Rod Dreher

The other night I took the train home from Washington. I found it frustrating that there was only one train to Philadelphia within a large-ish swath of time, and frustrating that I had to wait on a train at 30th Street Station to my neighborhood. I got home exhausted, not long before midnight. Talking to my dad the next morning, I told him what I’d done the previous day, and he said, “It’s just amazing that you can get on the train in your own neighborhood, go down to Washington for the day, come back home on the same day, and never have to use your car or an airplane. Boy, I wish we had something like that here.”
His comment made me reflect on how spoiled I am. Like many of us, I’m so used to technology providing me what I want, when I want it, that I’ve come to see normal things like waiting as an imposition on my good will and patience. My dad’s remark made me think about how the simple act of going through life every day in this technological wonderland gives me the illusion that there’s not much that we can’t do. If I wanted to, I could stop writing this blog right this very second, press a button to call up Skype, and in less than a minute be conversing face to face with my friend M. in an Amsterdam suburb. If I were standing on the street just now, I could pull a small box out of my pocket, punch in a number, and have M. on the other end in seconds. Next year at this time, when the new front-facing camera iPhone is out, I can have a face-chat with M. from anywhere. Miracle!
I say all this as prelude to a comment about the oil disaster. Last evening on “All Things Considered,” I heard a heartbreaking, infuriating story about what all this looks like from the point of view of the local fishermen. Here’s the link to text and audio of the story; I strongly recommend listening to the audio, so you can hear these words in their voices. Excerpt:

Dock manager Mike Berthelot, 51, calls it “the beginning of the end.”
“I don’t see no more future for us to ever catch fresh fish ever again — oysters, crabs,” says Berthelot, who has been in the business for 34 years. “I think it’s over with.”
He says estimates of the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf are too low, adding that he thinks he won’t trawl or buy shrimp again in his lifetime. He says the effect on the parish would be devastating.
“You had Katrina, Ike, Gustav,” he says. “You can add all those together, ain’t gonna be nowhere near what this is gonna do.”

This is very likely the end of the line for these people, economically and culturally. If you’ve never seen how much fishing and shrimping is a way of life in that region, you can hardly appreciate the apocalypse that’s upon them now. I could hear the emotion in my mother’s voice on the phone last night when she remembered our family trips to Grand Isle, and playing on the beach there when we were kids. “That’s all gone,” she said. “Who knows if anybody will ever get to do that again?” She’s right.
As I write this, BP is trying its last-ditch top-kill effort to stop the well. What if it fails? Then what? David Roberts asks that question. Excerpt:

Junk shot? Top hat? Loony stuff like nukes? Relief wells will take months to drill and no one’s sure if they’ll work to relieve pressure. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that we’re going to be stuck helplessly watching as this well spews oil into the Gulf for years. Even if the flow were stopped tomorrow, the damage to marshes, coral, and marine life is done. The Gulf of Mexico will become an ecological and economic dead zone. There’s no real way to undo it, no matter who’s in charge.
I’m curious to see how the public’s mood shifts once it becomes clear that we are powerless in the face of this thing. What if there’s just nothing we can do? That’s not a feeling to which Americans are accustomed.

A world is being destroyed, right now — indeed, has likely been destroyed for millions of people, no matter what happens next. As Roberts goes on to say, the Gulf disaster is not a one-off thing. We’re working right at the edge of catastrophe in a number of areas. But baby wants what baby wants. No limits.

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