Tuesday, August 16, 2016


June 29, 2016.   I’ll call him Flynn.  He grew up in Flint in the late seventies.  Things better than they was in the eighties, he says, lots of shooting back then, drug violence, gang wars.  Flynn is new to the job, hired by the state to service the endless water needs of Flint residents.  He rides along with me today, learning the ropes.  Governor Rick Snyder prides himself on his job creation prowess.  Flynn lost a decent private sector job last year, but thanks to self-described nerd Snyder, he now makes eleven dollars an hour delivering bottled water to the less fortunate unable drive to a distribution station and load up their weekly allocation.  Flynn lives in a bad part of town on the north side.  He won’t allow his twelve year old son to play outdoors unsupervised, so the boy will spend a good deal of his summer vacation playing video games.  Flynn credits certain gang members of his youth for steering him away from bad choices, recognizing something within the boy worth saving.   He gives me a day long tutorial on the balance of power in various neighborhoods, places I have driven through many times blissfully unaware of their potential for lethality.  Pop, pop, pop sitting at a light days before the Fourth of July holiday.  Was that fireworks, I ask?  Nine millimeter, Flynn says.  Earlier that day, Flynn and I stood at the back of the ERV and watched a car careen around the corner and fishtail into a driveway just houses down from us.  A women exited the vehicle with her hand in the waist band of her pants.  Flynn had insisted we drive away immediately.  He tells me he has a concealed weapons permit.  I assume he is carrying and, despite myself feel safer, compounding my shame at feeling somehow magically protected simply because I’m riding through town with a black man.  Flynn likes guns.  He’s NRA, ticks off an owners list of long guns and hand guns.  I want me an AK, Flynn says.   I ask him why on earth.  Flynn yammers on about reliability, magazine capacity, ease of operation, etc.  Then he looks at me with a broad grin.  Man, didn’t you love them Die Hard movies?  So that’s it! I say.  It’s the first good laugh we’ve shared all day.

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