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White People Don’t Live in Flint or Puerto Rico, So President Sends Aid to France

The glow of flames can be seen through the windows of Notre Dame as fire ravaged the centuries-old cathedral in Paris April 15, 2019.
The glow of flames can be seen through the windows of Notre Dame as fire ravaged the centuries-old cathedral in Paris April 15, 2019.
Photo: Associated Press

Five years have gone by, some 1,825 days, since the people of Flint, Mich., were doomed to a life with no clean water, with no clear end in sight. (Nestle just pledged to continue providing bottled water for the town at least through August of this year.)

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And it’s been more than 18 months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing nearly 3,000 people, destroying much of the infrastructure and leaving much of the island U.S. territory still without adequate power.

It remains a struggle for both the people of Flint and Puerto Rico to get the federal funds needed to make full recoveries, and so it was on Tuesday, the day after flames ravaged France’s historic Notre Dame cathedral, some found irony in the speed with which the U.S. pledged to come through with cash to support efforts to rebuild the almost-1,000-year-old edifice.

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They and many others (#Flint was trending much of the day on Twitter) were reacting to news announced by Donald Trump’s administration that the U.S. would be sending aid to France to assist in the rebuilding of Notre Dame.

According to the Hill, as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put it, the U.S. will offer “assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization.”

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On the same day, word came in that Flint was receiving a remaining $77.7 million in federal funding to assist in that community now almost five-year-long battle to again have clean water flowing through its taps.

But as MLive pointed out, rather than being new monies to help speed progress along:

The funds are from a $120 million federal and state loan granted to Flint in March 2017 by the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016. The funds support several Flint water infrastructure projects.

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And as NPR reports, funding for Puerto Rico is at standstill due to infighting among federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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So, it would seem that critics aren’t so much questioning whether the U.S. should put dollars into remaking Notre Dame as much as voicing that old saying: Charity, or, in this case, taxpayer-funded legislative aid, should perhaps begin at home.

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DISCUSSION

I appreciate pointing out the hypocrisy at play here, but this is a flavor of hot take I’m really fucking tired of. Can a tragedy just be a tragedy? Do we always have to justify our emotional responses to stuff like this by comparing it to other tragedies or excuse it by giving some explicit personal or familial connection?

I’m the farthest you can get from Catholic and don’t have a drop of french DNA. But this is an iconic structure that played an important role in the development of European art and architecture. You can isolate it as part of “Western culture”, but at this point it transcends that and has become a part of human culture. Just as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Forbidden City or the Taj Mahal have become global icons of human art and culture.

I fucking loath Trump, but even if he’s doing it for the wrong reasons I’m glad the US will be chipping in what will surely amount to a pittance as a goodwill gesture.

I would be just as heartbroken to see any of these other structures from other cultures burn down, and even though he wouldn’t, I would want him to do the same if those structures suffered misfortune. Just as when the war in Syria is over, I hope to see an international effort made to restore the countless cultural and historical sites that have been destroyed there.