Posted by: smstrouse | April 22, 2011

Death & Resurrection in the Gulf: One Year after the Oil Spill

It was just a year ago that we began watching day after day the horrifying pictures of gushing oil, dying marine life, and communities in ruin.  In May, we resonated with Malia Obama asking her father, ‘Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?”  We had to wait until July to get the good news that the flow of oil had stopped.  87 days of horror.  And that was just to get the well capped.  The clean-up goes on.

I remember seeing James Carville, the ‘Ragin’ Cajun’ political consultant and commentator being interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN one night.  Carville, not known for subtlety, had strong words about the spill, the response of the Obama administration, and the indignities historically heaped upon Louisiana.  But he also expressed in this interview a fear that after the well was capped the problems of the Gulf would be forgotten, that time would pass, the media would leave and the public would move on to the next crisis demanding our attention.  And in many ways, his fear has become reality.  The pictures are not in our faces every night and day. Our attention has been captured by earthquakes in New Zealand, uprisings in the Middle East, and radiation leaking in Japan.

But today is Earth Day.  And as part of our Earth Day activities, we must make a commitment to paying attention to the damage and the clean-up of the Gulf.  I was listening to a report on the radio about the tourist industry along the Gulf. They’re encouraging folks to come back to beaches of clean whiter sand, all cleaned up and ready for your tired toes.  And I get it.  If I had a resort to run, I’d want to assure the public that my beachfront is open for business.  If I were a restaurant owner, I’d want to assure diners that my seafood is safe.  But I cannot accept that all is well, everything’s back to normal, and life goes on as it did before. 

Today is also Good Friday. For those of the Christian tradition it’s the day we remember that Jesus was executed by the powers-that-be of his day.  We also acknowledge all the ways the powers-that-be of our day create injustice, disaster and death. It’s a day of sorrow – not just for the death of Jesus 2000+ years ago, but for all the senseless violence and tragedy of the world.  We know that Easter is ahead; we will celebrate the fact that death does not have the last word; the powers-that-be do not have all the power.  But before we get there, we have to acknowledge the death.

And so it is in the Gulf.  Human beings were killed. Marine life was executed. A way of life was crucified. We can’t simply push the ‘reset’ button and expect everything to go back to the way it was. We have to go through the pain of Good Friday – in order to get to the joy of Easter, with new possibilities, new hope, new life.   Part of the pain is in accepting the part we all play in the demand for oil, our dependence on fossil fuel, our unwillingness to give up our lifestyle that set the stage for the disaster. Part of the hope is in recommitting ourselves to the care of our planet, to being part of the resurrection of life and well-being for all creatures. 

This convergence of the anniversary of the spill, Earth Day and Good Friday brings into the spotlight the connections among ecological, economic, and spiritual concerns. Such a convergence can only lead us into a deeper commitment to care and to show the powers-that-be that we are watching and that we have power of our own. 

Resurrection is possible.  But let us not forget the suffering and death that we have caused.  One year later, let us remember. Let us never forget.


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