Filmmaker Michael Moore took to his own website to address those who have asked about ways to help residents of Flint as they cope with undrinkable, lead-poisoned water. “Do not send us bottles of water,” Moore wrote in the headline of an open letter about his hometown’s water crisis. “Instead, join us in a revolt.”
The Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 documentarian’s “letter to America” suggests that while there have been a number of well-intentioned charitable efforts to address Flint’s water contamination, they don’t come close to fixing the problem.
“[Y]ou cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint,” Moore writes in his missive. “There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents). They are ruined for life, and someone needs to tell you the truth about that.”
Instead of sending bottled water—a short-term solution to a long-term problem—Moore lays out a five-step plan for those who want to help. The first step is to push for the arrest and removal of Michigan governor Rick Snyder. “There is not a terrorist organization on Earth that has yet to figure out how to poison 100,000 people every day for two years—and get away with it,” Moore writes. “That took a governor who subscribes to an American political ideology hell-bent on widening the income inequality gap and conducting various versions of voter and electoral suppression against people of color and the poor.”
Moore’s letter begins:
Many of you have contacted me wanting to know how you can help the people of Flint with the two-year long tragedy of drinking water contaminated by the radical decisions made by the Governor of Michigan. The offer is much appreciated by those who are suffering through this and who have not drank a glass of unpoisoned water since April of 2014.
Unfortunately, the honest answer to your offer of help is, sadly, you can’t.
You can’t help.
The reason you can’t help is that you cannot reverse the irreversible brain damage that has been inflicted upon every single child in Flint. The damage is permanent. There is no medicine you can send, no doctor or scientist who has any way to undo the harm done to thousands of babies, toddlers and children (not to mention their parents). They are ruined for life, and someone needs to tell you the truth about that. They will, forever, suffer from various neurological impediments, their IQs will be lowered by at least 20 points, they will not do as well in school and, by the time they reach adolescence, they will exhibit various behavioral problems that will land a number of them in trouble, and some of them in jail.
That is what we know about the history of lead poisoning when you inflict it upon a child. It is a life sentence. In Flint, they’ve already ingested it for these two years, and the toll has already been taken on their developing brains. No check you write, no truckloads of Fiji Water or Poland Spring, will bring their innocence or their health back to normal. It’s done. And it was done knowingly, enacted by a political decision from a Governor and a political party charged by the majority of Michigan’s citizens who elected them to cut taxes for the rich, take over majority-black cities by replacing the elected mayors and city councils, cut costs, cut services, cut more taxes for the rich, increase taxes on retired teachers and public employees and, ultimately, try to decimate their one line of defense against all this, this thing we used to call a union.
The amount of generosity since the national media finally started to cover this story has been tremendous. Pearl Jam sent 100,000 bottles of water. The next day the Detroit Lions showed up with a truck and 100,000 bottles of water. Yesterday, Puff Daddy and Mark Wahlberg donated 1,000,000 bottles of water! Unbelievably amazing. They acknowledged it’s a very short-term fix, and that it is. Flint has 102,000 residents, each in need of an average of 50 gallons of water a day for cooking, bathing, washing clothes, doing the dishes, and drinking (I’m not counting toilet flushes, watering plants or washing the car). But 100,000 bottles of water is enough for just one bottle per person – in other words, just enough to cover brushing one’s teeth for one day. You would have to send 200 bottles a day, per person, to cover what the average American (we are Americans in Flint) needs each day. That’s 102,000 citizens times 200 bottles of water – which equals 20.4 million 16oz. bottles of water per day, every day, for the next year or two until this problem is fixed (oh, and we’ll need to find a landfill in Flint big enough for all those hundreds of millions of plastic water bottles, thus degrading the local environment even further). Anybody want to pony up for that? Because THAT is the reality.
This is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. There is not a terrorist organization on Earth that has yet to figure out how to poison 100,000 people every day for two years – and get away with it. That took a Governor who subscribes to an American political ideology hell-bent on widening the income inequality gap and conducting various versions of voter and electoral suppression against people of color and the poor. It was those actions that led Michigan’s Republican Governor to try out his economic and racial experiment in Flint (and please don’t tell me this has nothing to do with race or class; he has removed the mayors of a number of black cities.
This, and the water crisis in Flint, never would have been visited upon the residents of Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe – and everyone here knows that). We have now seen the ultimate disastrous consequences of late-20th century, neo-conservative, trickle down public policy. That word “trickle,” a water-based metaphor, was used to justify this economic theory – well, it’s no longer a metaphor, is it? Because now we’re talking about how actual water has been used to institute these twisted economic beliefs in destroying the lives of the black and the poor in Flint, Michigan.