Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Inchcape Rock For The 21st Century

"Inchcape Rock" is a poem by Robert Southey that retells a legend based upon a rock off the Scottish coast, that was a danger to sailors in the days of wooden ships.  According to the legend, a pirate deliberately sunk a bell that had been connected to the rock to serve as a warning to sailors.  Later, his folly was turned against him, as his ship crashed against the rock during a storm, sinking the pirate, his crew and his ship.  You can read Southey's poem here.

I'm reminded of this poem by the recent absence of air-traffic controllers at the airport named after Ronald Reagan, who launched his Presidency (the first with a former union leader in the Oval Office) by busting PATCO, the then-controllers union.  As the linked story shows, we are only a few lucky breaks--and maybe, just one--away from a modern-day re-enactment of the tragedy in the legend.

Only, in this case, the pirate is long-since dead, and had the rock named after him.  And the people who would be killed by his piracy won't be members of his crew.  They'll be innocent people who were promised by the pirate that he would fix all of their problems with simple solutions that would cost them nothing.

Nothing, that is, except their lives.

I'm inclined to savor life's ironies.  But, in the event of a tragedy, I don't think I could savor this one.  The idea of fatalities at an airport named after Ronald Reagan due to a lack of air traffic controllers should make us remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, on the subject of slavery:

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever."

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