Obama in Flint

Continuing the evolution of the Flint water crisis into a political symbol, President Obama visited Flint. It would be naïve to believe that he went there only because a little girl invited him a few months ago. I suppose you could attribute a beneficent motive to the President … maybe he was just trying to keep Flint in the national spotlight. Certainly the optics of Snyder getting roundly booed and heckled off the stage followed by thunderous applause when Obama took the stage was good for the President. His words were encouraging, and drinking a glass of filtered water was a nice gesture. But an empty glass of water was the only thing left in Flint when he was gone. No federal money, no federal aid of any mention at all. No teams of civil engineers, none of the thousands of backhoes and tractors parked in military bases in Michigan and other states were fired up. Nothing. Which makes the President’s visit nothing more than an empty gesture to the people of Flint.

Flint needs to have its water infrastructure replaced. It also needs a massive public health intervention. It is an expensive and labor intensive task. Michigan under the “leadership” of Gov. Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the Michigan Legislature continues to display the same calloused attitude about the people of Flint that led to the crisis in the first place. They refuse to do anything meaningful. Which means it is up to the Feds, and so far they appear to be no different. Maybe Flint has become a flash point conflict between the political parties. Maybe Dems are holding the feet of Republicans to the fire and refusing to bail them out of the financial responsibility. The problem is that poor kids in Flint are not a concern to the “right to life” Republicans in Michigan. The Republicans in Lansing will continue to do nothing to relive the suffering because they simply don’t care. At least not until November’s election.

Meanwhile, the people of Flint need immediate and meaningful help. How could it be that such a human catastrophe could be tolerated like this? This is less a commentary on the breakdown of the government or the political system, as it is a commentary on the kind of society we have become when human tragedy and suffering is tolerated and even used for political purposes.

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