Friday, April 26, 2013
Boston massacre, West tragedy | Casey's Last Word
It’s hard, during Fiesta, to think of April as being the cruelest month.
Poet T.S. Eliot meant it metaphorically, of course, but the metaphor was rooted in a different geography from ours.
Eliot grew up in St. Louis.
Then he spent most of the rest of his life either in England (like Chaucer, from whom he borrowed the metaphor) or at Harvard, where he studied and later taught.
It was a colder latitude than ours, and it was before climate change started accelerating.
I lived in Boston for several years 30 years ago, and April was a cruel month.
You had a week or so of spring – the first warm sun since early October – and then late April or even early May would deliver another blizzard.
Here the first half of April is the end of spring and the last half the start of summer.
April begins nature’s cruelty. But this year, April has already marked an unusual amount of man-made cruelty.
First there was the Boston Marathon Massacre.
We don’t yet know for sure what motivated two brothers to fashion bombs loaded with small, slicing bits of metal, then cold-bloodedly place the bombs in the midst of hundreds of children and other innocent people.
Reports indicate the violence may have grown out of the older brother’s radicalization into a perverted form of Islam.
If true, this is a particularly cruel and vicious form of insanity.
How else can we label a theology that teaches that a man can get to heaven by killing God’s children for any other reason than to defend himself or others?
It is a form of insanity that is not limited to radical Islam.
Any Christian who smugly thinks otherwise doesn’t know his or her own history, whether it was the Spanish Inquisition or the religious savagery that propelled the Pilgrims to New England.
This April’s cruelty also delivered the tragic explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, near Waco.
Here the victims were more than innocent. They were heroic.
Of 14 bodies identified so far, at least 12 were volunteer firefighters rushing in to deal with the disaster.
The blast injured another 200.
Again, the cruelty here isn’t climatological. It’s human.
Who among us in the wake of the catastrophic West Chemical and Fertilizer Company explosion wouldn’t say we’d be happy to chip in a few dollars each to make sure dangerous chemical plants are operated safely?
And that they are not located next to schools, as this one was.
Mercifully, the plant’s approximately 270 tons of volatile ammonia nitrate exploded after school was out.
Records indicate that the plant wasn’t inspected by OSHA, the federal work safety agency, since 1985.
OSHA’s staff has stagnated in recent years.
Meanwhile, while the plant’s operator has been fined several times, no state agency appears to have been capable of requiring it to fix safety problems.
Gov. Rick Perry didn’t wait for an investigation before pronouncing that no regulations could have prevented the disaster.
Instead, he jetted off to Illinois to try to persuade factories there to move to Texas, using lighter regulations as a lure.
Some who would like to see more oversight of dangerous and polluting Texas industries are lobbying the Legislature in the wake of the West tragedy.
But their goal isn’t to establish more effective oversight.
It is to kill bills that would actually remove some of the inadequate safeguards that are now in place.
That, this April in Texas, is the cruel reality.