Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In which Linda expresses unpopular sentiments
or, You thought the Harry Potter post was bad!

OK. Let's start with the miners in Utah who are trapped and presumed dead. Of course I am horrified on behalf of the families of the miners, as well as on behalf of the families of the rescue workers, and so on. And I will admit that apart from these occasional-and-yet-all-too-frequent mine disasters, most of my limited coal mining knowledge comes from two chief sources: The Buffalo Creek Disaster, a stirring account I read in my Civil Procedure class last semester, and before that Coal Miner's Daughter.

But - here's what I think. Rather than sitting here blaming the mine companies, the owners, the ruthless capitalists and robber barons, rather than criticizing the botched rescue efforts, or even expressing condescending sympathy for "those poor people" who have to work those jobs, how about we all take a long hard look at ourselves? Perhaps we should all go sit for a few hours --or a few days -- in a darkened room, with no TV, no Internet, no refrigerator or microwave. No, I don't mean to try to empathize with the mine workers trapped in darkness, although that's not a half-bad idea. I mean because we all take electricity for granted! Well, how the hell do you think we get it? And I do mean hell. Mining coal sucks. People do it to make a living, and they work under brutal conditions and likely die young. The rest of us who will never have to go through that consume electricity ravenously. We blithely wander from room to room leaving lights on; we are wasteful. We buy more and more things we don't need. And then we bitch about being inconvenienced by a blackout, because obviously we are entitled to every last drop and clearly the power company shouldn't be charging us so much for us to enjoy our lifestyle.

I come from a family of engineers. Thanksgiving dinner at my house regularly consists of debating the merits of this or that regional power grid, or analyzing the traffic flow of a major city, or on one particularly memorable occasion determining just how the Challenger space shuttle failed and drawing up an alternative design. Well, all these engineers have infused me with a sense of realism about power plants. Coal-fired power plants. That give you the electricity you are using to read this.

Not to mention my very young childhood spent living in the middle of nowhere Arizona, on the edge of the Navajo reservation near the Cholla Power Plant where my dad worked, because that's what we do, build power plants on the edge of Native American reservations (rural) or poor neighborhoods (urban). We all just want to use electricity without wanting to think about where it comes from or god forbid watch it be generated, but we sure feel comfortable talking about pollutants and global warming and trapped mine workers when we don't know squat and have ourselves done nothing whatsoever to solve the problem, or as I like to think of it, reduce our dependence on domestic coal.

Next, today I stood waiting for the bus at Davis Square. A woman with two daughters in tow shouted into her cell phone. The following is a direct quote (with strong language) from her discussion about some sort of medical issue: "I said. 'Bitch, I know that, I want to know what the fuck is wrong with my child.'" Hmmm. Did I mention that the girls, maybe around ages 6-9, were right there next to her? I glanced over. The two girls weren't needy or pestering their mother to get off the phone; they were happily eating their McDonald's sandwiches. I gazed upon the evening scene, sun glistening on the blonde children's hair as they sat on the curb, and I thought, 'Maybe what the fuck is wrong with your child is that you shove McDonalds in their faces while you gab with reckless vulgar abandon about what the fuck is wrong with your child.'

Furthermore, while it's just this side of frightening when I see my two-year-old niece and not-quite four-year-old nephew display their little Mormon behaviors that induce such fond memories of brainwashing from my childhood, I suppose I'd rather see parents (such as my sister and brother-in-law) talking about Jesus and whatnot than screaming "what the fuck is wrong with my child." I think.

Now on to Michael Vick. What a jackass. What a malevolent pathetic excuse for a human being. And I would like to extend that title to any and all of his dogfighting friends. I don't care if it's "widespread" or "part of the culture in the South" -- although, I might add, has it occurred to anyone in "The South" yet that they might want to hold off on using the "It's just what we do here" excuse if they want to gain sympathy from us damn Yankees? Hello.

I am no stranger to the animal baiting/fighting debate. Besides dogs, where I come from they also like to fight roosters. In my teenage years, Arizona was one of two states where cockfighting was still legal. (The other was Oklahoma.) It horrifies me. All of it. And not "because they are dogs." A lot of people have a soft spot in their hearts for dogs they don't have for other creatures. Thus when someone such as myself goes to Korea where "oh my god they eat dogs" they muster up all sorts of righteous outrage. Righteous ignorant outrage, I would like to point out. No, I didn't eat that particular delicacy while I was there, although a few of my ESL teachin' expat cohorts tried it. But I did have philosophical vegetarian debate with some folks back home along the lines of how-is-that-so-different, since they eat only a certain breed of dog, specifically bred and raised for meat, as we do with cows and such.

But I digress. Back to Vick and his nasty "sport" of ripping sentient beings into shreds. Ewww. I am no fan of hunting, racing, lab animal experimentation, or keeping pets in cages. But even I will admit that those are on an entirely different level than dogfighting. There is a staggering level of malice involved in training two creatures to tear each other apart, with death and destruction as ends in themselves and not means to an end, not to mention executing the dogs when they fail to perform according to the criminals' callous whims. That level of malice seems matched only by war, as far as I can see. Now if only W. Bush et. al. would have to answer for their unholy violence alliance just as Vick has to answer for his.

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