I can't look at this picture from the oil-fouled Louisiana coast without tears coming to my eyes.
It's a brown pelican -- the state bird -- turned almost black with oil. It will die. It is doomed.
Then again, so is Louisiana, my home state. Maybe.
Above is a picture of not only an ecological catastrophe -- a mass killing of wildlife unlike anything since the last ice age, or the last megavolcano blew, or the last asteroid strike -- but of a murder. The greed and negligence of an oil company, BP, and the corruption and incompetence of a government, the United States, now has claimed the environment, the culture and the economy of a large part of a state that's damn well suffered enough.
The oil is in the marshes -- the wetlands. Good luck getting that out.
And everything in those oil-soaked wetlands is dead, or will be soon enough. The shrimp. The oysters. The birds. The roseau cane that holds it all together, that keeps it from becoming open Gulf water, however tenuously even before this crude apocalypse.
THAT WILL DIE, and whole masses of the Louisiana coast will join thousands of square miles of other masses of Louisiana coast over the last seven decades in becoming the former coastline of my home state. South Louisiana was fast disappearing due to coastal erosion, subsidence and sea-level rise even before now.
Now it will disappear a lot faster.
Along with it, other things will vanish forever. The oil already has wiped out the fishing industry in southeastern Louisiana, and with it the livelihoods of people who have done nothing else. As their fathers, and grandfathers, and great-grandfathers had done nothing else but harvest God's bounty that greed is killing.
That, likely, is gone for decades . . . if not forever. The culture centered on that is gone, too. It's a dead man walking, this culture that in large part informs the identity of an entire state -- an entire people. It has been executed by a lethal, uncontrolled injection of Louisiana Sweet crude.
It is a form of genocide. What kind? The kind that you don't have to sit on trial at The Hague after committing. The kind, unfortunately, that doesn't end with the perpetrators swinging from the end of a rope.
Accidents happen. Gross neglect that ends in an "accident" is a crime. In this case, a crime against nature and a crime against humanity.
A crime against a people who, to the federal government and the petrochemical industry, must have a gigantic "Kick Me!" sign attached to its collective back. Sadder still -- and intellectual honesty compels its acknowledgment -- the victims are not entirely blameless; Louisiana is thoroughly complicit in putting the sign there in the first place.
But just because a woman goes "commando" in a short skirt with a skimpy top, it doesn't mean she's fair game for the raping. I guess BP's defense will be that Louisiana "asked for it," being that half the politicians are crooks and state regulations are, shall we say, less than Scandinavian.
BUT THERE'S MORE to the body count in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill -- beyond the 11 souls who never made it off the doomed rig, beyond the murder of a culture and an ecosystem.
After the epic Republican political fail that was Katrina, we're in the agonizing midst of the epic Democratic political fail of this present catastrophe. Democratic strategist James Carville is absolutely right in the above video from Good Morning America:
“His approval rating should be up seven points right now,” said Carville. “I have no idea why they didn’t seize this thing; I have no idea why the attitude is so hands-off here; it’s just unbelievable.REPUBLICANS. DEMOCRATS. They're all the same. Neither of the parties can . . . govern. Neither of them can deal with the nation's severe and ongoing problems, and neither of them can effectively deal with national emergencies when they gain the reins of power.
“I hope he seizes it now because very seldom do you get something that is really good politics and really the right thing to do. Get involved here.”
When host George Stephanopoulos asked Carville what Obama should be doing, in addition to consoling the family members of the 11 workers killed in the explosion, he rambled off a laundry list of suggestions, “He could be commandeering tankers and making BP bring in tankers to clean this up. They could be deploying people to the coast right now. He could be with the Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard with people in Plaquemines Parish doing something about these regulations (for the construction of barrier islands). These people are crying, they are begging for something down here and it just looks like he’s not involved in this.”
Both of them are in bed with corporate America, making the country safe for fat cats and dangerous for the ordinary man.
Like Louisiana oystermen and fishermen.
In other words, no we can't "just plug the damn hole":
The government is starting to look powerless. The administration has been pushing BP to move rapidly forward with the so-called “top kill” process — essentially a high-pressure injection of mud and trash to seal off the rupture in the earth. BP says it is working on it, but the effective start date has slipped by over a week. You see, BP has to bring in all the high-tech equipment it was supposed to have stockpiled to do just such a job ... and that takes time. Five weeks so far. We’re told all will be ready to go as I write this, but we’re also told there is only a 60 percent chance it will work. If it doesn’t, BP’s next backup is the drilling of relief wells, which should be completed by August, it says.AND IT WAS George W. Bush's thoroughly inept and corrupt regulatory infrastructure before that.
More and more Americans are asking why the administration can’t get this under control. Yes, MMS was a mess long before Obama took office. No, the president had nothing to do with the explosion and subsequent disaster. But Americans of all stripes expect their government, and that means President Obama, to take care of problems like this. For five [weeks] oil has been pumping into the Gulf at the rate of 20- to 70,000 barrels a day — the government can’t even give us a straight number on that. Unless the administration can show some real progress on stopping the hemorrhaging, voters are going to get a message no one in the White House wants them to consider: This is Obama’s well.
Thus, the final corpse after all this is said and oiled may be that of whatever political legitimacy the U.S. government still possesses. What started out as an ecological, economic and cultural crisis likely will end as a political one as Americans -- most particularly in Louisiana -- grapple with the sad reality that the best government corporate America can buy is useless so far as carrying out its constitutionally stated purpose.
So far, the best solution the Republicans and tea partiers can come up with is to, by design, make the government even more ineffective in the jaws of the new millennium. As if trusting the sainted "private sector" has worked out so well for the Gulf Coast.
I look at the picture of the oil-coated, dying brown pelican, and I think of the Louisiana state flag. On it, a mother pelican rips open her chest -- fatally wounding herself -- to feed her young with her own blood.
It is the "holy pelican," an ancient symbol of the Eucharist -- the body and blood of Christ, in the form of bread and wine, by which Christians are fed and receive new life.
Of course, it is beyond the power of Louisiana to live up to the symbolism of its banner. All the state can do -- has done -- is allow its resources to be plundered, its people to be sickened, its environment to be spoiled, its coastline to be eroded . . . and now, its economy and culture to be ravaged just so, somewhere in suburbia, Bobby and Susie's mom can schlep them to soccer practice in a street-legal, gas-guzzling tank.
Unlike that of our Lord and our God, this is a sacrifice without a point. And given the last likely casualty of When Big Business Owns Feckless Government -- confidence in, and the legitimacy of, the American government -- Americans had better get in their gas guzzlers and drive their overprivileged asses to church and give their hearts to Jesus.
Because their asses are about to belong to reality, which, alas, cannot be cheated.