Deleted Scenes: Just Up From San Jose

I did not watch more than the couple minutes I could stand, and that by circumstance of being around while it was on, rather than any remote control agency on my part, but I caught some of the Chilean miner rescue on CNN last week, and my gracious, it was life-affirming. Hell, I don’t think I’ve felt that good about people—any of them—in a long time. The San Jose mine: Human interest done right.

So what if CNN reported on it like it was a sports score—now 22 up, now 23—or that the angle the American media took on the story was that we were involved somehow other than by the same measure of imperial extension through which we’re involved in everything that happens in South America? They said it would be Xmas before they got those guys out of the ground, and here it is, mid-October. What a wondrous time to be alive.

I’ve held the opinion for a few years that those who undertake certain actions on the part of their country should be exempt from paying taxes. If they owed their nation anything, that payment has been made. Those who’ve served in the military during wartime should not have to pay income tax for a previously agreed upon number of years, and I feel that way also about these miners. Not that their ordeal could even compare to fighting a war—as I understand it, they had wine in that mine—but their mere survival was a patriotic duty fulfilled. Every one of those dudes came out alive. Chile looked great on television, and these days, that’s enough to make the difference.

Seriously, if you, like me, were unfortunate enough to be in front of a television while it was happening, didn’t you think to yourself, “Wow, Chile’s pretty on the money here?” How could you not? Not only did they pull everyone out with nigh-on-futuristic efficiency, but when they did, they ignited into Chile’s kickass patriotic chant—“Chi-chi-chi-le-le-le, viva Chile!” and so forth—and that really drove the point home. I can’t imagine that heading into their own midterm elections, either major American political party didn’t watch that and say to themselves, “Shit, I wish we were there to have our picture taken.”

The other end of the argument is that this was an intensely private moment for these people’s families, hardly requiring CNN’s cameras butting in for the shot, but screw that. The world was watching. For hours. Get in there. Ask them if they’re going to Disneyland.

Incidentally, in addition to not having to pay taxes, I believe the miners should get free passes to Disneyland.

The Chilean miner story is what “boy trapped in well” would be if Michael Bay directed it. Now that it’s “over”—even today the BBC reported, with video, that 12 of the 33 previously-trapped workers returned to the San Jose mine for a special mass; that’s not to mention the coverage the story has attracted in long-running local alternative weekly newspapers, and we all know how picky they are—I can’t help but feel a little wistful. Far from the tragedy earlier this year in the Gulf of Mexico, this was actually a story the progress of which I enjoyed reading about each day. A triumph of engineering brought on by immediate, desperate human need. Who doesn’t want to hear about that?

Okay, maybe those terms don’t make it sound so exciting, but you see my point. Sure, the news was driven even further into the ground than the miners themselves and our native press handled it with the grace and maturity of a 13 year old Tweeting “OMFG MINERZ RESQ LOLZ!!1!” but when all is said and done, the end result is that this is a rare occasion where I’m not sitting up late on a Sunday night typing about how whatever person having to do with whatever topic is a complete asshole (though certainly I would be had I chosen to write about something else for this week’s column), and that’s a refreshing change.

I don’t expect it to last and neither should you—we’re only seconds away from the new worst thing ever—but screw it, a little bit of time to not feel like crap about absolutely everything is good for morale every once in a while. Soak it in.

Buying the movie rights,

JJ Koczan