Flint is the future.
The catastrophic human damage inflicted on the impoverished Michigan city is the result of forces and decisions that we will see replicated in urban areas throughout the country. Thousands of children exposed to irreversible lead poisoning. Ten residents whose deaths from Legionnaire’s disease are almost certainly attributable to the toxic water Flint was given to drink. A city of 100,000 advised not to drink its tap water unless it has been treated and tested. And all of it preventable. All of it the foreseeable consequences of decisions made in the state’s corridors of power. Consequences that those in power, including Governor Rick Snyder, were warned of.
Late Thursday, according to the Detroit Free Press, Snyder requested that President Barack Obama declare a federal emergency and “major disaster” designation for Genesee County in order to “protect the health, safety and welfare of Flint residents.” The same residents the governor and his “emergency manager” Darnell Earley had knowingly exposed to the poisonous water of the Flint River, a river turned industrial sewer for the chemical waste of General Motors for much of the twentieth century.
The value of the health, safety and welfare of Flint residents to Snyder and Earley? Somewhere below $5 million. That’s the amount Earley claimed the city would save over two years by tapping the Flint River instead of paying the newly-raised price for City of Detroit water. The $5 million in savings would be passed on to Flint’s Wall Street creditors.
Snyder heads the same team of corporate and financial functionaries that engineered the criminal Detroit bankruptcy, which unconstitutionally raided public retirees’ pensions and turned control of the city’s purse strings over to a cabal of the state’s wealthiest men, including Little Caesar’s pizza magnate Mike Illitch and real estate vulture Dan Gilbert. The same team that shut off water to thousands of Detroit homes after tripling the cost of that water. With tax money one of the only remaining sources of big cash in the U.S., the emergency manager scheme allows the state to divert public money to private interests, privatizing such quintessentially public functions as the provision of water and education.
As Obama is fond of saying, “Make no mistake.” Make no mistake about the trend we are witnessing in these Michigan cities. It is our future. Make no mistake about the cold-bloodedness of the forces that have taken power in this country. They are the rulers of an empire with more blood on its hands than all the water in all the rivers in Michigan could wash away. Make no mistake that the lives of working people, in the Middle East or in Flint, do not matter to the empire. As Snyder and Obama race to extinguish the righteous rage of the people of Flint, it is well to remember the line from Groucho Marx: “Who you gonna believe? Me, or your lying eyes?” Make no mistake, as you look at Flint, as you look at Detroit, as you look at the destroyed cities of Syria and Yemen, eastern Ukraine and Iraq. It is time to believe your eyes.
For those who still doubt the nature of the times we are entering, I recommend attending Flint’s “Lead Testing and Family Fun Night.”
Photo credit: www.huffingtonpost.com