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The Flint Water Crisis

I’m not going to be an apologist for the governor–or the government of Flint–in this case, but we’ve got to stop demonizing politicians we don’t agree with when things go wrong. It’s very, very easy to blame our political enemies for a crisis when the truth is closer to everyone being at fault. So blame them all accordingly.

I was reading an article today that discussed the situation in flint in a manner that reflects my thinking, in that while “observing the reporting taking place over the Flint Water Crisis…I’ve noticed a lot of things that are reported that are not helpful and in fact can make the situation in Flint worse.”1

I’m just tired of the divide in politics, sports, and life that online communication creates.

What most of the public is focused on–in terms of laying blame for what happened–is looking for that single individual that is responsible, rather than seeing multiple failure points and people as the cause. So, while public outcry is healthy, focusing public time and attention on trying to single out any one person as more culpable than others is energy poorly spent. What people seem to do more often than not is look for a villain to blame in situations like this. There is likely a name for this kind of psychological response to issues that are more complex and awful than we can properly process.

Now to Governor Snyder. It goes without saying that his legacy will forever be tarnished by what happened in Flint. And I will agree that he moved [too] slowly to deal with this crisis. But when people want to take a break from calling for Snyder to resign, they might want to look at what Snyder is doing now-which seems to be a lot.

Now you can probably sit back and say this is a politician trying to cover his own ass after the fact–and perhaps that is true–but again, he’s not the only one at fault, and his party wasn’t alone in creating the situation that got us here.

So, what?

I’ll say this, people need a reason that can be neatly wrapped and understood when situations like this arise rather than acknowledging that these things happen for complex reasons that are not alway attributable to nefarious machinations. More likely than not it’s systemic incompetence. That’s not one single person, that’s a gaggle of incompetent folk at fault. How do we fix that? Not by trying to find a villain to blame. Expend the effort in rooting out the problem, not pinning it on one person–particularly when the problem runs much deeper than that.

This article isn’t giving sole credit to the governor for local successes, merely pointing out that he has taken on a lot of responsibility for what happened and at least appears to be doing something–after the fact. It’s giving another perspective on the situation that points out how complex the causes were.

The reason I even post something like this is because I see a lot of tirades in association with the governor on this issue without even registering that it’s not the type of problem that occurs during one or two terms in office–it’s one that’s run its course and come to this conclusion over the course of many decades.


This was expanded from multiple discussions I’ve had on social media over the past day.

  1. Flint Water Crisis Update. Dennis Sanders. Accessed 1/27/2016.
    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2016/01/26/flint-water-crisis-update/.



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