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Try Care.

When I first heard about the I35W bridge collapse, my heart was in my throat. But my mind was in familiar territory, asking (yet again) why this disaster? Within hours, reports revealed that problems with the bridge had been noted as far back as 1990. There are many places where you can read the particulars about the engineering and "structural deficiency" details. These particulars are more than news, however. They are also indicators that the US is well on its way to fitting the profile of a "third-world" country.

When I think of "third-world" countries (a term I don't like, but will use here because of its widespread usage), I think of: substandard infrastructure; uneven health care; wide gaps in living conditions between rich and poor. I also think of crippled governments whose legislators do not act in the interests of the citizens they represent; heads of state who make unilateral and arbitrary decisions and/or ignore their country's constitution; citizens being spied on and monitored without their knowledge.

That's us, folks. That's America. Every phrase fits. Take them one by one, and it doesn't seem so bad. Put them all together, and it's overwhelming. The overwhelming event of the bridge collapse made me start putting the particulars together in one frame.

Why this laxness and incompetence about a major traffic artery and bridge--a laxness we now know to be nationwide? We have divine providence to thank that the collapse did not occur in the middle of a Minnesota winter and that rush-hour traffic was lighter than usual. And divine providence to trust that it doesn't happen again next week, next month, or next year in another part of the country. The I35W bridge was just one of many "structurally deficient" and ailing bridges in the US. There is not enough money or manpower to fix them all any time soon.

How did we get here from there? What will it take to change this downhill course?

Last week, Minnesotans showed us the way, as diverse groups merged into one unit, as people united for the purpose of being there for each other and thinking of the other before they thought of themselves. Perhaps it sounds old-fashioned, simplistic, even naive, but the Minnesotans affected by last week's disaster-- victims, survivors, and responders--helped me see that even as bridges crumble, systems fail, political parties self-inflate and self-destruct, and our government elevates secrecy and unaccountability to historic highs, we are still connected as human beings and fellow citizens, still willing to do good--just that, no less, no more--to do good. And to care.

To care. There is no problem that caring and taking care cannot address, nothing they cannot make better. All it would have taken to save the lives lost to the Mighty Mississippi last week was for someone to care, starting in 1990 all the way to 2007, when construction workers could feel the bridge "wobbling" beneath them shortly before the collapse. To take care, to inform, to close the bridge right then, or to have worked on it years before. Think about it. Apply care, in your heart and mind, to any problem or issue you can think of--local, global, personal, or corporate. Care is the way out of the 1-2-3 worlds and into the one world that is better for all. Just care.

***

You can check on needs of survivors and ways to contribute at the Twin Cities Red Cross. There will be ongoing need for donations for a long time yet.

Text and Image copyright 2007 Ysabel de la Rosa.
Image: Sao Paolo, Brazil: Church of Nossa Senhora da Providencia

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