This moment demands a fresh interrogation of what theologian Reinhold Neibuhr euphemistically called "the highly contingent achievements of the west," and closer attention to the varied histories of the non-west. Instead, the most common response to the present crisis has been despair over western "weakness" -- and much acrimony over what Barack Obama, president of the "sole superpower" and the "indispensable nation" should have done to fix it.
A recent Gallup survey of respondents from 65 countries suggests that America is now seen as the country that poses the "greatest threat to world peace today." In fact, more people picked the U.S. than Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan combined.
West, Texas might be the latest failure of our commitment to provide the resources to protect our communities and our environment but there is no shortage of similar examples. The BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which continues to destroy sea life, was a product of lax enforcement, infrequent inspection caused by staffing shortages, and an intermingling of personnel between the regulated industry and the federal oversight agency. Generations from now the Gulf of Mexico will still be suffering and people may find it hard to understand what we allowed to happen in order to hold down our tax burden and to let industry create jobs and find energy without government meddling. How many times do we have to see these images and fail to connect cause and effect?