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Blood on the tracks

I might add a few words to Wes Prang’s “What we love…” [published in the June 2016 issue].  Not only is it for love of money that we must forbear, it is the addiction to power that serves its purpose. I speak not of the power of Government, although tattered and embattled still bears a measure of power of the people; it is the entitlement of power so readily accrues to those of wealth and privilege. A vestige of an Aristocratic power, an autocratic and closeted plutocracy. A power that wields the law through it’s army of lawyers, lobbyists, judicial and legislative allies.

We see ourselves besieged by the ceaseless assault on our right to those essential things that allow a decent life.  Our air, water, food, means of livelihood and ability to maintain well-being are all subject to the dictates of the bottom line. How else could it be that the average citizen now must endure threats thathave become common place fixtures in this American way of life? It seems we must be constantly engaged in the business of defending our families and homes from trespassers, exploiters of a synthetic state of war. Not foreign, not alien but homegrown and hell bent on conquering any resistance to their agenda and campaign.

We are exposed to poisons, toxins in our water and air, chemicals in our food and even seed stock. And it seems that now we have also become targets, caught in the cross hairs of actual enemies of the state and sanctioned by our own security apparatus. Rolling bomb trains transiting through our communities are targets of terrorists because they provide a unique opportunity for mass murder. Wherever the rails lay in proximity to large numbers of people, whenever a train carrying Bakken crude oil intersects with the lives of thousands of us, an opportunity exists to use that volatile force to destroy lives and property.

There are too many methods, too many ways to carry out a well-planned attack without the ability to prevent or defend against it. The oil tanker is a symbol of the ruthlessness of profit, the indifference to our common core values. It appears on the horizon as some immutable and unstoppable entity.  A conveyance of the authority we must yield to because it is Commerce and the law which sanctify their passage over our commons. We suffer the consequence when that authority fails to control itself, breaks down under an avalanche of physical demands, mechanical, schedules and nature itself. And it cannot control that which is destined to become a worse moment in our history than the events of September 11, 2001.

Imagine a warm summer day in Seattle at Safeco Field. Tens of thousands of sports fans are in the stands enjoying the game when the sound of a train horn can be overheard from the tracks just outside right field. Somewhere in the surrounding community a gunman awaits the moment when that train will pass close to the stadium with it’s load of Bakken crude oil. As long as he has a clear view of the train he could be as far away as a mile because the .50 caliber rifle being used has an effective range of 1800 yards.

As the trigger is pulled a single armor piercing incendiary round is fired and then pierces the steel plate of an oil tanker. The explosive component generates enough heat to ignite the vapors in the tank and cause a detonation with the potential force of one kiloton of TNT. The pressure wave generated by the explosion is transmitted through the structure and immediately ruptures people’s internal organs. Structural damage turns construction material into shrapnel and the ensuing fireball envelopes the field as it is channeled over people’s heads by the open roof which sits above the tracks. The carnage would be beyond comprehension and overwhelm any emergency response plans in effect.

The sacrifice of perhaps tens of thousands of lives would become part of the conscience of our society but not part of the conscience of the interests that refuse to compromise their bottom line.

In light of the indefensible, a sort of gallows humor is applied and so when a Mariner hits a home run we celebrate with the BNSF Blast, just to show we’re not afraid of some abstract catastrophe because, after all, the safety record defies such a possibility.

Don’t worry too much though because just as soon as the tracks are cleared of debris the trains will resume their ceaseless journey to the terminals for export. I suppose one might come to the conclusion that things are the way they’re supposed to be and worrying about it won’t change a thing.  I suppose.

Brian Grad is a retired electronics technician living in Sequim and active in MoveOn, Olympic Climate Action and the Sierra Club. He also writes songs about environmental issues and climate change.


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