Even in the midst of sheer, horrendous disaster on our much-abused Gulf Coast (will those people ever catch a break?) I urge my countrymen, even Tea Party people, to savor this moment. A huge, powerful international corporation, for the first time in decades, is being held to account for its crimes.
Too many times in recent history, things have played out differently. Just two examples:
- In 1984, in Bhopal, India, a Union Carbide pesticide plant leaked gas into the village and exposed 500,000 people to deadly poison. As many as 15,000 people died as a direct result. Victims sought $3 billion in compensation. After a protracted legal battle, Union Carbide agreed to pay a mere 15% of that amount. Four hundred seventy million dollars for poisoning an entire village.
- As I mentioned in an earlier post, Exxon got away, cheap and easy, from the 1989 Valdez disaster, by waging a war of legal attrition. Exxon paid barely more than 10% of the $5 billion the court had awarded as punitive damages.
You see, Tea Party people? This is what government can do for you!
Let's hurry to agree that this crisis, this Great BP Oil Disaster, is far from over. And no one has any idea how it will end. But the $20 billion disaster relief fund is an unexpected and hopeful sign of the welfare of the People trumping the interests of wealth and power.
Is it too much to hope that this god-forsaken disaster in the Gulf might finally, finally, finally wake people up?
Is it pie-in-the-sky daydream to believe that the human spirit (thank you, God!) may yet prove more powerful even than fleets of supertankers stuffed with money?