It is Friday morning. The I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota is now about thirty three hours old. The current numbers are four dead, eight missing, and eighty people injured. Talking with family and friends, people are impressed with the relatively low number of deaths from the catastrophe. Many of us have witnessed car accidents that have resulted in more fatalities. But still, the idea of being a victim of a bridge collapse, let alone a major artery like one of our interstates, just doesn’t sit well with most people.
Bridges don’t just fall here in America. We have rules to prevent such a calamity. Bridge inspections are supposed to happen on a regular basis by qualified people who work on keeping on top of the latest developments in civil engineering. We completely surrender our faith in the integrity of our infrastructure. In most instances we really don’t have a choice since we are required to participate in our culture in order to survive. We have no choice but to trust that other people are on top of doing their jobs. When that trust is betrayed it causes us to reflect on what could have gone wrong and why.
According to the news, this particular bridge was judged to be suffering from fatigue back in the year 2001. However, someone thought the bridge was still safe enough for usage. That was six years ago. In 2005 this bridge was judged to be structurally deficient. At first glance the layman may find such a classification severe enough for immediate attention. But again, a knowledgeable engineer must have felt that it was safe enough to continue service. Obviously somebody made the wrong choice. Hindsight is a wonderful tool to point out other people’s mistakes.
The crumbling infrastructure of America is beginning to gain more of the public’s attention. The water systems of major municipalities are constantly suffering from water main breaks. The electric grid suffers from complete collapse leaving entire municipalities in the dark for days at a time in the peak of summer. Giant sink holes open up beneath city streets swallowing vehicles whole. The aviation navigation is woeful for keeping pace with air traffic. Pipelines are bursting spilling whatever fluid or gas goes through it.
The failure isn’t one associated with the incompetence of individuals. The failure is a collective one dealing with limitations of funding. Like the car owner getting a report from their mechanic that one or more of the car’s components is in need of an unexpected but somewhat expensive repair. For the car owner on a strict budget, inevitably the question will come, is it something I need to do right now? Most drivers choose to put the repair off as long as possible until it becomes unavoidable which is usually at the worst possible time. Likewise, government agencies and municipalities are trying to bide their time as well. Too often the public will doesn’t exist to tackle the problem of replacing the infrastructure until it becomes totally unavoidable.
A stitch in time saves nine. Handling a small problem now will save on a huge headache down the road. Of course it makes sense to repair the car while it is sitting in the mechanics bay and the hood is up. But instead, the cash strapped driver will wait until the car becomes disabled on their way to work and they’re stranded on the side of the road. Now they’re faced with missing a day of work, hiring a tow truck, and paying the mechanic for additional work. A timely stitch could’ve saved a day’s pay, a tow, and a lot of time. Likewise, the governments associated with the I-35W failure could’ve performed a relatively cheap repair years ago is now facing a total major artery bridge replacement along with a number of legal exposure from the people who have suffered or may have lost their loved ones. A timely stitch could’ve saved lives and billions of dollars.
The steam pipe exploding in New York, the collapse of the bridge in Minnesota, the collapse of the levies in New Orleans, and other failures that are imminent means there will be mounting pressure for the country to replace these systems. It will be inevitable. People don’t particularly care for the terrorism associated with the idea of crossing a bridge and having it fall away. People will demand the problem be corrected. And the cost will be extensive. But for each billion of dollars spent repairing or replacing systems, tens of thousands of jobs can be created, provided someone doesn’t just get obscenely greedy and tries to pocket more than their fair share of the rebuilding budget pie.
There will be construction and engineering jobs for several decades to come just to replace the infrastructure that we currently have. There will be a wealth of opportunities for people who make plans to have careers in construction and other fields that will be in high demand in the future. Jobs in concrete, welding and metal work, crane operators and other drivers of heavy equipment, heavy equipment repair and maintenance, and other construction skills such as plumbers and electricians aren’t very likely to be exported overseas anytime soon. Members of the black community would do well to make plans so we can assure our participation in the redevelopment of America. Our children should be introduced to programs and educational opportunities to learn the construction skills and the construction business in general. I strongly suggest parents and students check out the opportunities of the Construction Career Center located just south of downtown St. Louis.
Opportunities will come from this unfortunate accident and the others that are inevitable. The black community needs to prepare itself so that it will be in a better position to do our share to contribute to the effort.
It is a wonderful gift to be in a position to make a positive difference in the lives of others. That’s a slightly modified quotation from Alicia Keyes in an American Express commercial with Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Scorsese, and other celebrities that’s airing on television. American Express is currently promoting an advertising campaign called the Members Project that’s designed to have people submit ideas for a charity project and the winning submission will get a five million dollar donation from American Express. But regardless of the promotion, the quotation moved me to think about people’s ability to make a difference in others.
A lot of people choose careers that are supposed to make a difference in other people’s lives on a daily basis. Teachers are supposed to teach those who are unaware. Doctors are supposed to take care of the sick. Police are supposed to protect the community from those who intend harm. Actors, singers, and musicians entertain and inspire other people with their talents. Each and everyday there are a lot of people who have the ability to make a difference. It is the philosophy of making a difference in the lives of others, for others, that makes a community a positive environment.
However, a lot of people, who are in the position to do something positive, would rather pass on having a community oriented spirit and would prefer to be more personally oriented. The problem with this arrangement is that when everyone is focused on the benefit of self, everyone else becomes an impediment or a rival in the competition to get as much as possible as quickly as possible. Whenever everyone else is considered the opposition then the community is no longer an arrangement of people working for a common goal but a collection of independent operators each with the own agenda.
In the current social environment of the United States many black communities have become very fragile entities, or totally broken altogether, that are totally inept at maintaining their integrity. And with so many people doing whatever they can to minimize their tax exposure too many struggling neighborhoods have to cut back on the type of services that keep a community desirable. Here in America, the less individual members have to share with the community at large, the more individuals covet another style of living that is not their own, the more people are ready to abandon the place of their birth, the easier it is for the community to fall into a dismal state.
Generally speaking the black community is in the most dismal state of existence of any community. Too many black people who are in the best position to help their brothers and sisters in the black community have given themselves completely to the lust for better neighborhoods, better neighbors, better spouses, better children, and a better way of being or living. More ethnic diversity and less black ethnicity runs directly contrary to the very survival of the black community.
Many people may not feel that the black community is worth saving. People would be willing to save the sanctuary of the striped spotted wooden beak red owl than save the black community for future generations of black people who prefer to keep black ethnicity strong and solid despite the overwhelmingly negative message constantly being broadcast in its various forms that says to black people and the public at large that the black community is far from being an integral component of American culture.
The contributions the black community in this country has made to the world at large have been minimized and dismissed. At one time the black community delivered more than its fair share of famous inventors, authors, and scientist. Now the black community is more famous for its entertainment from athletes, singers, and actors. True black intellectualism is somewhat limited to the colorful black intellects that evoke a somewhat negative emotion in white people such as political talking heads like Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Louis Farrakhan. Black celebrities like Tavis Smiley, T.D. Jakes, and Cornell West who claim to have their finger on the pulse of the black community choose not to involve themselves in black issues from a perspective that may anger the white community.
But black intellectuals like Elaine Brown, Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, or Mumia Abu-Jamal try to bring attention on the black condition but are rather small and limited voices compared to the big megalomaniacs who are constantly being hyped up by the news. The message from this relatively unknown group of black intellects is being drowned out by the constant wave of bad news regarding the black community bombarding the public. Black on black crime is out of hand and rising. Black athletes have the moral integrity of soggy cardboard. Black politicians are being investigated and arrested. Black rappers jockey for position in some sick competition to see who can be perceived as the biggest thug on some white corporation’s payroll. Black educational achievements are plummeting. Blacks are less qualified for employment. Does the public media recognize anything good coming out of the black community any more that doesn’t have anything to do with singing, dancing, athletics, and such?
Unfortunately, the media’s constant focus on the shortcomings of the black community is making a difference in the lives of people who live in the black community. However, the difference that the white dominated corporate media makes on behalf of the black community is far from being a positive one. It’s a beautiful thing when someone is in the position to make a positive difference in another person’s life. It is horrible to use a position of influence to make someone’s life, an entire community of people’s lives, more miserable than necessary.