Muriel Rukeyser, where are you now?

While reading Matt Moffett’s piece on the San Jose mine rescue in the Wall Street Journal (“Chile Miners Work Out Before Rescue”), I was particularly struck by several sentences about the trapped miners in Chile:

1. “In fact, the miner whose condition most worries the trainer isn’t the 63-year-old with silicosis, an occupational lung disease, but rather the 34-year-old who jogs about three miles a day through the mine tunnel.”

Muriel Rukeyser, where are you now?

2. “Another miner suffered from hypertension, but rescuers were able to normalize his blood pressure without medication by putting the man on a low-sodium diet. Mr. Romagnoli [the trainer] jokes that the cure was the result of ‘the lock-in system of the mine. Maybe we should patent this as a treatment’.”

About a month ago, I wrote a blog post that was republished in Monthly Review Zine and elsewhere, “Those Trapped Chilean Miners Are So Goddamn Lucky,” that examined the media portrayal of the trapped miners as bending toward the fortunate (i.e., they had more than 1,100 job offers waiting) and the famous (i.e., their impending post-rescue celebrity status). Several days ago, I posted another commentary (“Dead Coal Miners: The Advertisement“) on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in Montcoal, West Virginia–displaying through screen shots of display ads the gross insensitivity of pairing “clean coal” commercials from AmericasPower.org with a story about a tragedy in a mine owned by one of the very firms featured in the ad (Consul Energy). Jeff Biggers also covered this story, and quoted from my earlier blog entry, for the Huffington Post.

Today, as the drills near the 33 men trapped in the San Jose mine, readers once again hear not only about a trapped miner with silicosis and a miner jogging 3 miles per day in a 500 square foot underground cavern, but also an incredibly insensitive “joke” about patenting being trapped for months in a mine as a cure for high blood pressure.

I, for one, will be overjoyed if and when the 33 miners are eventually rescued. Reports out of Chile continue to bring that day closer and closer — perhaps as early as this weekend according to several reports today. I’ll also be overjoyed to move beyond the media coverage of this one “miracle narrative” with the hopes that people who visited this blog to read updates on the trapped miners in San Jose, Chile, will return to read the much more frequent stories of miners perishing every day in every corner of the world. It is these narratives, stories not of rescue but of unfathomable loss, that are unfortunately and overwhelmingly the more prolific story lines.

Muriel Rukeyser, where are you now?


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