As a good American, I think I’m fairly adept at putting the misery of people who live in different zip codes out of my mind. When the Tsunami hit in Indonesia, When the levees broke, whenever California is on fire, when the earthquake tore Haiti apart; I was sad, I kept up with the news, I sent money, I talked about it with friends, family, and co-workers, but there was always a kind of philosophical distance between myself and the event. This is probably because I didn’t know anyone personally involved in these crises, and even though there have been human errors involved in recovering from each mess, on some level I expected that things would be sorted out. I didn’t need to stay glued to my television set or hear 24 hour coverage on the radio. The event was out of my mind for most of the day, except for the occasional update here and there.
Natural disasters happen. Human error happens. But throughout history we have typically figured out how to untie most knots of this nature.
But the oil is still gushing out into the gulf at such an obscene pace. I’ve never had such a visceral reaction to a story like this before. It started off as a little ping in my consciousness every time that pornographic footage of the rushing oil would pop onto a T.V. screen, and I won’t be surprised if it eventually manifests itself in a twitchy eye at some point.
Not to draw a false equivalency, but I typically am pretty easy on the executive branch during pop-up crises. I wasn’t mad at how long George W. Bush read ‘My Pet Goat’ after 9-11, or because he only flew over New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. I’m also not mad that President Obama didn’t have a press conference immediately after this latest BP sponsored disaster. These things are complicated things, and all of them highlighted a slew of other neglected issues that allowed things to go awry in the first place. I like what former President Clinton had to say about the whole oil spill business the other day:
All of the cartoonish sounding fixes that have been suggested thus far have rightfully received a raised eyebrow from places like the Daily Show and the Colbert report. On the blame issue, it’s clear that this isn’t a case of environmentalists pushing BP out to unmanageable depths, as so many conservative voices have claimed. This is an issue of an oil company deciding to do something just because it could, and, with the sense of entitlement and feelings of immortality of a Rand-spouting teenager who doesn't give a damn about the consequences of their actions, and is uninterested in thinking through contingency plans.
But, knowing that doesn’t plug the hole, and the ugly continues to vomit out.
cross posted at The Daily Kos.