|Metropolitan Museum of Art|
One year ago, on Aug. 4, 2020, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate improperly stored at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, exploded, killing at least 214 people, injuring more than 6,000, and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The world saw that video of a bride’s wedding portrait session interrupted by a shock wave just as the camera zoomed in on her bouquet, dramatizing the horror of the blast.
If you’d already forgotten, don’t feel bad. It’s been a busy year. A lethal pandemic killed 600,000 Americans. The federal government reaction was initially botched, precious months squandered. A bitter, divisive election which Donald Trump tried to baldly steal, summoning a mob to Washington and setting it on the Capitol. A third of the country refusing to take basic steps to combat the COVID plague. We have our own woes.
But there is a connection between the aftermath of the explosion in Beirut and our growing crisis here, one important to understand. Because we are on the same path to becoming a broken country, like Lebanon. Just as the claim of voter security is being used to corrupt our electoral system, so the goal of being a “great” country is used to erode our greatness and make us ordinary, the usual tinpot dystopia fighting each other over scraps. The world is filled with them, from Haiti to Brazil to Russia to Myanmar. We see what happens to failed states, where accountability has no place.
After the blast in Lebanon, what happened in one year? Investigations? Hearings? Charges? Trials? Convictions?
Nothing. No explanation for why the ammonium nitrate — the same material Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Murrah Federal Building — was stored unsafely near residential neighborhoods. No accountability. They aren’t sure exactly how many people died. Nobody has even bothered to clean up the wreckage.
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