Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Body Retrieval

Two different things caught my attention this week, both related. The first was from an article in Outside magazine about Mount St. Helen (only US active volcano in the lower 48) watchers and their attempt to get the scoop of the impending eruption several months ago that we are still waiting for. In the article, it mentions a reporter who sneaked past the guarded lines, climbed up the volcano, took pictures of the lava dome and then called out for rescue on his cell phone. The second was on the evening news where a woman affected by the giant mudslide in California was being interviewed by the media. She said something to the effect that the government knew about this for ten years since the last slide, failed to do anything about it and now look at the cost of "rescuing" all of the bodies.

How many times have you heard someone say that this has ceased to become a rescue operation and it now a retrieval operation? Where did the concept of retrieving bodies at taxpayer expense come from? Where does it say in our constitution that we the taxpayer must pay for the retrieval of bodies? (Where does it say congress has a right to give our money to other nations destroyed by natural disasters for that matter?) It doesn't and yet people come to expect it. I doubt that anybody has problems condemning the actions of the reporter on the volcano but why don't we condemn the actions of our government retrieving bodies elsewhere? And in the case of bodies that are not yet dead because of their stupidity, why don't we have them give us their credit card number PRIOR to rescue? These are just two more reasons why our country has racked up our largest national debt ever with no means for paying it off in sight.

Yes, I understand that having your loved one's body back can help the grieving process. Yes you have every right to spend as much money as necessary to retrieve your loved one's body. But no, you don't have a right to my or anyone else's money, only your own. If you can't afford it, I'm really sorry but your loved one's body is going to stay under that pile of mud or more recently in Utah, pile of snow. Only in the case where the body might become a public health hazard, should taxpayer funds be used to recover them.

But body retrieval expenses are minimal when compared to the bodies still breathing. Those bodies are the inexperienced people who wander out beyond their safety zone and end up getting lost or pinned down by violent storms. Think about the movie "The Perfect Storm" for a minute, which is a true story. Calculate how much money the coast guard spent on the chopper, refueling plane and fuel, support crew, and life insurance for the crewmember that died? Think about all those hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a boat of fisherman who knowingly went out into the storm knowing the risks. There was a huge rescue effort after Mount St. Helens blew in the eighties collecting 'some' bodies and survivors who were all knowingly there to watch the volcano erupt. The list could go on and on.

This idea of not retrieving bodies is not a new one. The U.S. Arizona, which was sunk in the attack of Pearl Harbor, still contains the bodies of those that went down with her. There are also examples where we have drawn the line in body retrieval because of the enormous expense such as Mt. Everest or the Titanic. Why can't we set the line to $0.00. Heck, I'll be generous, the government will retrieve anybody with verification of a valid credit card number.

The bottom line is using taxpayer dollars for rescues (due to stupidity) and body retrievals is not an option and shouldn't be done. We are in the business of providing services to the entire population and not a select few. If you are willing to support these services with your tax dollars against the constitution, then a fund can be created for your private donation and without mine.

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