Flint And Fallujah


I try not to think of Flint, Michigan at night, after I turn off the light to sleep. “Compartmentalize. Don’t think about this until tomorrow,” I say.

In April of 2014 in an effort to save money, the City of Flint switched its water supply from Detroit city water (Lake Huron) to the Flint River, a channel of industrial pollutants. The water wasn’t treated with an anticorrosive—in violation of federal law. This resulted in eroded iron water mains. About half of the service lines to homes are made of lead, lead that began to leach from the lines into the water supply.

City and state officials said no worries. Said everything was fine.

Between 6,000 and 12,000 residents have severely high levels of lead in their blood. Among this number, 8,657 are children and are at risk developmentally. Even after doctors found elevated levels of lead in children’s blood, state regulators continued to maintain that the water was safe.

Lead is a neurotoxin. Its damage is irreversible. It lowers intelligence and leads to emotional lability and criminality.

So far, three officials have resigned over the crisis, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Governor Rick Snyder and other city and state officials, and more lawsuits have been filed. President Obama recently declared the disaster a federal state of emergency.

Snyder has apologized.

Flint is 60% Black.

The above is reportage, words without emotion. Yet I am heartsick. Lead is toxic to the body even in low levels. I think of the consequences of actions to save costs, consequences to the children, their families, and society, the multigenerational influence. Many of these parents live in poverty, yet their children provided hope and promise. Their lives might be better. Now there’s despair, the helplessness of deep loss.

They must be seething with anger.

The Mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, has endorsed Hillary for president. Weaver said Hillary was the only candidate to reach out and ask what Flint needed.

Hillary’s reaching out and asking are significant of nothing however except perhaps opportunism.

This is fake Hillary, Grandma-will-make-it-better Hillary, on-it Hillary. Real Hillary can be seen in stark contrast, cackling over death, entitled, demanding her due—the coronation. Real Hillary is hollow and untouched by the horrors of war. Domestic and foreign. Indeed, she is war ravenous.

I can’t imagine Hillary’s caring anymore for the residents of Flint than she does the people of Fallujah. Both are casualties of capitalism, battlefields where governments played sickness vs. health and life vs. death with other people’s dreams, other people’s presents and futures.

Heads should roll in Michigan. Heads should roll for the crime that is war. But they won’t.

Some of us walk through our routines with little regard for the desperation of others. Even in the next community or state and most definitely in some country far away. For this we should be ashamed.

Consistently, we are left vulnerable and unprotected by those elected to represent us—these men and women who don’t promote our wellbeing but instead their own power.

I wish I had an answer. I wish I could be more than a complainer, someone with inspiring and effective suggestions for making our world better. No more Flints. No more Fallujahs. An end to war. An end to injustice.

I see positivity among our young, their enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, the belief that change is a possibility. And I feel old, a malcontent—someone whose impulse is to wag a finger and say, “Remember the Obama craze, all the exuberance you expressed then. You’re going to be disappointed again.”

I don’t have solutions, except to get to sleep. This requires forcing my mind to shut out tragedies until the next morning.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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