Monday, February 03, 2003

On sacrifice, disaster and tragedy
At first I was a little turned off about all the talk about "sacrifice" on the coverage on Saturday, especially when compared, for instance, with today's reading from Hebrews. Yet, upon reflection, and with the help of the Kevin Miller's comments, the term sacrifice really does make sense when we are talking about people who engage in highly dangerous activities form the sake of their country and for the benefit of humanity. One thinks, for instance, of all those men landing on the shore at Normandy, knowing full well that they are likely as not going to lose their lives. I'm also thinking, for instance, of those soldiers recently who have dies in training accidents while preparing for a possible war with Iraq. Their sacrifice is every bit as real, if not as glamorous as the sacrifice of these seven men and women.

One point I do often make on these occasions is that, while the loss of the Columbia is certainly a disaster, it is not a tragedy. For me a tragedy is the result of human malice or at least culpable human malfeasance. So far, I've seen no evidence the either in this case. I think, for instance, that the death of three iron workers in the construction of Miller Park in Milwaukee was a tragedy because it was due to easily avoidable decision on the part of the contractors to go ahead with a heavy lift on a day of high winds. I cringe when I here people say that these men "sacrificed their lives" for the ball park. While iron is a dangerous profession, and anyone engaged in it may sacrifice their lives for the sake of the betterment of humanity, I don't think these men should have had to die to provide a ball park for Milwaukee.

Maybe we've come to use the word "tragedy" as a synonym for "sad event." Well, if that is where our language is headed, I'm not happy, but in the mean time I'm going to resist the trend.

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