NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Smoke may come out of my ears and my face will turn bright red if I hear again that the BP oil leak is “an environmental 9-1-1.” This kind of misuse of political rhetoric should be a crime. I’ll have to settle for being deeply offended.
The Deepwater Horizon leak is an environmental tragedy – no doubt about that. But its cause was negligence. Perhaps criminally-liable negligence. But at the end of the day it was an accident. A terribly damaging accident with consequences that we can’t fully comprehend, but an accident nonetheless.
The events of September 11, 1991 were not accidental. They were plotted. The events of that morning were specifically calculated to take human life, to cause physical and economic destruction, and the bring havoc to our largest city. There are no similarities.
Defenders of the “environmental 9-1-1” rhetoric will say we’ve never seen an ecological disaster of this scale, just like we'd never seen a domestic terror attack like we did nine years ago. True enough. But that’s a flimsy comparison. We have far more control over this disaster… how to stop it, how to keep it from happening again, how to clean it up, how to manage the consequences. We may not know the right answers yet, but we will find them. If you recall 9-11, if you lived through it, you know the sense of hopelessness and vulnerability we felt after the attack. The emotions we’re feeling about the Gulf are not the same.
We have a collective sense of frustration because stopping the leak is taking so long. The U.S. government, who we've become more and more dependent on to do things, can't do anything here. Years from now sociologists will tell us that this was a confusing moment in our national history. Not only don’t we know what to do, but we don’t know what to feel. And when we’re confused like this we reach for familiar feelings, like the things we felt on September 11th. But this is wrong.
3,000 Americans died on September 11th. 11 people died when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. All loss of human life is tragic. But to compare the two events dishonors the memory of people who died in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, and turns the deaths of the oil workers into a political punchline.
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P.S. – Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) disgraced himself and the U.S. Congress by suggesting that BP America President Lamar McKay commit suicide over the oil leak. He said during Congressional hearings: “In the Asian culture, we do things differently. During the Samurai days, we'd just give you the knife and ask you to commit hara-kiri.”
B.P. deserves no sympathy. But they also have every motivation to plug the leak and minimize the environmental damage. Their liability increases each day it isn’t.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau