Why are so many Americans tuning in to watch Chile rescue the trapped miners? This story has dominated world news, especially once the actual rescue operation was underway. Now, there are celebrations and champagne.
But why this story? Why now? What about it made folks tune in? Especially Americans, who usually don't follow major world events when Lindsey Lohan is in court.
This story is compelling, and it was some rare good news in a world full of bad. We needed to watch something positive outside of sports and fictional television. This was a real life feel-good story, and people want to believe in beating the odds.
And make no mistake, Chile is a developing country, and they just smashed the odds to rescue thirty-three human beings from more than 2000 feet below the surface of the Earth. Frankly, that's an incredible accomplishment. It is being compared to that greatest of human technological accomplishments, launching a man into space.
Not to mention the behavior of the trapped themselves, who told the world they had survived through a love letter sent to the surface, and argued about who would be the last one out of the hole.
It becomes even more incredible when you remember that Chile is still digging out from a massive February earthquake to its second-largest city. How about that for overcoming adversity?
Americans, especially, need this news. We are now living vicariously through a South American nation whose citizens would be ID checked if they lived in Arizona. Here's a few reasons why:
- The last mining disaster in the United States had a far more tragic ending.
- The BP oil spill took lives at the outset, destroyed a coast, is still being cleaned up, and went through numerous well-publicized failures to close the leak. It took months to even get a handle on the situation, it took dozens of false starts and an argumentative leadership to begin addressing the crisis, and it will take decades to completely remediate. Private industry failed to do the job right, government failed to regulate industry effectively, and both had incredible problems coming up with a response.
- After our economy melted down, not even the modest gains from the incredibly expensive TARP, Automaker Bailouts or Stimulus legislation have been able to correct fundamental problems with our nation's economy, and none of that legislation was designed to correct those problems. We read that our own banks may have been screwing up the legal mechanisms of the foreclosure process by cutting corners. Our leaders in government and business seem to have no clue about how to fix what ails us. Our political choice is to continue the current dysfunction or return to the last dysfunction.
- We still have 50,000 troops in Iraq, and have experienced two "Mission Accomplished" moments - one premature, arrogant and celebratory, one humble and realistic if politically motivated - despite the fact that we have not closed a war with a nation charitably considered a fourth rate power for almost 8 years. The last war against this same nation was "won" in 100 hours.
- Our nation, despite spending more than half of all world expenditures on defense, has been unable to eradicate resistance in Afganistan after nearly a decade of fighting alongside our NATO allies.
- In the Fall of 2005, our nation experienced a fairly public rescue failure in the case of the flooding of New Orleans. Compounding the Biblical scale of human misery was the helplessness of our nation to proactively mount a concerted effort at rescue and rebuilding. Frustrations that arose, instead of focusing the nation on the task at hand, led to political infighting amongst our nation's leaders. Blame assignment became the main story in our national news, leading to incredible national misconceptions of the situation on the ground. Even though millions of Americans selflessly volunteered their efforts to assist in both the immediate rescue efforts and the eventual (and ongoing) rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, that story went largely unreported - supplanted by the larger frustrations of no local, state or national rebuilding plan organized by major political leadership.
In short, Chile is getting things done with less resources and more disadvantages, while our own society flails away ineffectively at numerous problems despite massive resources.
They have a reason to celebrate, while we watch their triumph on television wondering when we will again be able to do so.