By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
In 1968, John Wayne starred in a movie called Hellfighters. It was based on the life of Paul "Red" Adair, who came home from World War II (and a wartime assignment in a bomb disposal unit) and founded his own firefighting company, and then went around the world extinguishing oil fires and capping oil spills.
Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico, working for BP, are Adair's modern day counterparts. I am betting that they are working under gruesome pressure, and awful and perhaps dangerous conditions, trying to solve a huge scientific and engineering problem. Yet we know nothing about them.
Instead, this is what our culture finds interesting: endless predictions about how terrible the oil spill will be, and bright young pups filling the airwaves with their opinions on the long term economic and political ramifications, and partisans in Washington taking their predictable sides on the nonsensical question, "Is this Obama's Katrina?"
It's not that the American genius for science and technology, and our famous can-do spirit, has been totally forgotten. A few years back, Apollo 13 told a gripping tale about scientists and engineers who refused to let failure be an option, and got a crippled spacecraft, and three brave astronauts, home. But for every Apollo 13, it seems, there are three or four movies, or television series, or talk show rants that sell doom, despair and cynicism--instead of courage, brains and hope. Tom Hanks aside, weasels are "in," and heroes and heroines are not.
Hey, this is life. Things break. Human beings make mistakes. Tragedy happens. A worthy nation accepts all that, looks for stories that inspire and thrill, and does better next time. We Americans have been especially good at that. But right now our national narrative is all about whining, victimization, and finger-pointing.