Short is the life of a canary
And that is sort of scary
Because they help all the miners
And their potential piners
By breathing in gases
That can sometimes get past us
So the bird craps out in its cage
And miners die of old age
Our world is becoming toxic in so many ways that we need to give recognition to the canaries in our midst. This piece is at once both philosophical and specific to some of the toxins that have become increasingly common and deadly. Some toxins are literal like those surrounding Kettlemen City, California. Residents have complained of high incidences of birth defects including cleft palate, cancers, and myriad other physiological problems for the city situated about 3 miles from the largest toxic dump in the West. Their “canaries” were mostly the unborn and infants that had no voice. Given that most of the town speaks Spanish or English with an accent, maybe the voices of the older residents are not easily understood. Some investigators say that nearby I 5 may be the culprit and not the toxic dump. It is amazing that we cannot use our considerable science resources to pin down the causes. But, who cares about canaries anyway?
We have all read recently of the invasion of Starbucks in the State of Washington by armed coffee drinkers. It seems that self-protection from over-caffeinated patrons needs to be balanced by over-caffeinated gun toters. In this case are we spinning the chambers to see who becomes the first canary? Can we already see that this is folly waiting for a volley, or do we need a victim?
More recently, we have seen a return of blatant racism in a Wal-Mart where a 16 year old used the public address system to order blacks out of the store. He is being charged. However, in demonstrations all last summer and most recently in protest of health insurance reform, the racism was equally blatant with effigy hangings of our president; screaming of angry and threatening epithets at Black members of Congress; sending symbolic nooses and gallows to Democrats, especially those of color. None have been charged. Who will be the first canary to die for this behavior?
Dr. George Tiller, who provided medical abortion services, was murdered in church by Scott Roeder, a person claiming to be acting for God to prevent killings. Tiller was a canary, but I see no mobilization to purge the toxins from our midst. I have never met a person who admitted to liking abortion, but how can anybody say he is pro-life and murder another person in cold blood? What good is the warning of a canary if the mine is not purged of the toxins? Yes, Roeder has been charged, but the rhetoric of talk radio and extreme continues to call for the “elimination” of all opposition.
In anger for the passage of the health insurance reform bill, Rush Limbaugh called for the “elimination of the bastards” that passed the legislation. How can we not understand that this is an incitement to violence. Rush has many followers and is the most prominent voice of the Republican party and yet nobody in that party has publicly condemned his incitement.
Sarah Palin has similarly called on followers to “reload” and literally used crosshairs to point to those Democrats she wants to eliminate at the polls. “Open carry” rallies are being organized across this nation to support gun rights and also to intimidate leaders and citizens alike. And it is not, I suspect, promoting bird shot to kill the canaries. These canaries are (currently) living and breathing humans who are increasingly at risk from one or more unbalanced and angry and irresponsible leaders and rabble-rousers and or followers. Who will be the next canary? Remember that the canary always dies as it gives a warning to us miners. Are we going to purge the mine or are we simply going to keep burying our canaries?
24 March 2010