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Vivian Norris Headshot

The Only Exotic Part of America Is Being Destroyed: The BP Oil Spill

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After watching the Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, Charlie Melancon, break down in tears while talking about the destruction of wetlands by BP's oil spill, and about the people of South Louisiana, I am reminded of my mother's voice when she called me from Houston during Katrina. I have never heard her voice sound like that before. The city of New Orleans, where she had been a young bride, where she had attended Tulane University and where her husband, my father, worked with a local doctor who ran for Governor years ago...was being destroyed. My mother said to me, holding back tears, "Those towns, Plaquemines Parish, it's all gone". Once again, it is all gone...due to pure greed.

My father is a native of Louisiana, and his parents gave me a book of poetry which had belonged to my great-grandmother. Inside the back cover she wrote the following: "New Orleans is the only exotic city in America". I have lived in many parts of the U.S. and I agree with her. But I would add that not just New Orleans, but the entire Gulf Coast, the small fishing villages and the estuaries and wetlands and intercoastal waterways, the beaches and towns which make their living from their proximity to the Gulf, embody a way of life which is not only "exotic"...it is one of the few places in America where there is still some texture, where the culture is deeply rooted in the way of life. One which now may be extinguished forever. Yet how many Americans really know this part of the US? It may now be too late. Nothing will ever be the same again.

It is not by accident that the Blues musicians sprang forth from the rural small towns in the South, often poor as can be, that the Rolling Stones and so many others found inspiration in these Gulf States, the true deep South, where poverty and a sometimes disturbing reality mixed with a true love of both having a good time, and knowing how to "make due" when times are tough. And although I first witnessed the damage deep poverty could do when my father took on trip after trip to Louisiana, I also saw a joy of life, a pride in a way of life, and some of the most irreverent and yet respectful people I have ever met.

Oil is mixed in with everything on the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana and Texas. Men come from far and near to make money working as roughnecks on the wells. Wives cope with men gone for weeks at a time on the rigs. My former husband worked creating products to help save lives in the case of a disaster on a rig. He also was an engineer who worked with the insurance companies allowing (or not) rigs to be insured. This is serious geopolitics. We need to look into the history of deep drilling, follow the money trails, and the political ones. Because this is more than just a horrific "accident" which will kill all marine life and choke the wetlands for decades, it will lead to calls for alternative green energies. But for the moment, the powers that be are in the hands of the same good ole boys from BP, to Houston, to Saudi Arabia, to Venezuela and Norway and France.

Don't fool yourselves. These people pay off judges and lives will be threatened. Go watch The Pelican Brief again. As one woman in my family used to say about Texas and Louisiana and oil cases, "Sometimes you have to pay the judges". There is simply too much money at stake. And just as a metals trader who blew the whistle a few weeks ago on JPMorgan for manipulating the silver market, was almost run down with his wife in London by a car after contacting the authorities, so too do those with power in the oil industry manipulate prices and threaten people for profits. The price of oil has gone up at least $2 a barrel since this accident, which means that the damages BP will pay can be paid with the extra $10 million or more per day in extra profits they are making. Tort Reform (we can thank George W. for that!) limits the damages BP will pay. And if this case ends up in a court in Houston I can tell you right now having dealt with courts and the good ole boys in Houston...BP will get away literally with murder. The public needs to follow EVERY step of this case from the backgrounds of the lawyers and judges to who profits financially from this.

Because the system is rigged. It was rigged under Bush. It was rigged back when Kennedy was killed in Dallas. These boys play nasty. And my great grandmother was right...it is one of the only exotic parts of America, and the wealth and the poverty which exist side by side along the Gulf Coast, is due to the presence of oil. But don't be fooled. Oil is not going away just yet. Not until the new "green" good ole boys, have their monopolies well established. Follow the money trail. It will lead you to hedge funds in London and venture capital in California.

The real lesson we should learn from this disaster is that the true pollution we need to clean up are corrupt companies and an unequal distribution of wealth. Oil kills, but so does greed. And the green boys are no less greedy than those making money off of Cap & Trade and tree farms and alternative energies. Why don't they show us how serious they are about being green by donating many,many millions to cleaning up the Gulf. They should be down there right now helping these people if they really believe in our future being Green! Build some Tesla car factories and alternative fuel facilities in South Louisiana. Spread the wealth around! And keep the Gulf Coast way of life along a little longer. Because America is losing part of its cultural heritage right before our eyes!