Liberty and Justice for All: Flint Edition


With World Water Day (March 22) on the horizon, we Californians have conservation on the brain – or, at least, we should. When we do need some H2O, however, we can expect it to be clean and drinkable.

For Flint, Michigan, as we know, that was not the case.

Unlike the Bay Area, Flint was once a city that seldom caught the media’s attention. Its population just exceeds 100,000 (about a tenth of San Jose’s), and the majority of those people are African-American. When their water turned brown and resulted in rashes, many could not afford to buy bottled water or even to drive across town to a grocery store.

If its citizens hadn’t protested their abusive environment, there is no reason that Flint’s circumstances would have changed. Their local government didn’t do anything; in fact, it was the city council that voted in favor of switching the city’s water source to the toxic-waste-ridden Flint River. Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder was equally negligent when he dismissed early claims of the water’s questionable taste and color.

At every level of government, the people of Flint were abandoned. This raises a bitter debate that has plagued America since 1776: how much can we really trust our government?

Of course, some faith in the mandates that rule our country is necessary. Without a st

This raises a bitter debate that has plagued America since 1776: how much can we really trust our government?”

able form of government, anarchy ensues. But suppose the innocent citizens of Flint had agreed to trust their elected officials, continuing to bathe in and ingest poisoned water. The effects would have been even more acute than they are now.

As it is, the World Health Organization contends that the effects of lead poisoning, which plagued Flint for two years, are “believed to be irreversible.” Many of the city’s children, who are particularly susceptible, have already experienced symptoms such as hair loss, stunted growth, and dips in their IQ.

There isn’t a politician alive who could repair this damage. Additionally, although the change was initially enacted as an endeavor designed to save the city money, the Flint Water Crisis is expected to cost the federal and state governments $700 million, according to Gov. Snyder.

Switching Flint’s water supply both destroyed lives and failed in its one goal of affordability. The officials who enacted that change were either lax or malevolent, both of which would render them deeply untrustworthy.

Flint is only the tip of the iceberg; ever since Watergate, Americans have been increasingly sensitive to perceived corruption in their leaders. From accusations of government kickbacks from large, pharmaceutical companies to the continued insistence that the events of September 11 were “an inside job,” our society is imbued with countless conspiracy theories. While they seem irrational, Flint’s horrifying situation casts these charges in a different light. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists are right. Perhaps this is not the time to place our full trust in the government.

For the wronged residents of Flint, that trust will prove difficult to regain. And even in far-off California, their story hits a nerve. Informed citizenship, as Flint’s case exemplifies, is a right and a necessity.

It is our responsibility to utilize it.