Saturday, April 20, 2013

terror is terror, no matter why it's done

There have been a lot of reports in the news and online about the bombings in Boston, and now that the second suspect has been captured alive, many of those reports have taken on an air of triumphalism, as if his capture ends the whole situation.  Life, of course, is not a Gangbusters episode, and if the history of public attacks teaches us anything it is that the death or capture of an individual doesn't mean everything is all right.

But I've wondered too at the relative paucity of news accounts invoking the same terror about the explosion in West, Texas.  There've been a lot of news stories, of course, and many of them are heartbreaking.  But what I wonder about is the lack of stories posing the explosion as more than accidental.

I don't mean to suggest anyone planted an explosive or started the fire that caused the explosion.  What I mean is that the accident was foreseeable and avoidable.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but there is information, sometimes hidden in news stories about the loss of life, (page 2, 6th paragraph) that indicate that the fertilizer industry is badly overseen in the years since deregulation.  The last time OSHA inspected this particular plant was 1985, and while it was more recently inspected in 2011 by PHMSA, this is not the same.  West Fertilizer Company, whose plant's explosion has caused at least a dozen deaths and maybe up to five or six times that number by the time everyone has been accounted for, and decimated the majority of the town, answered "no" to the EPA's question whether its plant was at risk of fire or explosion,

This is not the first time this has happened and it's not likely to be the last.  We are quick to call the intentional bombing in Boston a terrorist act--and while the bombers may have acted as part of a group or as individuals the effect on the population certainly was terror--but we need a label too for intentional lying about risk and danger on the part of industry executives and lawyers who are safe in the notion that their rewards will outweigh the cost of regulation and compliance.  Terror is terror whether it's done for ideals or profit.  You may have noticed no West Fertilizer top executives lived in West, Texas.

We need to continue praying for the people devastated in Boston and in Texas.  But it is not out of place that at least one of those prayers should be that executives and lawyers rank the safety of employees and their community above the cost of doing business.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Bob. I was thinking the same thing(s).