Preface – As many of you know, I was born and raised in Flint, and lived nearly half of my life there. My Father (in fact, almost all of my family) lived and worked there most of his life. When it comes to Flint I’m reasonably confident that I know what I’m talking about.
I have mixed feelings about my Hometown. For those of us in my generation, and perhaps older, Flint was a GREAT, and I do mean GREAT! place to grow up. We had city pools in the summer, and city ice rinks in the winter. We had youth sports programs second to none. Every weeknight there was at least one school gym within walking distance open for us to play basketball, floor hockey, dodgeball, kickball, or just enjoy an open gym. The school system was filled with people who challenged, inspired and ultimately educated us. In my MLK piece I talk about the greatness that was Flint. And then along came the early 70’s and things started to change, and not for the better. Since then, Flint has been subject to four decades of disappointment, disintegration and despair, all of which, in my opinion was entirely preventable.
January 2016 – My hometown is in the national news AGAIN. It’s been there before for leading the US in unemployment. It’s been there more than once for being one of the top ten US cities for violent crime. Now it’s the water. What’s most distressing about this, and all the prior challenges is… there are a significant number of horribly misguided people who do NOT want this problem solved anytime soon, especially while Rick Snyder is Governor. There are those that are willing to sacrifice others, even children, for perceived political gain. They want the attention, they want their 30 seconds on the news, they want to proudly stand up and flaunt their self-righteous indignation… all the while not doing one damn substantive thing to actually SOLVE the problem.
Their role models are people like Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, Al Sharpton, and Michael Moore; guys who show up in their limos, gather up a bunch of cameras and microphones, proclaim their utter outrage, and cast blame, and express even more outrage, and cast more blame, and call for drastic changes, resignations, firings and indictments, and cast even more blame. And as soon as the cameras and mics are turned off, they get back into their limos and speed away, leaving the “real” work to everyone else, or more accurately, anyone else but them. That very attention-gathering, yet very useless cycle has been taking place in Flint since the mid 70’s, and for the most part, the problems have gone unfixed, and my Hometown is now a mere shell of the great successful city it once was.
Perhaps one thing to be learned from this entirely man-made crisis is this: when more energy is put into posturing and assigning blame than actually fixing the problem, what you end up with is, well…, Flint since 1972. Back then I thought we deserved better from our elected officials, and especially from the people who were popular and influential like those named above. Sadly, it’s clear that still today, they too often confuse making a commotion with making a difference.