congratulations to chile

I am so happy about the miners’ safe escape in Chile that I started crying when I heard the news. (Or rather, started to read it late last night, checked it first thing in the morning, and couldn’t believe how happy and relieved I am. The tears came when I saw they’d been rescued by the time I woke up.)

What an amazing effort, on the part of a whole nation, international collaboration, an unbelievable group underground, and general rooting for them worldwide. What a relief not only for their safety but for the fact that we, humankind, can still pull off something that requires so much careful coordination, unity, perseverance, and optimism. Is this what made me cry?

This isn’t to say I’m not disturbed by the fact that this situation could have happened in the first place, or that it’s in any way acceptable that it took an event of this magnitude to force Chile’s president to address mine safety and regulations in a forceful way. As someone whose ancestors are from central and Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, this hits close to home, and I couldn’t help thinking of the tragedies that we still see in the United States in this area of the country. We should take this to heart and keep the focus on safety for our mines and miners – not simply mourning periodic “tragedies” (as though they have no causes) and maintaining attitudes that it could happen any time, that it comes with the territory, that we must be resigned to half-expecting miners to not come home on any given day. It’s unacceptable. (And I’m talking not just about political or national attitudes, but those that are prevalent within local communities. I know it’s entrenched and has persisted since there was a mining industry in the United States, but that doesn’t make it any more okay.)

At the end of the day, I’m overjoyed at this success and the truly unbelievable strength and optimism of these 33 men, but I’m afraid that the celebratory fever will free us to let ourselves off the hook in expecting accountability, now and in the future.

2 thoughts on “congratulations to chile”

  1. Happy endings are happy, indeed. 🙂 Something that caught my attention in all this was how some people thanked various gods for the rescue, which is absurd after witnessing this triumph of human spirit and ingenuity. Where was this god when the cave-in happened? What about the thousands of miners that die in other places (I’m looking at you, China) every year?

    I’ve been thinking about whether this superstition also is indicative of a more general attitude towards these things or not, that it’s all in the hands of some unknowable power and not yourself, your bosses or politicians. To some extent it’s probably a psychological mechanism to handle things beyond your control, especially for poor, uneducated people without any real influence, but when I see the reaction to the rescue I have to wonder how much complacency and fatalism comes with it.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. Actually Roger Ebert wrote a very cogent post recently on exactly what you’re saying.

    I wonder if we atheists are predisposed to think this way? Honestly, with all the hating on atheists, I have to say that we’ve got a lot more hope for humanity and our potential to be great while we’re here on earth, despite our pessimistic attitudes on religion.

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