Lead contaminates the water in Flint, Michigan, and as you’ve probably heard, the state government in conjunction with emergency managers needlessly endangered the lives of every resident in the city by poisoning its water supply with toxic lead — for a savings amounting to about $80 to $100 per day. And while the Flint Water Crisis has largely disappeared from headlines in both mainstream and alternative media, residents are no closer to receiving the most basic human right with any consistency.
In fact, the situation, in many ways, continues to worsen as the government not only originally failed to keep informed residents of the economically-depressed city what’s being done to solve their crisis, but failed to provide adequate supply for their daily lives.
Imagine suddenly being unable to turn the tap on in warming weather for much-needed rehydration. Imagine not only attempting to cook a meal for your family, but sanitizing cooking utensils, pots and pans, dinnerware, and more — without being able to turn on your faucet. Imagine bathing with individual water bottles — or bathing your children this way. Imagine attempting to clean your house, your laundry, anything — without freely-flowing tap water.
Imagine discovering the government — you perhaps took for granted — poisoned your entire community, but continued forcing you to pay the inflated bills for toxically tainted water. But instead of admitting its mistakes and taking responsibility, that same government — and the state’s governor — then also obligated you to pay the tab for its own unjustifiable defense. Worse still, imagine meager solutions were available in the form of donated water drops — but the government didn’t bother to inform you they were even taking place.
Imagine the government sought to quash the issue by spying on those who dared speak up on social media. Now, imagine those who not only spoke up, but brought action against this blatantly corrupted government suddenly turned up dead.
This is life — an abhorrently inexcusable reality — for the residents of Flint.
And after a flurry of attention in the mainstream media — who quickly vacated the area once headlines no longer gathered the appropriate share count, or when crises of similar proportion across the country came to light — your inability to drink water from the tap remained no closer to being solved.
Fortunately, humanity hasn’t been lost to a headline. Activists across the country have again stepped in where the government’s shameful penny-pinching and refusal to accept responsibility should have — with #OpFlint.
Those activists from around the country — largely, but not at all exclusively — associated with the collective calling itself Anonymous, traveled to Flint, yet again, over Memorial Day weekend to provide residents with an enormous quantity of donated water. Though itself an extraordinary act of selflessness, the activists didn’t — and haven’t — stopped with simply allowing anyone in need to show up and take the precious resource. In adhering to principles the government never could, OpFlint activists visited locals who might not have heard they were in town.
What they found should make your blood boil.
“Seven weeks,” laments an unidentified Flint resident, pointing to a paltry collection of bottled water, as captured in video footage by one of the activists. “And this is how we bathe.”
“Is anybody trying to fix this problem for you guys?” asks an activist taping the encounter.
“What can we do? We’re not contacted …” she says, as the activist clarifies:
“No, I mean, is the government trying to do anything to fix this?”
“We’re not contacted by anybody,” she continues, “Nobody knocks on our door.”
“Nobody but us have come to your door to do anything to help you?”
“Nobody lets us know by letter when there’s a meeting,” the resident elaborates. “I hear about meetings when it’s on the news and it’s too late for me to get down there.”
Asked by the activist about the notification for the OpFlint water drop he gave her, the resident pulls the folded flyer from her pocket, unfolding it, and reads:
“The resistance. Strength in unity. Ballenger Park, May 29th — I will be here. Because somebody gave me a paper. That is why I will be there,” she says, intimating the activists — not the government — initiated tangible action to help her and her family.
“Somebody gave me a paper,” she reiterates. “Nobody in my city gives me a paper. I don’t get informed. Until it’s too late.”
Outrage over the nearly purposeful poisoning of Flint’s water supply with lead hadn’t been known until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha put her neck on the line — standing in the face of criticism from the state’s EPA, the media, and other government bodies — to deliver the scientific evidence. Hanna-Attisha endured mudslinging and putative debunking of egregious proportions before she ultimately received a degree of tragic vindication, with the reluctant admission Flint’s water, indeed, had been contaminated with lead.
Though the Flint Water Crisis topped the news for some time, information on follow-through — or far more accurately, lack thereof — has not. Enter OpFlint and its incredibly diverse amalgamation of activists willing to step to the plate when government wholly failed in its duty to provide the single most basic human need to the city’s residents.
An amazing collective of dedicated activists from around the United States invested their own time, money, and dedication to ensure — whatever the government’s claims — Flint’s residents will attain the potable water Michigan’s government failed to provide.
After charitable contests in which the donors of the largest bottled water supply could earn various prizes, the real work of helping fellow humans got underway. Convoys of U-Hauls, trailers, and vans made their way to Flint to provide water the government failed to — and not for Internet fame or triumph, but because — no matter what Nestlé’s CEO might claim — clean, potable water comprises the most basic of human rights.
As these activists checked in from various locations across the country, one thing became clear — a widely varied collective of individuals with good intentions can facilely accomplish what the government never will: good faith.
While focus may remain fixated on which group protested what, and how ostensibly violently it did so, these people — these individuals — did what government didn’t feel necessary: it provided clean water.
For the uninformed residents of Flint, Michigan, this activism was gold.
For the uninformed residents of the country relying on mainstream media to inform them of imperative news — this should be a call to abandon ship.
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