Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The story of the tainted Flint, Michigan water supply is Exhibit A in the prosecution of the American system," the author writes.  (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

Flint, Michigan and Democracy

Flint could be saved quickly if the United States government would send money as quickly as it does to so-called moderate rebels in Syria.

Americans are browbeaten and propagandized into believing they live in a democracy. The word democracy is bandied about with such consistent ferocity that the expression “protesting too much” comes to mind. The story of the tainted Flint, Michigan water supply is Exhibit A in the prosecution of the American system. The sad story reveals the lie of government by and for the people.

Michigan voters rejected the emergency manager system in a 2012 referendum. Yet it still emerged with dictatorial powers over the lives of people living in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Benton Harbor. The Republican governor and the legislature made an end run around the will of the people that was expressed so clearly at the ballot box. They simply ignored what the voters wanted and passed emergency management legislation anyway.

It is impressive that people all over the world want to help Flint. Ordinary citizens, celebrities, and school children are pledging to send bottled water to the beleaguered city that is now unlivable. But it must be said that charity is a poor substitute for democracy and a black political movement. The lead poisoned water in Flint speaks volumes about a sorry state of affairs.

Michigan was an economic power house, the heart of automobile and other manufacturing. As finance capital took over the nation’s economy and destroyed millions of jobs there was no longer a need for places like Michigan or frankly for the people who lived there. General Motors closed its plants in Flint and sent production overseas. The result was human and financial catastrophe which has been replicated across the state. Michigan continues to lose population but everyone can’t or won’t leave. Detroit, Flint and other cities went from bad to worse as their residents were consigned to poverty as a result of the neo-liberal triumph.

Anyone who wants to send water to Flint should do so, but should also lay blame and make demands where they belong. Flint could be saved quickly if the United States government would send money as quickly as it does to so-called moderate rebels in Syria. There is always money for empire in this country but rarely money for the people. As the Flint plight made headlines president Obama announced $80 million to repair the city’s infrastructure. That is a large sum of money by any measure but it is mere peanuts for the federal government.

Uncle Sam footed the bill in the amount of $500 million that was used to train a handful of anti-government fighters in Syria. Any amount used to destroy this nation is too much, but any amount is deemed worthwhile in the effort to keep American footprints all over the planet. The United States can always come up with money to kill people and control as much of the world as possible. Michiganders and all Americans should be up in arms. Clearly they don’t have the democracy they are hypnotized into thinking actually exists.

While Flint drowns in lead tainted water the sad spectacle of the presidential election drags on and on. None of the Republican or Democratic candidates has said anything useful about Flint. Jeb Bush garnered negative headlines when he praised the awful governor Rick Snyder but neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has done much better. Aside from saying that Snyder ought to resign the erstwhile socialist Sanders hasn’t come up with anything else. Hillary Clinton stated the obvious, that the governor should ask for federal help. In return for stating the obvious Clinton received an endorsement from Flint’s mayor Karen Weaver.

That act shows that there is in fact no useful black politics in this country. The mayor had a golden opportunity to advocate for her constituents. She could have said that Flint deserved at least as much as Syrian terrorists. She could have demanded full restitution for property owners and free health care for residents poisoned by the water supply. She could have made those demands and withheld any endorsement without a commitment to restore her city. She could have acted like the bankers who pushed Detroit into bankruptcy with derivative schemes and still elbowed their way to the front of the line to be paid first.

Instead she acted like the supplicants that all black politicians end up becoming. Weaver was eager to get on the band wagon for some paltry reward like being a super delegate for Hillary while people in Flint can’t drink, wash or bathe without donated water.

Flint is ground zero in the campaign to get black people out of the nation’s cities. Once that happens capital will suddenly reappear and Flint will be declared “up and coming” or “hot.” Those words will be a sign that the neo-liberal mission has been accomplished. The poisoned people will be gone and the people who should have represented them will still be in place. Unless of course someone is willing to fight for a truly democratic country.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.Com.

Margaret Kimberley

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly at the Black Agenda Report. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley (at)

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Biden's Student Debt Relief to Cost a Fraction of US Giveaways to the Megarich and Pentagon

"In contrast to President Trump and Republicans who gave giant corporations $2 trillion in tax breaks, President Biden delivered transformative middle-class relief," said two senators.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Climate Change Is the Asteroid,' Say Critics of NASA Earth Defense Mission

"The actual clear and present danger to humanity is of course Earth breakdown from burning fossil fuels," said one NASA climate scientist.

Brett Wilkins ·

After Nearly a Decade in Exile, Snowden Granted Russian Citizenship

While the whistleblower said "a little stability" would benefit his family, one digital rights advocate noted that "if the Biden administration dropped the charges against Snowden, Putin wouldn't be able to use him for a PR stunt."

Jessica Corbett ·

Peace Group Urges US and China to Halt 'Blatantly Provocative' Military Maneuvers

The co-chairs of the Committee for a SANE U.S.-China Policy called on American and Chinese leaders to "immediately take unilateral and bilateral steps to reduce the risk of an accidental or unintended clash."

Brett Wilkins ·

In 'Unprecedented Democratic Exercise,' Cubans Approve Inclusive Family Code

"This is a milestone in the advancement of democracy," said global grassroots coalition Progressive International. "Nowhere in the world has a family law been submitted for public consultation and subject to a referendum."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo