"It's premature to say this is catastrophic." The words of Gulf Coast Coast Guard Commander Mary Landry about the BP oil spill Tuesday were spoken as the families of eleven rig workers were still waiting for word of their loved ones, now presumed dead.
While Landry may have reviewed her assessment, the word still makes one think. How do we define catastrophe? By Iraq's uncounted dead? By the uncounted casualties of greed on Wall Street? By the 40,000 dead a year due to lack of health insurance? How about by the 5,000 workers who die every year on the job?
April 28 marked Workers Memorial Day, when workers and their unions pause to remember those who die or are injured at work. This year’s toll already includes 29 men killed in a dangerous but money-making mine, 195 coalition forces in a couple of imperial wars. And how about the thousands in Haiti impoverished so we can have cheap shirts?
Those eleven oil rig workers might have been saved by a safe-guard switch that other oil producing countries require but US regulators don't. And as I speak, two more miners are trapped beneath the rubble of a Kentucky coal mine's collapsed roof.
Maybe at the end of Confederate History Month, it's time to admit that's it not just good ol' boy Southern governors who like to hush about slavery and loss. In an economic climate that prizes wealth over life, the erasure of pain in pursuit of profit is as American as mining or drilling. As American as making a killing.