Monday, June 23, 2008



Fourth in a Series chronicling the 2008 Flood and related developments

(June 23, Iowa City, IA) In what has become a great American past time, the blame game has begun as the flood waters have moved south from this university town. Americans, particularly our elected officials, have become grand masters in the art and practice of reaction. We react; we are not prone to act or, be pro-active. That would require too much effort, energy, time and would seriously distract us from our beloved recreational and leisure time. We have too many TV shows to follow, too many movies to watch, too many gizmos and gadgets to pass our time with. Our collective focus has become so narrow, so myopic that we seem unable to see anything beyond the tight confines of our own families and lives. This, of course, is not a bad trait however we have taken it beyond what other societies and cultures have; we have dramatically altered it within our lifetimes. Our parents and grandparents were not like us; we are nothing like them. The concepts of prolonged hardship, sacrifice, shared responsibility, common courtesy and respect have gone the way of bottled milk, cloth diapers and leaded gasoline. Our disposal society has disposed of the values that made us who we are as a people, as a nation. We have not done our heritage proud.

There was a time in our not too distant history when we were very different indeed. We had leaders who led, who thought, acted and inspired. Perhaps the most vivid, potent example of what and who we were was our defining moment prior to the midpoint of the last century. World War II defined America and Americans to ourselves and the world.

We are now quite adept at closing the barn after our horses have fled, proclaiming, explaining and detailing what should have been done before a specific event, crisis or catastrophe. We seem extraordinarily able to ignore our vulnerabilities yet function in blissful ignorance until something goes wrong, something happens that threatens are sense of safety, security and superiority. We are Americans, after all, crap like that doesn’t happen here.

Oh, but if does; does it ever and crap will be happening more and more frequently as we begin to pay the prices for our ignorance, our greedy, self serving elected officials dereliction of duty and for apathy – our new national epidemic. The drift from who we were to what we’ve become was inexorably subtle initially. It took on vaster dimensions, picked up speed and began to color our perception in the 1960’s. Throughout the 70’s, and 80’s our drift evolved into tectonic movement. Our culture was being reshaped, some participated, some watched but, virtually everyone allowed it. By the 1990’s we were as distant from who we’d been as Mars is from Earth. We were now an in-your-face, aggressive, violent, callous, selfish society of victims, blamers, fools and dopes. We were actually proud of it and began to celebrate our collective stupidity in our media - entertainment - public forums.

(As an aside, America lost one of the most astute cultural observers and commentators yesterday: george Carlin. Known as a ‘comedian” he chronicled our metamorphosis over the course of his long career. he was more than a comedian; his eye and ear was keenly aware and well tuned to comment on us and make us all laugh because we recognized ourselves, certain truths, in his words.)

Sociologists and others can bicker, dicker and speculate on how we’ve arrived at this point. That’s is what they do. Perhaps, though, each of us needs to put a few minutes into thinking about all of this.

Maybe it all began when we realized our government could, would and had lied to us. They had lied to us on so many fronts that cynicism and skepticism accelerated our drift. They lied about Viet Nam, LSD experiments, military and civilian exposures to all sorts of chemicals, toxins, radiation and our lethal materials that helped vault us to the top of the industrialized worlds heap. They lied about the food we ate, the medications we took, they lied when they did not even have to. Lying became so accepted, common and easy we had stopped noticing it. We had come to the point that we expected to be lied to; we thought we were being lied to even when we may not have been. Conspiracy theories, antigovernment slag of every variety fueled our apathy, doubt and confusion forcing us to shrink our worlds into ever tighter little circles. Screw everybody except me and mine was our national anthem. Screw your neighbor, screw a stranger, don’t worry about anyone.

We lost faith in our government, our institutions and, ultimately, in ourselves. They years flew by and we hadn’t even realized how far from familiar shores we were. With ever increasing frequency, “things’ began to happen that may have begun to shake some of us from our hi-tech, easy living, screw you slumber. Our leaders had traded arms for hostages, financed illegal wars, abandoned any effort at oversight, allowed our Marines to be murdered in beirut, terrorists to murder thousands of us on our own soil and still we were so self absorbed as to buy the lies that have us in Iraq fighting a war of choice based on fallacies, fabrication while be waged with our blood and treasure. We noticed as our government left a major American city and its poor inhabitants to fend for themselves as shoddily constructed levees, designed and paid for by our government collapsed. Now once again the US Army Corps of Engineers is under scrutiny. Apparently the new Orleans disaster was not sufficient to prompt some real action of the part of our government. Now that lily-white middle-America is awash in floodwaters, heads will roll. Or will they?


So, here we are. from this vantage point the waters are receding, roads are beginning to open but, everyone here knows that to the south, small hamlets in Missouri, Illinois and beyond are now neck deep in waters that came from here. The Army Corps of Engineers has admitted to being “unable” to certify (whatever that means) some of the levees that line the banks of the Mississippi from its point of origin, through the heartland and downstream to its Gulf of Mexico terminus. Apparently, they have known this for years. They were not alone in their knowledge.

Richard Leopold, the Director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told reporters from the AP, Washington Post, new York Times and other wire services that he, personally, was aware of the dubious integrity of many of the levees here in Iowa. A political appointee who jumped through all the requisite hoops is now, suddenly, after the fact, seriously concerned about flood control. He probably is. A little too little, a little too late.

Our infrastructure from coast to coast, from north to south is aged, inadequate and, in many cases, potentially lethal. bridges collapse, electrical grids are antiquated and fail, our roads, tunnels, schools, public hospitals; our very skeleton has a case of osteoporosis that will prove to take lives. It already has.

Oddly, the current administration, in power for the last 7 plus years, has the funding to rebuild Iraq, a country we destroyed but, cannot locate funding, the will or sense of responsibility to invest in our own decrepit infrastructure. That is who we are; that is who we have become.


Soon we will see if, as a nation, we have begun to come to our senses. We will elect a new president and the choices could not be starker or more vividly drawn. But, that is a tale for another day. Soon we will discuss that with you.

Until then; wipe the crusty flakes of complacency from your eyes, and, if you were born in the 1950’s or early 60’s, think of your parents and grandparents, think of our collective innocence vanquished. Time, the “rapacious creditor” will have its way and maybe, before we all regain full consciousness, it will be too late.

This commentary is the product of a collaborative effort including technical, scientific and other sound contributions from ASSPAC, the MRW1 Group and our dedicated, intrepid Cynyx on the ground or, in the water, from Iowa to Mississippi.

Copyright 2008 TBC © All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2008 © All Rights Reserved

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