Small Wonders: Oil on troubled waters

Glendale News Press

I've been feeling like one of those oil-covered sea gulls on a beach in Louisiana.

Every morning I get up and take a look at the newspaper. I glance at the headline, usually in dismay, then automatically flip to the bottom of the page to see who died. It's morbid, I know. But it's just habit. And you probably do it too.

On Monday it was former Dodgers pitcher Jose Lima's picture at the bottom of the front page. He was only 37 years old, five years younger than me. That's hard to swallow.

He was recently working to open a youth baseball academy nearby. But Sunday he died of an apparent heart attack. Taken too soon.

So long, "Lima Time."

The other news I'm having a hard time with is the oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. Every day for the last month the news has gotten worse. Last week's estimates of the size and damage are surpassed this week with new and even more depressing information. Every time you think it couldn't get any worse, or more implausible, it does. It's like each season of "24."

Every politician and pundit with a microphone or a blog is blaming each other. And I don't think any of them care who's really to blame. That doesn't matter so long as we can point the finger at someone else. This is especially helpful if we're running for public office, promoting our cable "news" show or trying to sell a book. Or all three at the same time.

The truth is irrelevant because in today's culture it's not about right and wrong. It's about ratings, tweets, site hits, polls, profits and image. The quicker and flashier the sound bite, the better. It doesn't matter what you say because tomorrow everyone will have been distracted by something else. When was the last time you thought about Haiti?

That oil spill feels like a thick, black sheet over me. And I can't do anything about it. Or anything else going on in the world. Home sales soar, but the stock market plummets, and everything still seems unaffordable.

A 13 year-old climbs Mt. Everest, but childhood obesity is pandemic in our country.

Teachers' jobs were saved, but we're paying them even less to do one of the most important jobs in the world.

The same heart that wants to give kids a safe and healthy baseball camp isn't strong enough to get him there. Thousands flock to foreign lands to help the helpless, while so many others find a way to profit off their misery.

God is love, but people blow themselves up in the name of their god, trying to take as many other men, women and children with them as possible. We can't agree on a way to give everyone access to decent, affordable health care. Millions lose their jobs because nameless, faceless others couldn't restrain their greed.

But there's nothing wrong with the system. In my mind I keep seeing the video image of that oil leak a mile down on the sea floor, relentlessly spewing its muck into the deep. Our worst fears and anxieties slowly, ominously rising to the surface. It seems unstoppable.

The casualties continue to mount, and I'm not just talking about ball players, birds and dreams.

Approximately 4,400 military fatalities to date in the Iraq war.

Almost 1,100 in Afghanistan.

This weekend, while we're floating in our inflatable pools, eating hot dogs and debating whether we should have one more Corona Light, let's not forget the troops who fought in battles great and small throughout our nation's history. More than 58,000 died in Vietnam, more than 33,000 in Korea, just to name a couple.

I was flipping the channels the other day while the kids destroyed my garage yet again, and I came across the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

The first 20 minutes of this movie are perhaps the most horrifying and sobering ever recorded in film history.

Men defenselessly charged that beach in France to become human shields for those behind them and to secure freedom for all mankind. More than 400,000 troops died in World War II. If that number doesn't shock you, you should check your pulse.

Whether you agree with Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann and Jon Stewart, thank a veteran for your right to voice that opinion.

The men and women of our armed forces serve and die for our country so we can spend too much time arguing with each other when we should be renewing with each other.

Where am I going with all of this? I don't know. Where is the Small Wonder? It's there. I see glimmers of it whenever I see crews of people mopping oil off pelicans or kids turning my garage into a fantasy world.

Or when I see a soldier in uniform.

I just want to sleep a good sleep, then wake up and not fear what I see on the front page of the newspaper. I want that damn oil leak to stop.

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