From the Gulf of Mexico, a respite from the constant stream of bad news, which seems to be part of the national wallpaper…The deepest damage of the spill may be the loss of confidence in institutions, like the federal government and a multinational oil company that held itself up as a beacon of environmental sensitivity. Combine that with public exhaustion over two wars, economic insecurity and disgust over the return of bonuses on Wall Street. This tears against the relief presented by the knowledge that, at least for a bit, the gulf was not being further sullied.“All of these things work together,” said Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist at Emory University. “The national psyche is very depressed. The spill has been going on for so long and there have been so many attempted fixes that people become less trusting that things will really improve. So this becomes a little less front page news, if this really works, but there’s some sense that some other disaster will take its place.”

Out on the Gulf of Mexico, where the surface has come to resemble a floating intensive-care unit — all those hulking ships laden with specialized machinery, bobbing in wait for the next emergency — something good finally happened last week. If only provisionally, oil stopped spewing into the sea.As BP ended its string of futility and affixed a cap to the wellhead, the news comforted a battered American psyche, a counterpoint to a ceaseless narrative of plans going spectacularly awry.More than an environmental catastrophe, the disaster playing out in the gulf has become a festering reminder of the disarray afflicting so many areas of national life, from the cancerous political culture to the crisis of unemployment to an intractable war in Afghanistan, seemingly impervious to whatever plans are dreamed up in Washington.
By Peter S. Goodman, July 16, 2010 NYT

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