Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Miracle status unconfirmed

Twelve of the thirteen miners trapped deep within a West Virginia coal mine have been found alive and are at this moment being taken to area hospitals for examination and treatment.

In a country where ordinary citizens are increasingly forbidden pray with friends at school, to sing Christmas carols or give non-denominational invocations at public gatherings, or to place religious objects on their own desks in the workplace, politicians and electronic media mouthpieces continue to have total freedom to invoke God, prayer, and miracles in times of community crisis. Spokescritters have unleashed a torrent of this kind of rhetoric, flowing at full speed over more than 40 hours of agonized waiting as the miners were rescued. West Virginia public officials and mining company executives did not hesitate to do the same.

While one member of the mining crew was lost near the explosion site, it has been roundly and repeatedly pronounced a "miracle" that the other twelve took refuge even deeper in the mine and survived.

The final verdict on whether or not this consistutes a miracle will be left, as it no doubt should be, to that font of wit and wisdom, John Stewart of the The Daily Show-- that pundit without peer who, you may remember, upon hearing of the Air France disaster of August 3, 2005, where a fully loaded airliner skidded off the runway at Toronto's Pearson Airport and plowed into a ravine, instantly bursting into flames, made a clear and dispassionate case for there having been nothing miraculous whatsoever about the fact that all 309 passengers and crew on board escaped alive. No doubt bucking for a spot at the Vatican as one of the Supremely Serious and Important People Who Decide These Things, Stewart's prounouncement on the air crash was thorough, uncompromising, and definitive (not to mention cynical and contemptuous), and we expect that by Wednesday midnight he will have deftly executed the deconstruction of all preposterous claims of "miracle" now littering the public discourse about these miners and their rescuers, whose actions, like those of the Air France crew, consisted pretty much in remembering their notes from first aid class and following the standard directions found on their survival gear. What's the big deal anyhow?

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