Although you would expect a pants-on-fire liberal like me to freak out about the BP oil disaster, I found myself oddly unable to get riled up. It’s true, I often compare oil companies to drug dealers. They’re feeding evil, and not evil themselves. I prefer oil companies, since they don’t directly feed cycles of violence and poverty in my neighborhood, and transportation and air conditioning seem like greater goods than getting high.
It also failed to rile me because the whole situation made so much psychological sense. For example, I think my last relationship was the BP oil spill. Watching trouble burbling, I thought I could handle it. Knowing there was danger, I went ahead anyway because I was trying to get at something important. And then, even though the waste and the goo was getting everywhere, it took me a while to ask for help. Maybe part of the reason America freaked out so bad was that it’s not just an environmental disaster: we all have our own oil spills, whose pollution we are powerless to stop.
A broken oil well, deep underwater, is a lot like a troubled romantic relationship. No one knows what is going on down there, and no one really knows what to do about it. Following this metaphor to its natural conclusion, I blame President Obama’s distraction with silly matters like the war in Afghanistan and our floundering economy for my breakup.
This week, some guy in Utah opted for the firing squad. Go ahead, shoot me, he said. Dick Wolf, of “Law & Order” fame, was interviewed on “Fresh Air” recently, and he mentioned that it’s a very bad idea to tell someone to shoot you. While hanging out with cops and detectives, doing research for cop shows, he learned that when staring down a gun, many now-dead people had snarled, “Go ahead! Shoot me!” And real people with guns, unlike television characters with guns, are only too happy to oblige.
They did shoot the guy in Arizona, while his friends were singing “Free Bird” in the parking lot. Of course, your choices are limited when the state decides to kill you. The quick method is the only one they’ll allow. They don’t say, “Hey, we can give you a slow-growing cancer to suffer with for 10 years, or you can be lethally injected in 7 years and get it over with?” I’d choose the cancer.
In fact, I’m so committed to the slow leak that I rarely consider the firing squad. Sometimes it would be a great idea to go up to a problem in your life and blurt, “Go ahead!” I’d rather throw rubber tires at my problems. I’d rather send down an extra straw to suck up most, if not all, of the poison.
There’s another reason I can’t freak out at BP. I know we’ve done screwy things to confuse nature, but here in the midwest, I see too much empty space, and too much nature working and working things out. I am conservative about the environment. Better safe than sorry. At the same time, I believe in the power of time and the deep down urge of life to live. Plankton want to live. Birds want to live. The ocean wants to work this oil out and grow things again. If I’ve lived my own oil spill, over and over again, I’ve also seen my messes wash themselves out, gather and break down, dilute and dissipate. With care and good intentions, it’s amazing what can wash out.
Firing squad article:
Dick Wolf interview: