Skip to content Skip to footer

What the BP Disaster Really Means for America

By the time you read this I may be gone, vanished from my home on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico. For the past two weeks I’ve been barricaded, along with about 400 other holdouts, on the small barrier island where I live. We are cut off from the mainland and the FEMA and Homeland Security forces are surrounding us by land and sea. They’re attempting to forcibly relocate us to a once-abandoned army base in Georgia. About three-quarters of the town passively already agreed to go, but some of us refused.

By the time you read this I may be gone, vanished from my home on Florida’s Gulf of Mexico. For the past two weeks I’ve been barricaded, along with about 400 other holdouts, on the small barrier island where I live. We are cut off from the mainland and the FEMA and Homeland Security forces are surrounding us by land and sea. They’re attempting to forcibly relocate us to a once-abandoned army base in Georgia. About three-quarters of the town passively already agreed to go, but some of us refused. When Homeland Security officials announced that those of us who choose to stay behind would have their property seized and would all be arrested and taken to a federal prison facility, we felt we had no choice but to take up arms to defend our homes and families. It’s been a tense standoff ever since.

Meanwhile the air surrounding our town is becoming fouled with a toxic and lethal potpourri of chemicals, and the ocean waters that graced our area, once crystal clear and blue, have become still and dark with glistening touches of contamination, and when it rains, the drops are large and oily and leave a dangerous slick everywhere. The shores of our long beach are littered with dead and decaying dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and smaller fish. Bird carcasses lie everywhere, like oily lumps of rag. The dry shells of hundreds of ancient sea turtles, some over a hundred years old, sit on the sand and dunes like misplaced and putrefying stones. No tourist has set foot in the area for nearly a month, not that anyone wants to visit any longer. The small aircraft that once flew up and down the shoreline hauling banners promoting Gieco insurance, Goodyear tires, and happy hour beer prices now only circle overhead dragging banners boldly demanding “Surrender Now.” Every time I see one I think of the Wizard of Oz, but there’s no yellow brick road here.

Three days ago, the governor activated National Guard troops to assist federal forces, and yesterday tanks started rumbling over pontoon bridges into the town. I don’t think we can hold out much longer; there’s no way we can ward off the firepower assembled against us. FEMA has officially declared that we are “enemy combatants” and “terrorists” illegally resisting the orders of the U.S. Congress and federal government. Helicopters circle our town day and night, shining powerful spotlights into windows and backyards after dark. Media people and reporters have been banned from trying to enter our town, and after a few journalists began calling stay-behind townspeople for information, all the phone and cable lines were cut. Satellite signals were jammed the same day. Yesterday a band of thugs, cranked up on methamphetamine, rolled into town on motorcycles thinking the area was ripe for looting, but they quickly found otherwise. By the time the smoke cleared, all 18 of the marauders lay dead on the main boulevard. Word from the mainland is that FEMA has contracted with Blackwater to send in a crack team of former Iraq and Afghan mercenaries to disarm us and charge us with murder. At the same time, construction trailers bearing the name of Halliburton are lining up just beyond the bridges. Rumors are everywhere that the beach towns will be redeveloped, completely condoized by a firm controlled by former vice president Dick Cheney, George Bush the Elder, and Bill Clinton.

Everything written above, of course, is complete fiction. Complete fiction. At least it is for me and everyone else who lives in and around my town. To the many deluded friends and acquaintances, who live far from here, and who have written to me or called over the past few weeks, the above scenario is believed to be true. Rumors of federally-mandated evacuations and forced takeovers are everywhere throughout the country. I tell my friends that the reports they are reacting to are out-of-control, outlandish rumors, and they hesitate and ask, “Are you alone? Can you talk freely? We hear you’re high on the list for apprehension and removal.”

All of this gives me ample reason to think about the BP disaster and what it really means for America and its future. Nothing that I think is good at all. Nothing that crosses my mind gives me any reason to be encouraged or to feel positive about where anything is going. I think about how Madison Avenue’s and the fashion world’s fascination with putting death-heads and skulls on trendy clothws, and Hollywood’s obsession with apocalyptic landscapes like those seen in the films “The Road” and “The Book of Eli,” are perhaps no coincidences; that maybe these subtle twists of fate are cosmic precursors of what is just around the corner. Get ready, America, here’s what it’s going to look like, study it closely, stockpile food and water and ammunition, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around…

The BP spill or leak, or whatever you want to call it, is a true disaster on a number of levels, many not easily seen or realized by most Americans. Of course, BP is to blame. Does that surprise anyone? That a corporation that has served as the United Fruit of the Middle East for decades now would put profit way above safety and environmental concern should surprise nobody. That a company that served as a corporate pimp for assassinations in Iraq and elsewhere would get itself into such a foul fix is not the least surprising. That a company that continues to supply the Pentagon, two American wars and nearly every American military base in the world with fuel and oil would not really be held to task should surprise nobody. That a company that has secretly served as a major supplier of information and corporate intelligence to the CIA and Pentagon for decades now should not receive a slap on the wrist should surprise nobody. That BP has not yet actually set aside any money whatsoever for reparations and damages, or anything else, should surprise nobody. But BP’s past and current actions mean little to the true disaster that has taken shape in the Gulf. There are other things to be seriously considered.

First and foremost is that the disaster represents a dismal failure of leadership in America. One can’t help but see the paralysis, fear and frustration on the faces of Obama’s expert advisors and elite czars. Carol Browner has become a ghost of her former self, already haunted by her looming legacy as the environmentalist who failed to prevent a national disaster. Ken Salazar can’t seem to lose his silly trademark cowboy hat, but nobody mistakes him for not being the Cadillac cowhand he really is. Janet Napolitano can’t seem to get much of anything right, but have no fear America, she’s working on it, and hey, everybody makes mistakes now and then, don’t they. Vice President Joe Biden couldn’t even get his feigned passions in the right order for his one visit and pre-packaged speech to the Gulf, before he flew off for a weekend round of golf, and then on to that other disaster, Iraq. Press aides privately said the fouled air near the spill was bad for the VP’s hair implants. Then there is the president himself who can’t seem to hit his right stride with anything he does or says about the BP disaster. His Oval Office talk to the country was forgettable before it was even over, leaving many listeners secretly wishing he had used parts of Jimmy Carter’s infamous ‘Malaise’ talk. Oddly, the once-King of Hope and Change offers neither in a time of crisis. His leadership skills seem to have evaporated at a most inopportune time. Incredibly, Obama does not seem to see or grasp that government incompetence, red tape, and needless bureaucracy and regulations are severely hampering any attempts to slow the leak or to clean up the terrible harm it is spewing. This was once America, the country that could rise to any occasion, face any adversity, fight off any enemy; the country that was known for innovation, technological wonders and advancements, but now that nation can’t gather the wherewithal to plug a major leak. Go figure.

People who live around the Gulf are in a mixed sate of mind so far, but the hallmarks of that state can be safely listed as confused, angry, disgusted, mistrustful, hateful, and afraid. Please notice that I didn’t list hopeful or optimistic. Nobody I know feels those ways. If anything, the BP disaster has pushed those undecided about the ineptitude of government over to the side of those who think the two words are synonymous.

In terms of the big picture, the BP disaster marks the beginning of the real decline of America as an empire and a world power. Make no mistake that people in many parts of the world today openly mock our nation for its near-complete inability to truly rally as a people and to show a true spirit of nationalism in the face of adversity. It’s summer, and countless numbers of high school and college students are jobless, not to mention millions of jobless workers, yet nobody considers hiring any of these people for disaster clean up. We are told that the BP disaster is a national problem and a national emergency, if not an international one, yet there is no real sense of urgency anywhere, except perhaps for the pressing problem of immigration in Arizona. It’s too bad fish and water mammals and sea birds don’t vote. If they did, this disaster would have been behind us weeks ago.

We need to update you on where Truthout stands.

To be brutally honest, Truthout is behind on our fundraising goals for the year. There are a lot of reasons why. We’re dealing with broad trends in our industry, trends that have led publications like Vice, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic to make painful cuts. Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. And despite its lasting importance, news readership is declining.

To ensure we stay out of the red by the end of the year, we have a long way to go. Our future is threatened.

We’ve stayed online over two decades thanks to the support of our readers. Because you believe in the power of our work, share our transformative stories, and give to keep us going strong, we know we can make it through this tough moment.

If you value what we do and what we stand for, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our work.