As predictable as the “politicization” of the Minneapolis bridge collapse are the condemnations of it — the finger-wagging, more-in-sorrow-than-anger pleas for just a little human decency:
There can no longer be any such thing as a tragic accident in our country. We apparently no longer have the ability to witness such a horrific event, learn from it, and move on to simply do things better and try to reduce the chances of similar, future horrors. A sacrifice will be demanded, initially, and it shall be found. Inevitably the first goat led to the alter will turn out to be some low to mid-level functionary from the City Engineering department or something similar.
Of course, not all are so gentle:
Shame on the Star Tribune’s Nick Coleman and the rest of the left who are laying the blame for the tragic collapse of the I-35W bridge on GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. We don’t even know the number–let alone the names–of people killed. Doesn’t matter to Coleman and his ilk. Take any shot to smear a Republican.
You could argue whether laying blame at this point of the recovery is helpful — although I read the Coleman column in question and it’s hardly over-the-top; this is the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, after all. Here’s probably the most pungent passage, and it comes after several paragraphs of sorrow, gratitude to the heroes and the rest of it:
For half a dozen years, the motto of state government and particularly that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been No New Taxes. It’s been popular with a lot of voters and it has mostly prevailed. So much so that Pawlenty vetoed a 5-cent gas tax increase – the first in 20 years – last spring and millions were lost that might have gone to road repair. And yes, it would have fallen even if the gas tax had gone through, because we are years behind a dangerous curve when it comes to the replacement of infrastructure that everyone but wingnuts in coonskin caps agree is one of the basic duties of government.
I’m not just pointing fingers at Pawlenty. The outrage here is not partisan. It is general.
Both political parties have tried to govern on the cheap, and both have dithered and dallied and spent public wealth on stadiums while scrimping on the basics.
How ironic is it that tonight’s scheduled groundbreaking for a new Twins ballpark has been postponed? Even the stadium barkers realize it is in poor taste to celebrate the spending of half a billion on ballparks when your bridges are falling down. Perhaps this is a sign of shame. If so, it is welcome. Shame is overdue.
I hate to be the turd in the birdbath here, but this is a perfectly reasonable point to make, and now’s the time to make it. Everybody I’ve talked to about this has said some version of the same thing: “I can’t believe it hasn’t happened here yet.” Minneapolis is a haven of prairie progressives here in the Midwest; good lord, they have light rail there. I was last there in 2004, and compared to Detroit, it’s Munich. (They tax the pants off their residents, but Michigan/Wayne County/Grosse Pointe Woods taxes the pants off me, too, and I don’t feel like I get all that much for it, other than a halfway-decent school system and sidewalk snow removal. Many city employees, on the other hand, get city-provided cars. My congresswoman leases a Cadillac at taxpayer expense to travel around her district, but she has yet to stop by.) I expect a bridge to fall in Detroit any day now.
To politicize, I guess, means “to bring politics into the situation,” but politics is the term we use for the process of making public policy, and the building and maintenance of infrastructure is about as close to the heart of public policy-making as you can get. It’s not very sexy; you don’t get a Bridge to Nowhere every legislative session, but to say politics shouldn’t be brought into this discussion is simply fatuous. Here in America’s rusting heart, we see on a pretty regular basis what happens to sewers, roads, bridges and electrical grids when they’re 100 years old or older — the steam pipe that exploded in midtown Manhattan last month, the combined sewers that overflow into rivers, the rural section roads that have to be widened and resurfaced to accommodate the suburbanites pouring farther and farther out into exurbia, the schools that have to be retrofitted to make them ADA-compliant. Take your pick.
And Coleman is right that too many legislatures have spend too much time, and way too much money, on showy projects like stadiums and other sports venues, which serve to further enrich the already obscenely wealthy while providing little to the people who pay for them other than the opportunity to take the family to a major-league game and pay hundreds more for the privilege.
So, yeah, it’s time to talk politics. Time to start the drudgery of figuring out what we need to fix and how much it will cost and how we will pay. Nothing wrong with doing it before the funerals, even before the bodies are recovered. The matter is urgent.
So, let’s keep the bloggage light after such a leaden kickoff. It’s Friday:
National treasure Jon Carroll on the question of accessibility* in poetry. I always wonder how hard he sweats his writing, because it all sounds so breezy and effortless:
There is always ferment in the world of poetry, probably because there is rarely money in the world of poetry (absent the eccentric bequest), so turmoil is the only recreation available.
Lance Mannion, who graduated from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, can tell you a thing or two about poets, and that is Word.
I should check Premiere film critic Glenn Kenny’s blog more often. He challenged his readers to name the film that’s the source of this image, and offered as a lure his undying respect. I knew instantly — thank you, Jeff Borden, for making me see it — but someone else had posted it in the comments. I still get the undying respect, I hope. (I’d hot-link to the image — his bandwidth is paid for by Premiere magazine, I assume — but budgets are tight all over the print world, so you’ll have to click through yourself. Then hit his ads. I’m doing this every day on my favorite blogs now, and so should you.)
And that’s it for me. Thanks to the several of you who sent nice notes about my “subject and theme” post day before yesterday, and said it helped you get past obstacles in your own work. I’ve been feeling a little draggy about this self-imposed blog obligation this summer, and told a friend the other day I needed to get a few strokes with a kind hand rather a riding crop, and that did it. Re-energized, I’m back in the game.
* stupid spelling error fixed; thanks, Brian.