Living with the threat of being blown up
No, I'm not talking about terrorism or war. I'm talking about living in the libertarian paradise of Texas:
In the ritual of modern disaster politics, catastrophes are closely followed by elected officials on the scene to praise local grit and promise swift relief.
Hey, only 15 deaths and a few hundred injured? That is a small price to pay for the job creators' economic freedom, amirite? Sure it might be more next time, and it's a little bit unfair that kids have to be threatened since they have no agency in all this but you're not going to be able to make low tax omelettes without sacrificing a few little eggs now are you?
Serious remedies and sweeping reforms, in many instances, arrive next.
The aftermath of the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. proved in part to be no exception. Within days of the blast, President Barack Obama came to McLennan County. So did Gov. Rick Perry and both U.S. senators from Texas.
Relief has come in the form of government checks. The town is rebuilding.
Major reforms, however, have yet to be designed, much less implemented.
In the weeks after the West disaster, investigators identified numerous ways it might have been prevented — or at least mitigated.
Yet eight months after 15 people died and hundreds were injured, no significant measures have been adopted by state government to keep something like it from occurring again.
Now, new houses rise in the lots where homes were destroyed. And on the streets downtown, residents talk of a rebound.
But outside the city, in many ways, it’s as if nothing happened.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, speaking at West on the last day of August, told residents: “We get to define our lives by how we respond to the challenges we face.”
This is the state’s response at year’s end:
The Legislature, though it was in session when the plant blew up, did little beyond holding hearings.
Perry has been silent on specific changes in Texas’ laws or regulatory approach.
Texas has taken no measurable steps toward adopting a statewide fire code, which could have prevented the blast.
The state has not tightened rules for storing or securing ammonium nitrate, the chemical that exploded at West.
Texas still does not require facilities that stockpile such materials to carry liability insurance.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency whose mission includes the broader role of protecting the public’s health, has abandoned any role in West-related matters. “We haven’t really been involved,” an agency spokesman said.
Apparently we have reached a tipping point in which no American can be held responsible for the destruction of others' lives by their fellow citizens, whether through economic ruin or the kind of violence perpetrated by the right wing gun fetishists. You want to live in the US? Then you obviously agree that your life will always be at risk from anyone who wants to make a buck. To do otherwise would curtail the efficiency of the economic engine of our society. And if you happen to be caught in the crossfire of our shooting gallery, you need to take responsibility for yourself and blindly shoot back.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't foul our trousers in fear and demand our government do everything it is capable of doing by any means possible to keep us safe from the one true threat: terrorism. I think it's fair to say that there is no freedom we aren't willing to sacrifice in order that we "feel safe" from that particular boogeyman. But other than that, preserving our liberty depends upon us being willing to sacrifice every penny we have so that Wall Street sharks can gamble away our savings or die from fertilizer plant explosions that could have been prevented and people killing others by the tens of thousands with deadly weapons. That's what we call liberty.