Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A little more on the topic of Chernobyl. Death isn't fair. And there are many ways of looking at the same situation.

One way to frame the last days of the firefighters of Chernobyl is to talk about the mistakes that they made, because they didn't really understand what the situation was. Who would? The situation was unprecedented. One can also talk about the injustice of what happened - that Soviet officials allowed such an unsafe plant to be built; that mistakes were made that lead up to the disaster that finally happened. That the firefighters were allowed to go in there essentially unprotected. One can frame the firefighters as victims.

But death makes victims of us all. I think that the fact that someone is a victim, when they die, isn't an important part of their life story. You might well use it to talk about how to prevent deaths like theirs in the future. You might use it to punish the people responsible. But for them, the story is over, and the talk of victimhood is irrelevant and essentially meaningless.

I'm not trying to elevate the idea of a "good death." There is no good death. It's certainly not my goal in life to die a hero, and I'm sure it wasn't theirs either. But nevertheless, they did die heroes.


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