Their Cacophony; Our Complacency
What’s the opposite of paranoia? It’s probably complacency, not that anyone cares.
1973: “Our independence will depend on maintaining and achieving self-sufficiency in energy.” – Richard Nixon
1979: “[Our country] will never again use more foreign oil than we did in 1977.” – Jimmy Carter
1990: “America must never again enter any crisis – economic or military – with an excessive dependence on foreign oil.” – George H. W. Bush
2006: “And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil.” – George W. Bush
2008: “The price of a barrel of oil is now one of the most dangerous weapons in the world.” – Barack Obama
“Don’t follow leaders,” sang Bob Dylan. OK, Bob, but which ones are the leaders?
At 18,000 feet below sea level, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig drills into the ocean floor. Oil flows upwards through the thousands of feet of pipe, headed for the surface to heat our homes and power our cars and do all that other stuff we use oil for but don’t talk about. Then something happens. Don’t ask what it is. It produces a fireball that can be seen 35 miles away, flaming up from the depths. That’s all you need to know. Blame Satan if you believe in him. Eleven Americans die. The Deepwater Horizon sinks two days later. Sweet, sweet oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico.
Who’s in charge? Our elected officials? The oil companies? The system? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Rush Limbaugh becomes a conspiracy theorist. Environmentalists could be behind the explosion, he posits. Hey, it was the day before Earth Day. Listen to his specious logic: “What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants, than by blowing up a rig? I’m just noting the timing here.” Some people believe him. This is true. The rest of us continue to drive cars. Someone purchases a hybrid SUV that gets 22 miles per gallon and feels good about herself.
Like a massive feral infant, America has vomited globs of undigested oil onto her chin. Mommy is not around to clean her up. BP CEO Tony Hayward says, “I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.” The surface of the Gulf of Mexico is battered with purplish bruises of oil.
It’s suggested that we use a nuclear bomb to blow up… what? Blow up the ocean, apparently. I was not aware you could blow up a hole. But on the other hand, nuclear explosions are easily controlled, especially at extreme ocean depths. We’ve passed the event horizon.
“Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?” says Malia Obama. She says this one month after the explosion, and it’s the first sensible thing added to the public debate. In the Gulf, the hole continues to belch oil and gas. Plumes of underwater blackness float through closed-off fishing areas. How many American lives are being ruined? How many of us (yes, us) depend on the Gulf?
BP announces a plan to plug the well with mud. It’s called “Top Kill.” Fucking TOP KILL? Seriously? Of course, Top Kill is a failure. Shock resonates across the country. Some birds in the Gulf probably die. We change the channel and watch the season premier of The Bachelorette. What’s the opposite of paranoia again?
BP puts a cap on the hole. We’re using a gum wrapper as a condom. Oil ejaculates into the ocean around the cap, but at least BP is capturing some of it. A few thousand barrels. But how much oil is still flowing into the Gulf? Some estimates say 100,000 barrels a day. Could be more, could be less. It depends on who you’re listening to.
Rep. Joe Barton says he is “ashamed” that the White House has asked BP to put $20 billion into a fund to protect the American citizens who have been harmed by the spill. Well, we elected Mr. Barton. What are we supposed to do, anyway? Any person who really, actually wants to be elected to political office is insane and should immediately be disqualified. It’s a very sticky situation, like a pelican covered in crude oil.
The ultimate solution is a relief well that’s to be completed in August, or so they say. This requires BP to drill around the existing hole, some 35,000 below sea level, thousands of feet beneath the ocean floor. It’ll be over then, they tell us. Do you believe them?
Will our complacency ever be shaken? Maybe. Maybe when Cthulhu climbs out of the sea with an army of toxic avenger giant shrimp, mutated from a diet of liquid fossil fuel, in search of every American’s first-born son.
Until then, we’re all likely to continue hearing what we want to hear.