Seismology, Nukes and Bracketology

It’s blue here in Kentucky, true blue, a landscape of royal blue, this altar to basketball and home to the Kentucky Wildcats whose devotees are historically and hysterically frenzied for victory.

The same day I awakened to breaking news of breaking tectonic plates, breaking nuclear reactors, and breaking hearts, I left my sister Laura’s house for exercise and heliotherapy. An elderly woman pushed her walker in the middle of a street, a man entered his house with a giant box of Pepsi Cola attached to his arm, and another person was at his mailbox. All were costumed in Big Blue fan-ery.

On Sunday, the Cats defeated the Florida Gators to win the SEC tournament. Often, during the action, we zipped to CNN’s coverage of Japan’s tsunami, earthquakes, and maybe-yes, maybe-no, Chernobyl-like meltdowns.

By Thursday afternoon, anybody who’d powered on the news had seen images of gray water, floating houses, cars crashing against already crashed cars, unidentifiable rubble, people lined up to enter groceries, faces covered with masks, husbands searching for wives, wives searching for husbands, someone searching for someone, and the reports–of thousands of bodies washing ashore, multiple explosions, burning fuel rods, and frightening radiation levels, an overload of certainties and uncertainties.

One certainty: we are witness to a cruel alliance between Mother Nature and the manmade. And another: the ramifications. See Russell Hoffman’s March 17 CounterPunch article, “Worse Than Chernobyl?

Laura commented that we should forget “terrorists.” We have much more to fear. Every second, our safety and health are compromised by corporate influence.

Barack Obama’s reaction to Japan’s catastrophe is similar to his response to the Gulf of Mexico oil hemorrhage. Both are examples of the protection of corporate interests. Exelon, operator of nuclear power plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, was the fourth-largest donor to Obama’s presidential campaign, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy is among his significant others.

Preserving Earth is a challenge that requires much more than recycling, carpooling, and prudent individual use of the planet’s resources. Overturning corporate personhood is imperative. When politicians are owned by the filthy wealthy, We the People are voiceless in an imperiled environment.

In days long gone, profit brought philanthropy. Now, there is no empathy from Wall Street criminals for a middle class pushed to poverty and an underclass already there. In fact, concern by the super-rich for those residing beneath the huge income gap is this: the workers must be uneducated and fit just enough to do the heavy lifting and toilet scrubbing.

In KY and throughout the nation, March Madness parades its array of colors. Blue, red, orange, whatever, the palette is bright with team spirit. Bracketology is a power grid.

I’ve been here many times during basketball fever, when I wanted to yell, “Don’t you know there’s a war going on, that people are dying, body parts exploding, children burning?” Today, I can add: “Apocalypse in Japan.”

But I won’t. I’m working on understanding that people need diversions from the tragedies of life. For balance.

When disasters strike, the call to duty, responsibility to fellow humans, is answered with compassion and generosity. Unlike during war, we don’t demonize a country’s inhabitants. Instead, we unite to alleviate pain. Sadly this is transient. Mass caring has a shelf life. At some point, when suffering begins to ease or we become inured to a specific event’s damage, we turn our attention to that which affects our individual lives.

Natural calamities will always plague us. But we have within our means the ability to reduce if not eliminate the manmade debacles–war, coal mining accidents, deep-sea drilling calamities, reactor meltdowns, bankster bailouts and economic collapse–if we disallow the greed and corruption that now form the foundation of our government, a broken system controlled by a small percentage of powerful parasites.

We can start by cutting up our credit cards, using mass transportation, and petitioning to bring back manufacturing. (My e-pal friend and critic Eliz says Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should not be worshipped as heroes of industry, until they bring home the jobs.)

And we can think of the courage of Bradley Manning and activists in Wisconsin for inspiration as we act to stop the march to madness by those whose avarice is limitless.

Missy Beattie is still in Kentucky where on Feb. 8, 2011 the Kentucky Senate passed a bill to end a moratorium on building nuclear power plants in the state. Gov. Steve Beshear supports this, but the bill’s fate will be settled by the House. Reach MCB at missybeat@gmail.com.


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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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