Friday, June 25, 2010

Gulf Dispatches Continued.....

June 4, 2010

Battle Fatigue – Is Anyone Listening to the Gulf Coast Dying?
Somewhere, Somehow, the Confederacy of Dunces will be Defeated

Marc Gauthier as told by Paul Haeder
Special to Down to Earth NW

Some call it “news story fatigue,” or “disaster burn-out,” a type of post-traumatic stress moment in the lives of reporters and filmmakers hitting some new place, witnessing some crazy spectacles in a foreign place. Then confronted with cover-ups, lies and total media manipulation, the journalist negotiates those landmines as he or she steels backbone to get under the skin of a big story, the big narrative.

Marc is back home now — his oil-tainted sea kayak strapped on for the 65-mph trip from Grand Isle, Louisiana, back to Spokane, Washington.

“I have to get back. I don’t have the energy anymore to do the reporting.”

He’s of course speaking about the Gulf Coast, the oil, the intensity of the inaction, the entire oil company town mentality that has taken over much of Louisiana and other parts of the south. He’s also confident he has a film; more than 14 hours of raw shots have been part of a strategic plan to capture the spill, so to speak.

It doesn’t take much for Marc to lift up his spirit. He’s already begun talking about his past and future work on KYRS.

He’s having flashbacks, he keeps saying.

“I can’t put that stuff out of my head. I feel like a war veteran, as if I served a tour of duty. All these emotions of leaving friends behind, the dead fauna, the idea that those estuaries are dying, all of it is in my head.”

That process of heading home serves well to give Marc some different perspective so he can blow off some of that steam. He’s had to be a good boy down there.

He ran into poor, uneducated folk. Bible-thumpers. “It’s a whole different world. I can’t generalize, but the Southern man seems to not care. They don’t recycle. In a lot of bathrooms, I’ve seen all this Obama hate in graffiti on walls. ‘Kill Obama, Kill that n_____.’ A lot of it, and this has been part of the reason it’s been so hard for me not to speak out.”

Marc knows he has tons of research and more interviews to conduct while back in the Inland Northwest. He has to get some of the facts extracted from an entire oil industry gone crazy while the US government’s acceded to BP — one of the worst companies in the oil industry — as the so-called experts.

Experts in geological sciences, experts in oceanography and meteorology, experts in oceans, experts in drilling, experts in wildlife biology, experts in flow rates, experts in disaster management, experts in media spin, experts in damage control, experts in cultures and state politics, experts in EVERYTHING. It’s the confederacy of dunces played over and over. BP’s no expert; that should be plain to the American public.

Marc’s film, however, is about those face-to-face relationships he’s made, both with and without the camera running. He keeps coming back to the vapidity and disingenuous world of Facebook social networking not only creating a fake lull, fake world, but being counterproductive to what we need as a society to force change, the kind of change those parish leaders and fishermen and tour guides are now fighting for.

“It’s a fact, the nation isn’t really engaged with the spill. This is just the tip of the iceberg … wait till the beaches in Florida start getting hit with oil … when the entire Gulf is closed to fishing.”

He drives across the nation, trying to find some spiritual wholeness so he can face the journey he took and the impending doom of 35 gallons a second leaking and BP saying the leak is so much less. They – BP — control everything, Marc reiterated, so the less oil the PR machine says comes out, each and every undercount of each gallon of fish-eating and bird drowning crude, the less they are subject to pay EPA and other agencies in clean-up damages.

The flow rate is 30 to 45 gallons a second. Logic says if BP dumped 30,000 barrels of drilling fluid, mud and other stuff into the Deepwater Horizon well as their so-called top kill solution and THAT did nothing, then it’s not difficult to do the math.

The New York Times let BP off the hook, even reporting the top kill was working when it wasn’t and then telling the nation that what we were seeing coming out of the well head was just mud stirred up. “I can’t believe the cover-up,” Marc said while leaving Maxwell State park in Kansas with a buffalo herd mewing in the background. “NPR [national public radio] does these 10-second spots. They interview the wrong people. It’s appalling how they are missing the story.”

We are addicts, addicted to oil, and we can’t even make it to Step One in the Twelve-Step program of sobriety. It’s classic, Marc says. “We’re physically addicted. We kill for it. We let this happen now. Absolutely unbelievable.”

He wants to get a short Public Service Announcement video sent to Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, anyone with clout to make a move against BP, to push an Army of folk to clean up the mess, and to push for a real renewable energy Apollo-style program.

He harkens back to seeing BP-managed boats off Elmer Island. Guys manning these booms that didn’t work. Brightly colored booms to show the cameras that BP was doing something, all the while the oil came oozing under, over and around the booms.

He’s playing through the scenes in his head, and reviewing the raw footage he’s captured. It’s the perfect storm for a filmmaker under the worst of circumstances, the worst environment disaster of our time. That’s the double-edged sword Marc Gauthier is wielding.

He admits he started in Spokane with a roughshod plan to find a story but ended up in the right place at the right time, with the perfect scenarios unfolding. He’s serious about making an hour film with a passion, with a titanium-strong narrative thread. He plans to contact fellow filmmaker and Michiganite Michael Moore as an informal consultant on the yet-to-be edited and titled film.

This is the “biggest challenge in my life,” Marc says. The face-to-face relationships, the grassroots movements, those are dying arts, but the only art and tools we now can employ to stop the madness of what the BP disaster symbolizes and represents across all spectrums of society.

Everyday he’s talking with his 56-year-old mother in East Lansing, Mich. She’s tracking her son’s movements. She’s realizing her son was made for this sort of creative interplay of expression as an activist and storyteller, filmmaker and muckraker.

It’s hard on a mother, though, seeing some of Don Quixote’s characteristics in a son, fighting the windmills that are the corporations which have taken over EVERYTHING. The confederacy of dunces are their presidents, school boards, senators, lobbyists, us, in their back pockets. Addicted to oil.

Marc’s journey is actually just beginning, and while hope won’t be this teary-eyed theme in Marc’s film, he hopes for action, for moving people from whatever comes to him as a film.

His mother, those Michiganites he left as a younger man for Washington, those people in a state with 20 percent or higher unemployment rates in various counties, where cities are depopulating and city infrastructure is becoming Beruit-ized, they all are Marc’s shed of hope because they are sticking it out, trying, not throwing in the towel.

That’s the name of the game – returning home to tell the story of us, of “self,” by not throwing in the towel

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