Hillary Clinton has made every effort to make Flint her own. The water crisis afflicting this predominantly black Michigan city – ignored by Washington politicians for years – has become another battlefield in a progressive war between Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Race, class and the environment matter again in an issues-based, neck-and-neck race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Looking past Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire, where Sanders is tipped to win, and toward the March primary states where she will be counting on African American support, Clinton made a symbolic campaign stop here on Sunday.
“I feel blessed to be here but I wish it were for a different reason,” she said, as she took to the stage at the House Of Prayer Missionary Baptist church, flanked by purple-robed members of a choir and surrounded by a sea of nodding heads.
“But I am here because for nearly two years mothers and fathers were voicing concerns about the water’s color and its smell, about the rashes that it gave to those that were bathing in it. And for nearly two years Flint was told the water was safe.”
Her words drew applause and shouts of amen. But though Clinton supporters turned up for Sunday’s service, simply identifying the problem was not enough for some.
Not everyone in a city where the words “FLINT LIVES MATTER” appear next to bullet holes in windows wants the lead in their children’s drinking water made into a photo-op, a kind of Hurricane Katrina for a more liberal nation’s eco-justice age.
Interviews with residents before, during and after Clinton’s visit revealed fear of a candidate helicoptering in on the campaign trail, attempts to salvage a modern economic and environmental crisis that is Flint’s own, and few answers for a city being abandoned by its residents.
“Don’t jump on a cause just to get votes,” said Flint Lives Matter organiser Calandra Patrick, as Clinton’s jet arrived in town. “It doesn’t matter to me if she makes an appearance or not – it doesn’t matter to me one bit.”
Arnette Rison III, a 47-year-old independent contractor, put Clinton’s visit in starker terms: “If she’s bringing 35,000 hydroelectric filters, I’ll love her for it. But that’s not what she’s about to do.”
At the church, though the topic was serious, the mood was jovial and warm. Clinton stood before a packed audience and spoke emphatically about the moral imperatives of the situation, saying: “The children in Flint are just as precious as the children in any other part of America”.
The introduction she received was light, the pastor joking that the baptismal water was from the Flint river but he had experienced no rashes, only a little ash. The audience response ranged from lovingly enthusiastic to fierce.
SOURCE: Lucia Graves