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Contest Archives Columns Contest Archives Only Those Can Know Who Were There

Only Those Can Know Who Were There

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The editors of Moonbaby have asked us to write some pieces about the Gulf oil crisis - what we're thinking and feeling, and any ideas for solving it.  I'm not sure that I have anything valuable to contribute; I certainly don't have any solutions.  Neither would I have had any solutions the moment after the Hindenburg blew up, or an hour after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.  Once the crisis has already happened, it seems a bit naïve to talk about solutions.


Our news programs are showing footage of dead and dying wildlife covered in oil.  Just this morning they showed a poor dead turtle, immersed totally in black, sticky goo - and the commentator said, "It may be several weeks before scientists can determine whether oil played a part in this animal's death."  My wife and I just stared at each other in disbelief.  They've got to be fucking kidding!  Denial is not just a river in Egypt.


Our lovely Moonbaby creators live in the area affected by Katrina, Ike and this latest disaster.  I live somewhere else - so I defer to them when it comes to expressing what it feels like.  My first father-in-law had been a paratrooper in the R.A.F. when Hitler was planning to invade England.  He told us how individual airmen were ordered to stand on the beaches, one mile apart from each other, to wait for the Germans to land.  Each young man was issued a rifle or pistol, with one round of ammunition.  (That is one bullet, in case you weren't sure.)  He asked me one day, when I was all of 23 years old, if I could understand what those days had been like.  Of course I could not.  I have an artist's empathy and imagination, but only those who were there can know the truth.  That's why Viet Nam and Afghanistan vets hang together: nobody else knows.


The only other event that I can relate to this oil spill is Valdez, Alaska.  It is not encouraging to remember that Exxon-Mobile was able to weasel out of all payments to the people of that region, even after the Court judgment that they owed hundreds of millions of dollars - first by delaying any action for years, and then by getting another court to reverse the judgment altogether.  While it's true that BP has been making payments in this case, they are a pitiful fraction of what Gulf area businesses would have been making at this time of year; according to NPR, they are being compensated for an entire month, what they would have normally earned in one day.  It doesn't take an Einstein to do the math on this one.


If there is anything encouraging that I can contribute, it is the reminder that there were survivors of each of the horrible times I mentioned earlier - that life does go on, and that people do seem to learn something from their tribulations.  It doesn't help right now, but something positive may come of all this in the future.


So, please hang in there and be numbered among the survivors.

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