The Valley Citizen is dedicated to the memory of John Michael Flint. Flint had several careers over his lifetime, including as a local radio talk show host, and a career in the early days of computing. It was as a Community Columnist for the Modesto Bee that people remember him best. A self-confessed political junkie, his brevity, wit, and vast knowledge of local politics were unequalled. As former Bee assistant Opinion Page Editor Gale Hammons said recently, he was not only an exceptionally fine writer but a superb political analyst.
Though a proclaimed libertarian, Flint was no ideologue. He was anti-government because he was self-reliant. He was also very much pro liberty, and believed liberty was useless unless exercised, and he enjoyed very much the opportunity to exercise his own freedom, especially his freedom of speech and opinion. The Community Column was an ideal forum for John Michael Flint, and he made the most of it. As one of twelve original Community Columnists, he was the most published Community Columnist and the most appreciated.
Flint was genuinely puzzled when the Bee rejected his column about Carmen Sabatino’s campaign for Stanislaus County Supervisor. He shouldn’t have been. Even today, the blood feud between the Bee and Sabatino shows no signs of abating. Still, Flint had trouble believing the enmity of the local newspaper could reach the level of censoring a fine column.
And because he was a thinking man, with strong radar for political shenanigans, he came to believe Sabatino had, as he put it, been “kneecapped” by his political opponents. Despite its many protestations in favor of free speech, this was not a point of view the Bee wanted to publish, especially by a writer many in the community trusted more than Bee editors. So the column was spiked.
That column, however, isn’t going away. Nor is free speech. Contrarian views, especially those by people as responsible and politically acute as John Flint, deserve a hearing. Shooting the messenger doesn’t serve democracy, nor does silencing knowledgeable citizens.
Flint knew that citizenship has gotten more burdensome. There’s more to know than ever. But he also knew that those who fail to pay attention have only themselves to blame when things go wrong. He was determined to pay attention, and pay attention he did until the very end, one year ago today. He was an ideal citizen.