18 May 2010


MOUNT ST. HELENS. Thirty years ago today, stratovolcano Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington state. Here is Wiki's summary of the event -- "The eruption was preceded by a two-month series of earthquakes and steam-venting episodes, caused by an injection of magma at shallow depth below the volcano that created a huge bulge and a fracture system on Mount St. Helens' north slope .... An earthquake at 8:32 AM on Sunday, May 18, 1980, caused the entire weakened north face to slide away (see video here), suddenly exposing the partly molten, gas- and steam-rich rock in the volcano to lower pressure. The rock responded by exploding a hot mix of lava and pulverized older rock toward Spirit Lake so fast that it overtook the avalanching north face (see diagram above). An eruption column rose 80,000 feet (24,400 m) into the atmosphere and deposited ash in 11 U.S. states (see map below, click to enlarge). At the same time snow, ice and several entire glaciers on the volcano melted, forming a series of large lahars (volcanic mudslides) that reached as far as the Columbia River, nearly fifty miles (eighty km) to the south."

At the time of the eruption, I was working as co-caretaker at a nature preserve in southern Arizona. Fifteen years later, my nomadic life led to Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. From the right vantage point, on a clear day one could see three volcanoes in the Pacific Ring of Fire -- Mount Hood in Oregon, and Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington.
Wherever I've lived, I've felt the forces of the planet differently -- drought in the desert southwest, Hurricane Hugo in the coastal southeast, chains of blizzards in the urban northeast, a 500-year flood (and the potential for volcanoes) in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. Amid the smaller events of our daily lives, it is useful to pause and notice the grander landscape and climate surrouding us.

POSEUR BLUMENTHAL. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is running for the U.S. Senate. Yesterday the NYTimes reported that on a number of occasions (notably when addressing military veterans), Blumenthal has referred to his own service in the Vietnam War. There's only one problem -- the man never set foot in Vietnam. Like so many children of privilege at the time (Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush), Blumenthal found ways to avoid the war -- in his case, a series of draft deferments and a spot in the Marine reserves.

Here's the thing: I don't have a problem with anyone who takes a moral stance against war, and acts on it. During Vietnam there were many who obtained student deferments from the draft, many others who fled to Canada, even a few who deliberately flunked military testing in order to be deemed unfit to serve. There were also those who chose to enter the military, and chose to be a part of the war. I am among the latter. In retrospect, it wasn't a choice I would make today, given the moral bankruptcy of that war, but I'm proud of having served, and honor those who served with me.

To this extent I find Blumenthal's Vietnam pretense appalling. It is the vilest possible insult to the men and women who actually risked (and often lost) their lives. Phony glory seekers are nothing new. But for a public figure who is seeking a national office to betray the trust of his constituents (and the trust of all citizens) by posing as a Vietnam Vet to shore up his image, is simply despicable. Let me be Blumenthal's DI for a month. Please.
NOTE: For more on Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush falsifying their military service, check out this reference. And don't even get me started on conservative America's sweetheart, John Wayne, who avoided military service during WWII in order to make movies, while fellow actors like Jimmy Stewart served in the military with honor.

No comments:

Post a Comment