Sunday, June 06, 2010

Obligatory Oil Spill Post

So, what should Obama do about the oil spill? I fully agree with people who say that getting mad and pounding the table seems pretty pointless. I never agreed with the people who said that jihadi attacks are happening because Obama isn't belligerent enough in his speeches, but at least jihadis are human actors who might conceivably respond to that sort of thing. Oil is not. Oil will keep gushing out without the slightest regard to whether the President of the US loses his temper. (And British Petroleum doesn't like the situation any more than anyone else. They aren't delaying in blocking the leak because the President isn't angry enough at them).

At the same time, I do think his response has been lacking. So here is my suggestion. Pretend it is an earthquake in Haiti. There seems to be a general consensus that Obama's response to the Haitian earthquake was all one could ask for. So why not duplicate it here in the US? Leave plugging the leak to BP, but go all out in cleaning up the slick. (This column goes so far as to suggest making it the new Civilian Conservation Corp). Publicize the all-out you are doing to clean up the spill. Unveil a generous plan to help the Gulf Coast states recover from the impact. (If it causes embarrassment in people opposed to all government spending, but eager to benefit from it, so much the better).

But there's more than that. One of the frustrating things about the spill has been our sense of helplessness. Americans may hate relying on government, rather than ourselves. But, as the spill makes clear, it turns out that, after all, Americans would rather rely on government than on British Petroleum. At least the President is someone we elect and feel we can, to some degree, hold accountable. (And even people who didn't vote for the man and hate his guts can still hope to impose some accountability on the office). But really, what people want most of all in a crisis like this is to get past this sense of helplessness and be about to do something about it. So give us something to do. What charities are available to clean up a mess like this? Tell us who they are and where we can donate. Is anyone taking volunteers? How about giving a shout-out to former Presidents Clinton and Bush for their good work raising funds for Haiti and asking them to do the same for the Gulf Coast? Or mobilizing that network of supporters to help in the clean up?

A local newspaper article discussed barber shops and beauty shops collecting hair and old nylons to make oil booms. Well what about it? Why not urge hair cutting places to donate their hair for oil booms and urge everyone to go out and get a haircut? Better, get your own hair cut (okay, there isn't much of it) and donate the clippings along with Michelle's old nylons. Or, better yet, see if Michelle and the girls will get their hair cut, too. Best of all, stage a photo op with all the Gulf Coast state governors getting all your hair cut. (This is the sort of thing where dislike of the man can give way to respect for the office. My hair is joining presidential hair in stopping the oil slick!)

As for anger, I will admit, I don't live on the Gulf Coast, and maybe if I did, I would feel different. But as it is, I am inclined to see this anger mostly as frustration that will dissipate if given a creative outlet. And I can't muster any desire to punish British Petroleum. Nothing government does to BP could possibly be as bad as what nature is doing to them every single day.


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