Earlier this week, Comedy Central showed a rerun of the South Park episode mocking the global warming hysteria and the Katrina response. In the face of a terrible flood, Stan Marsh asked his father if someone was going to help the people stuck on their roofs after seeing the damage on the nightly news. Randy Marsh, always the stereotype, responded by telling Stan, “[helping the people] doesn’t really matter, son. What matters is whose fault this is.”
The episode was a rather stunning critique. Not about the response, or lack thereof, but about us and it hits home in the wake of the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of blame to go around. BP, the White House, regulatory agencies and a host of others will have to answer for what happened last month, but pointing fingers seems to be all we know how to do anymore.
Shouldn’t we focus on fixing the current problem and planning for the future? A time will come for those responsible to face justice, but we aren’t there yet.
We need to get the metaphorical people off their roofs first. Commercial fishermen don’t care who is responsible for their lost revenues, they care about the swiftest return to normalcy. The wildlife affected by the oil don’t care who ruined their habitat, they care about clean water.
The people who care about blame are the people on the outside—those of us who don’t have a tangible stake in the muddy waters off the cost of Louisiana. The media wants a story and conflict is a better story than “top hats” and “top kills.”
The other question we should care more about than who is to blame is this: “Where does the oil spill leave us?” Not who will be politically hurt by the spill, but what is our next move as a country?
Should we shift our efforts to nuclear energy? Should we drill but impose stricter safety regulations? Should we embrace wind and solar energy?
These questions have come up over the last month or so, but they have been overshadowed by the question of blame. This spill is a great opportunity to discuss one of the most important issues of our time: energy.
Healthcare, immigration and the economy have dominated the narrative over the last two years with energy always fading into the background. We should be talking about our energy future more and not less in the face of economic uncertainty.
Hopefully, the silver lining of this oil spill will be a renewed focus on our energy future. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that is the case because we’re too worried about whose head is going to roll for this.
If the president does anything in response to this spill, it should be to use his office to shift the focus of our lawmakers and our fellow Americans to energy. The president has no role in plugging the hole, he has no role in skimming the oil, but he does have a role as a political leader.
He should take this chance to do something meaningful. BP should take this chance to reform its safety policies. Regulatory agencies should take this chance to reinvent their oversight procedures.
We need to focus more on the future. Blame looks backwards, we need to look forward. This is a chance to better ourselves. Let’s not miss it for the sake of winning the blame game.