Oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico unceasingly despite the nation's most sophisticated technology working to stop it. People watched and read the news, felt queasy, tried not to think about it. Tried to just go on with life. But then the catastrophe moved toward the shore and they could not escape the images of birds covered in oil, like one by Associated Press photographer Charlie Riedel, which hit a collective raw nerve.
They posted online the image of the bird flat on its back, wings stuck in thick oil, feet kicking, futilely trying to free itself. People wept at their computers and sent each other messages. Did you see that photo of the bird? He looked like he was covered in chocolate, didn't he?
Even those who don't care much for animals took notice. These were the same people who get annoyed by pigeon droppings and creatures trying to coexist with people in cities and suburbs -- bothered by deer in the garden and raccoons moving around the attic like little men on their knees.
The suffering of other animals was haunting, too -- trapped turtles, crabs drowning in crude, dead dolphins. But the birds have been so visibly numerous, sitting immobile in oily marshes trying to clean themselves, sitting on eggs covered in oil, diving for fish in a sea coated in orange crude -- acting as if everything in the gulf is as it was before the spill began. We watch them try to keep going, just as we do, to live as if everything is normal. Only we know it's not.
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