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The Campanile

Flint water crisis an example of government failure

A nationally important water crisis occurred in 2013 after the city of Flint, Mich. opted to use the nearby Flint River as a water source, a move that was touted as saving the city five million dollars over two years.

But within months of the switch, fecal coliform bacteria was found in the water. The city’s response was simply to ignore these claims and continue to tell residents their water was safe to drink. As public concern increased, authorities recommended that residents boil their water, topped off by a promise to increase levels of chlorine, a disinfectant, in the water.

Another month passed by and General Motors, Flint’s largest employer, stopped using public water due to the excess chlorine corroding engine parts. The city continued to ignore the quality of the water and maintained the water was safe to drink.

Not much more time passed before city residents began to complain of the metallic taste of the water and strange sicknesses. Unsurprisingly, the chlorine had corroded away at lead pipes, which resulted in lead from the pipes leaching into the water. Public officials continued to ignore and undermine the issue, with some even offering to drink Flint water.

The crisis has yet to be solved. Lead and trihalomethane, a known carcinogen, still contaminate the water at levels nearly five times the acceptable limit. The tale of Flint, however, does not stop at the city or even state lines.

This story has become strangely familiar to the American voter — today’s governments often forgets its duties when caught in the crossfire of too much political gridlock.

Today, the normalcy of the career politician means that re-election, rather than serving the community, has become a top priority. Allegiances along party lines mean that speaking out against the party inevitably spells the end of a politician’s career. As a result, the politician does the sensible thing for his career, which sadly means becoming a puppet to the wills of party leadership, a process shown by the disappearance of the vast majority of unique or moderate viewpoints and an increase in “identity politics” which, rather than allowing one to choose a party based on beliefs, tell voters to choose beliefs based on a party.

Nowadays, there are only two possible political views. Any side that admits defeat or failure will surely lose the election to the opposition.

The resulting fear of political failure manifests itself in a very disturbing fashion — the inability to admit or claim one’s own failures or shortcomings. In Flint, this meant Governor Snyder’s dismissal of the public’s claims of lead and carcinogens in the water. In Washington, it meant White House press secretary Sean Spicer lying about the number of people who appeared at President Trump’s inauguration. In California, this means the state GOP sending emails leading those concerned with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to an anti-ACA propaganda website.

In this new model of government, nobody wins, a fact that is still painfully evident in Flint, where the city remains without a source of clean water. Had the city taken the blame and switched back to Detroit water when bacteria were found in excessive amounts, the entire Flint water crisis would have been avoided and thousands of lives would have been saved.

The inability of an administration to accept any failure whatsoever ultimately results in the lack of the administration to fix the issue. Sadly, many of these issues are problems that involve the basic needs of many residents, an obligatory resource that should be provided by our government.

The first step in fixing any problem is to admit that it exists. If our government simply closes its ears and pretends problems don’t exist, we stand at a very scary crossroads. Governments that deceive the people and hide information are notorious for heading down the path to violence and totalitarianism. 20 years before the Stalin regime caused the deaths of nearly 20 million Russians, government officials created a special office meant specially for spreading disinformation and lies throughout the Russian public. We must stand up to government disinformation as it is today to prevent the same fate.

Unfortunately, the spreading of falsehoods is something that we as a nation must stand up to. Lies and rumors, disguised as truth, are something that affect all of us in our individual lives. If we accept this behavior at the federal level, we not only condone but practically invite this behavior not only into state governments but into our mayor’s offices, our city councils, and our school boards. The impact this will make will be monumental and will fundamentally change our nation as a whole.

If our government continues down this path, the story of Flint will cease to be a rarity — it will become commonplace. We will be forced not to reject lies and dishonesty, but to embrace it. The result will be a world where truth and falsehood blur and nobody can discern one from the other – a world of “alternative facts.”

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