By Brenda Brissette Mata
Some days, especially when you are proud to be from Flint, Michigan, you just feel like slamming your head against the wall.
Growing poverty, skyrocketing joblessness and record-breaking murder rates all tangled up with declining property values and a crumbling infrastructure — and that’s when things were going well.
The water crisis, a state and national scandal, the unbelievable generational impact of lead poisoned water, horrifying cases of Legionnaires disease and the political grandstanding and finger-pointing that comes with it, well you get the idea. Head-banging time.
The media spotlight glares on our city recording evidence of urban decline porn and heartbreaking images of families trying to live on donated bottles of water for drinking, bathing and cooking. The kind of third world images usually limited to TV commercials that interrupt silly sitcoms and crime dramas where murders are settled in 60 minutes.
And while all of that is going on, there are those working furiously to get that glaring spotlight to shine just a little on what’s not breaking down; reminders that in and among the disaster there is something to smile at, something to be proud of, that within the disaster there is strength, a people determined to not be dismissed.
Flint is a city dying to thrive.
To be of Flint, from Flint or for Flint requires maintaining a very difficult balance.
One must not only recognize the horror of tens of thousands of residents drinking water poisoned with lead but also the hard work of business owners trying to succeed in the city, of homeowners trying not to lose faith in their home, for many the biggest investment of their lives.
It’s great to have the world’s attention spotlighted here, but the spotlight will soon leave. And for those of us who aren’t leaving with it, there is hard work ahead. We can’t forever be the city that entertainers and the corporate world remember as their best charity effort of 2016.
We have to be able to support ourselves. We have to be successful. And we can’t do that without work. Hard work.
A governor, recalled or resigned, the firing and/or reassignment of those who knew and did nothing as well as those who turned a blind eye to an unbelievable human disaster, these are only small steps on a long road to recovery.
Pipes need removing, water needs cleaning, families need information about how to help children with lead poisoning to get proper nutrition and education and somehow (I’m not sure how) residents must be able to trust their government again.
The country must learn from Flint. Learn how to never, ever let this happen again and learn how a people in a city forgotten by so many, are determined to not let this be our end.
We can’t let disaster define us.
Brenda’s column appears every Monday at noon on AndrewHeller.com – unless she forgets to write it.