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Joe Klein's Road Trip to Michigan

TIME's Joe Klein has set out on a four-week, 12-state road trip across the U.S., during which he's interviewing politicians and voters about the country's most pressing issues. This past weekend, he was in Michigan. He wrote a story on each day's experiences.

On Saturday, Klein visited Bloomfield Hills, a suburb of Detroit. Here's a brief excerpt about his experience:

Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Traveling Companion: Rodney Crowell

Events: Eid Celebration with Islamic Leaders; A-OK Detroit Community Serve in Clark Park.

I wanted to visit Detroit's large Islamic community--the largest, it is said, outside the Middle East and Paris--and we arrived in town at opportune time: at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of daytime fasting and prayer (an elongated adaptation of the Jewish fast day of Yom Kippur), which is celebrated by a feast called the Eid. Happily, Saeed Ahmed Khan, a professor at Wayne State University who was quoted in Bobby Ghosh's recent Islamophobia cover story, was able to invite me to an Eid being held by Victor Begg, a very successful businessman and one the leaders of Detroit's Islamic community.

Saeed was raised in a small town north of Detroit; his father is a doctor. "On the night of 9/11, my parents noticed that there was a police squad car in the driveway," he told me. "My father went out to see what was wrong and the officers said, 'We thought we'd hang out here tonight. We know you're family, part of the community, but there are a lot of crazies out there."

And that has been more the rule than the exception in this heavily Muslim area. Muslims, Christians and Jews live and work together. The Muslims have been--ok, I'll use the dread term--model immigrants, starting businesses and mosques, clinging to their conservative religious practices (all the women who came to Victor's house that evening were dressed in hejab, so their hair could not be seen, and colorful shalwar kameezes--most of the guests were immigrants from India and Pakistan). "Businessmen; strong families; conservative religious views--natural Republicans, right?" Saeed told me. "And they were, until recently. Victor still is a Republican."

To read the full post, click here.

Klein kept busy on Sunday, from meeting with United Auto Workers activists, to speaking with voters across the area. Here's a brief excerpt about his Sunday experiences:

Detroit, Mich.

Traveling Companion: Rodney Crowell

Events: Breakfast with Polidori family; meeting with United Auto Workers activists; Dinner with Doug Ross and friends, Macomb County; Breakfast with Kevin Gentry and friends, Brighton, Michigan; Rocky Rajkowski Town Hall, Birmingham, Mi.

Well, this has been a very busy 48 hours, devoted to some of the most important work of this trip--listening to voters, hearing them out. At the top, I'd like to thank Swampland readers Terri Polidori and Kevin Gentry, as well as my old friend Doug Ross, for arranging meetings with their family and friends. I'd also thank Rodney Crowell for being an extra set of eyes and ears--and a great new friend. I've always loved his music; turns out he's a terrific guy, too. (And while I'm at it, Craig Duff who's been producing the dynamite videos on this trip and still photographer Peter Van Agtmael. The four of us invaded Detroit correspondent Steve Gray's home and office this weekend, and so he deserves a tip of the hat, too.)

The hottest of all the hot topics at each of these meetings was government bailouts and the way people are reacting--some responsibly, some not--to these hard times. The meeting with Kevin Gentry's friends--most of them public employees of one sort or another; all but one of them with houses that are "under water" (that is, with mortgages larger than their houses are worth)--was especially stunning. I'm intending to devote my print column to this topic this week, so I'll leave the details till then. But I did want to introduce you to Tammy Jackson, a United Auto Workers activist, whom I met on Saturday...and who immediately reminded both Rodney and me of the Woody Guthrie lyrics, "There once was a union maid/who never was afraid..." and also, a bit, of Sarah Palin. Another UAW activist, Brian Bonds, was there at Time's Detroit house--but Brian soon was as blown away by Tammy's exuberant vehemence as the rest of us.

Tammy is a 3rd generation member of the UAW. She's 33 and is married to an auto-worker (her husband was laid for more than half a year; she's been laid off, too--layoffs are a part of life in the auto industry.) They have two children. Tammy is also blond and not unattractive, and not shy. "Thank God for the UAW," she said when she talking about the layoffs: the unions provides "sub" pay to laid off workers. She seemed to put Barack Obama in the same category as the UAW: "Obama has definitely been for the working people. If it hadn't been the auto bailout, the whole industry would have gone under. The whole midwest would have gone under. It would have been catastrophic."

To read the full post, click here.

To follow Klein as he continues with his travels, and read more road trip posts, click here.

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