In Memoriam: John Michael Flint

John Michael Flint

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.

John Flint communicated regularly with Carmen Sabatino, and took the view that among the chaff tossed in the air by the bellicose former mayor, there was often a vital grain of truth, sometimes even a bushel. After all, it was Sabatino who had broken two of the biggest local stories ever, the Village I fees shortfall and plans for a West Side dump that involved purchase of a two thousand acre ranch at vastly inflated price. And it was John Michael Flint himself, no one else, who saw to it the dump story made the Modesto Bee.

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.

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. I always admired John Michael Flint for his genius in understanding and explaining local politics as well as his clear vision of what the purpose of government should be. His voice cannot be replaced, but should be emulated. Thank you to Eric Caine for publishing this tribute.

  2. I just found this article……thank you Eric for this story on my Father……he is missed very much!!!!

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