“Enough, one must go on, these are things that one thinks but does not say.” –Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
“It was their everyday duty.” –Primo Levi, on Nazi brutality
I recently read the morning paper. I shouldn’t have done that. I also recently read Survival in Auschwitz, by Primo Levi. I shouldn’t have done that either, but for different reasons: it demanded too much grief and asked too many questions. Less recently, I went to a public meeting about a new pet-coke plant that Consolidated Energy wants to put next-to-the-refinery-next-to-the-freeway-next-to-the-asthmatic’s-worst-nightmare. I also shouldn’t have done that, and not just because it involved fighting odious big business practices, but because I never feel as lonely as I do in political meetings where everyone agrees with me.
There is a connection between the shouldn’ts, but that will have to wait.
This time there were about 500 hundred people who agreed with me. They had brought signs and their kids, and also their kids covered in signs that said things like: “Don’t make me breathe dirty air.” The Department of Environmental Quality was leading the meeting, and a sad-looking man behind a microphone was trying to assure people that, not to worry, the coke plant wouldn’t exceed DEQ standards and that – even though pet-coke was the dirtiest residue of the fuel extraction process, and even though it would be shipped across the country in open-air train cars, and even though the area surrounding the refinery already was three times the limit of normal air quality levels, and even though the citizens wouldn’t even get the power that was generated, and even though we did not need another power plant, and even though the world was rife with alternatives – he was bound and obligated to approve it. The man was summarily booed, and by people who had never said boo in their lives before: booed by women with acrylic nails and tiffany heart bracelets next to a man with coveralls and a trucker hat, also booing.
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