Flint Water Because Flint

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I don’t think “crisis” is the right word for this.  A “crisis” sounds like an immediate, immediately fixable problem.  The power going out at Dairy Queen is a “crisis.”  This is more of a … “predicament”?  No.  That’s too sit-com-y.  Burning your soufflé when the boss is coming over for dinner is a “predicament.”

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Another Tragedy

“Tragedy”?  No.  That doesn’t work either. Tragedies aren’t anyone’s fault.  It’s a “tragedy” when the prescription for your beardruff doesn’t work.

“Disaster” is usually saved for natural events.

“Mishap” is what you call it when a fight breaks out after you mispronounce the name of the country “Niger.”

I think the best word for what’s happening in Flint is “calamity.”  Many people screwed up, no one is admitting to it, and everyone is suffering.

There are entire sections of the online community talking about how it’s solely Governor Snyder’s fault (he is an asshole, but I don’t think he meant to poison people), how it’s the fault of the Emergency Manager (none of the EMs are qualified to do this job, but I don’t think they meant to poison people), how it’s the fault of City Council (they are incompetent, but I don’t think they meant to poison people), how it’s Republicans’ fault, or Old White Men’s fault, or how it’s proof of racism or classism or socio-economic warfare.  It’s none of these things (or, to be more exact, it’s a little of all of these things).

I lived in/near Flint for most of my life, so I say this with a certain degree of ownership: the reason the City of Flint switched to drinking Flint River water and consequently poisoned the populace is because Flint is awful.  Or, more to the point, everyone knows Flint is awful.

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I can’t tell if he’s conditioning that ridiculous hair as a slight against the people at this actual Flint rally, or if it’s one of those hipster “hair is attached to the hat” deals.

Flint has been the butt of a million jokes since the 70s.  There are entire blocks of abandoned buildings, there are entire subdivisions consisting of only a family or two (at one point, the City was considering paying these families to move since it costs a lot of money to pump in water/sewer to an entire city block where only 4.3 people live), and its only claim to fame is that a chunky, slubbish, super-liberal documentary director once lived very close to it.  Before this water calamity, the only conversation I was having about Flint was if they were going to break the murder record again this year.  There aren’t enough police officers to go around so they only investigate felonies; this means that you can steal just about anything that fits in your pockets – but not at gunpoint – on a daily basis and never have an interaction with a cop.  There’s a reason I – and just about everyone I know – left (there’s a reason all the buildings look so run down in my first novel “l(a”; it’s based on Flint). It’s a shit town.

The reason this Flint Water Calamity didn’t hit national news for two years is not because Flint is shitty.  The reason is because everyone knows it’s shitty.

meth-rd2d-before-vs-afterImagine that drugged-out cousin of yours: He’s hit you up for money, your brother up for money, your mom up for money; he’s never paid anyone back.  You’re pretty sure he’s the one that stole your lawn mower.  He’s been in and out of jail since high school.  You had to escort him out of the building at your wedding reception.  He says he’s not on drugs anymore, but he’s too skinny and too broke to not be on drugs.  So you’ve given up on him.  The whole family’s given up on him.  It’s not because you don’t love him anymore and you don’t actively try to hurt him, it’s just that talking to him makes you so sad and you know there’s nothing you can do because you’ve tried everything.  You’ve cut him loose.

That’s Flint.  For everyone.

There’s the crime, the poverty, the drop-out rate, the abandoned buildings, the lack of infrastructure, the ridiculous public officials, sure.  Those are all symptoms.  But here’s how you can tell that everyone everyone has written off Flint: it has consistently been the worst (or maybe just the bottom five) place to live in America for well over a decade.  Who’s addressed it?  Who’s tried to fix it?  Where’s the campaign platform on a regional, state, or national level dealing with this embarrassment?  It’s never mentioned.  It’s never brought up.  No one ever says, “It’s time to make Flint great again,” or, more realistically, “It’s time to make Flint not unbearable again.”

So that’s why.  It’s not because there’s a big black population, it’s not because there’s a big poor population, it’s not because Snyder hates minorities.  It’s because he doesn’t care; he – like everyone else – had written Flint off.

Just like what you did with your drugged-out cousin, every single person that had a hand in this situation shrugged at some point and said, “It’s Flint.  Who cares.”

Maybe with this many people looking at the situation, Flint will finally get some competent leadership and a little bit of money to fix things.  But I doubt it.

What do you think would happen if your cousin suddenly got a reality show?

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