Saturday, April 30, 2011
If You Had A Choice, Who Would You Save
A new billboard campaign in favor of animal testing for scientific research has caused a stir because it asks people who they would rather see live, a cute little girl or a nasty lab rat.
You'd pick the child, of course. It's a question designed to tug at the heart strings, to infuse guilt. What decent person would let a baby perish so that a white rat might live?
Who would you save? What if you had a choice between farmland or houses?
Homes means people. Farm land is empty. Sounds like an easy choice, but it's a choice that will have to be decided by a judge.
The Missouri and Mississippi Rivers meet at the tip of Illinois, where the insignificant town of Cairo lies. It used to be a might river city, bustling and prosperous. Now it's poorer than poor, with a few thousand black residents. The homes to be saved are not mansions. They aren't particularly valuable.
They're rather like the housing stock in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
The farmland is in Missouri, and it is valuable indeed. Should the Army Corps of Engineers be allowed to breach a levee to prevent Cairo from drowning, it means the farmland would be covered in silt and muck and the farmers wouldn't be able to plant this year. There's a chance that the land would never be productive again. So how are they to make a living and pay their property taxes?
So which would you choose? The farmland? The run-down homes?
If Cairo gets washed away, would the Fed provide trailer-homes for the displaced? Sadly, a FEMA trailer would be luxurious accomodations as compared to what some have. Would that be preferable, in the long run?
If the farmland gets washed away, would the Fed compensate Missouri for lost tax income? Would the farmers be paid the value of their land and told to farm elsewhere?
As far as Missouri is concerned, they'd rather see Cairo go than lose fertile land. They know that the Army Corps of Engineers tried a levee breach back in 1937, and all that did was to ruin farmland and Cairo got flooded just the same.
If you had to choose, would you pick the black folks in Cairo, or the white folks in Missouri? Does skin color really matter, or is it a question of social class and financial strength? Is either option really preferable to the other?