. Yet the Detroit Lions are consistently NFL cellar-dwellers. Is there something in the uniforms that makes them significantly worse? They play by the same rules as the other teams. Yet year after year, the losses mount.

I do not know, nor do I care how, to fix the Detroit Lions. What I do know is that if everyone around you is doing better under the same system, then you are doing something wrong. Admitting weaknesses and flaws is not weak…it is a sign of strength, which leads to prosperity and growth.

If we combine the best of Detroit with the best of the Arabs, we see that anything is possible. Middle Easterners are not inferior to Americans. Americans are not inferior to the Japanese. Once people stop focusing on excuses and start focusing on results, positive change can occur.

The Arabs have a billion spots of human capital. India and China have leveraged theirs, and improved their world standing. If the blame game would stop, Arab Muslims in the Middle East could join the family of Nations. The United States can be #1 again in the global automobile market.

Dare I say it…the Detroit Lions could…well, one dream at a time.


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