On May 4, President Obama is making a trip to Flint, Michigan, the city that has commanded public attention for the epic poisoning of its water and the permanent damage to the health of its children. It has emerged as a most prominent case of official criminality, of callous disregard for the poor and for Black people, and the priority placed on cost savings and austerity over the lives of human beings. And filmmaker Michael Moore had some choice words about the president’s visit.
In his open letter posted on Facebook, Moore — a Flint native who has spoken out on what has been done to his hometown — told the president what he really thinks.
“Dear President Obama — Finally, after months of us begging you to come to Flint, you’ve decided to visit next Wednesday. I know this will make many people happy and grateful. But, as one who voted for you twice and was thrilled beyond belief over your election, I’m sorry to tell you your visit is too little too late,” Moore said.
“You say you’re coming to ‘listen to the people of Flint.’ Sir, they’ve been poisoned for two damn years. You’ve known about it since October. There’s nothing to listen to. Unless you’re bringing the entire U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dig up and replace the 75,000 lead pipes, plus the Attorney General to arrest Governor Rick Snyder, then this is just another photo-op and half-baked list of new promises we don’t need,” he added.
Moore — who is also an author, journalist and political activist — told the president not to bother coming to Flint if he plans to make a speech on the need to build America’s infrastructure.
“This is NOT an infrastructure problem — it’s a hate crime and mass poisoning of Black and poor people that NEVER would happen if this were Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe or any other white town,” Moore wrote.
“It was done in order to give a billion-dollar tax cut to the rich. Every child here now has some form of permanent brain damage. There is NOTHING you can do to reverse that for them. There is no cure. Again, they are Black, they are poor. Do you have a cure for that? Because THAT’s the only reason why this has happened.”
According to Moore, the poisoning occurred because Michigan Gov. Snyder said “Cut services!” and decided to seal off Flint’s clean water source from the Great Lakes, and make poor Black people drink water from a “drainage ditch” known as the Flint River.
“We haven’t called it that for years. I’d drink my own piss before I’d drink out of that sewer,” Moore said plainly.
One of the most prominent of Flint natives, Moore told the president that Flint does not need more visits from politicians, promises of testing, or “token digging up of pipes.” He noted that of the 75,000 pipes in need of replacing, only 39 have been removed since Obama met with Mayor Karen Weaver in January. And he noted in his open letter that the poisoning continues, even though their original water source has been replaced, since the water flowing through the lead pipes is treated with a chemical that burns skin:
So unless you’re bringing the U.S. Army with you to save 100,000 of your fellow Americans, and unless you’re going to arrest the governor of Michigan who has now killed more Americans than ISIS, you might as well stay home. The riots here, I’m certain, will begin sometime soon. That’s what you or I would do if someone was poisoning OUR kids and the government refused to stop it, right?
The president’s visit came about when Mari Copeny, 8, sent Obama an email message last month telling him about her activism around the Flint water crisis.
“My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things, but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits,” she wrote, as reported by NPR.
Copeny, known as “Little Miss Flint,” told the president that she was taking a bus to Washington, D.C. to watch Snyder testify at the congressional hearings, and wanted the chance to meet the president and first lady. Although the president did not meet with Mari, he responded, telling her he would visit Flint on May 4, and hopes to meet with her.
“I want to make sure people like you and your family are receiving the help you need and deserve. Like you, I’ll use my voice to call for change and help lift up your community,” the president wrote in the letter. “Letters from kids like you are what make me so optimistic for the future. I hope to meet you next week, ‘Little Miss Flint.’ ”
Meanwhile, Flint’s mayor will use the opportunity to lobby for more aid for her city.
“We’ve been wanting him to come to the city because you do get a whole other perspective of what’s going on when you come and visit it first hand,” Weaver said after meeting with lawmakers at the state capitol in Lansing, as reported by the Detroit News.
Proposed aid to the beleaguered city has stalled in Congress, and there is a Senate hearing scheduled Thursday for new Senate legislation for up to $220 million. However, Gov. Snyder — who has proposed $165 million in state aid, and approved $30 million to reduce Flint residents’ water bills — said he would unlikely meet with the president due to a “pretty full schedule,” he told the Detroit News while in Zurich, Switzerland for a week-long European trade mission.