Monday, June 25, 2007

While You Were Sleeping

“Don’t Worry – We’ll Take Care of You and Your Family”

Am I a traitor to say that there are times when I am ashamed to be an American? Does it make me less of a patriot to believe that both as individuals and as a nation we must keep our promises?

Am I a terrorist to believe that some of what we do as a nation can be classified as terrorism against our own? Am I a “commie” to believe that we have to take care of not only those who serve, but those who wait for them to come home?
If all of these things are true about me, then I accept them, because when I read some of the headlines lately I am ashamed, and I want us to do a lot more; to keep our promises – all of them.

Here are a few of those headlines almost at random from the last two weeks. There are more, and we’ll talk a little bit about these and the others throughout this issue.
1. “Camp Pendleton: Rats Invade Base Housing”
2. “Camp LeJeune: Marine Families Tie Tainted Water to Illnesses”
3. “Boston: Missing Soldier’s Wife May be Deported”
4. “Pentagon Rules Will Leave Military Families Unprotected
5. “Veteran Homelessness on the Rise
6. “Insurance cuts, red tape thwart soldiers who need therapy”
7. “Government Struggles to Cope With Wounded GIs”

How can we let our soldiers, marines and their families drink contaminated water FOR THIRTY YEARS without doing anything about it? Now we can do something, since a group of them have sued the Marine corps for $4Billion. Couldn’t we have solved that problem for less than $4B? Shouldn’t we have done so?

How can we let marine families live in rat-infested quarters, force them to go to the media for relief, and then condemn them for “not using the system”, the same system THAT LET IT HAPPEN IN THE FIRST PLACE AND GAVE THEM NO REDRESS.
How can we be so insensitive that we would allow anyone to threaten the wife of a soldier, let alone a missing soldier, with deportation? Why doesn’t the service take care of it? Why did two Senators have to weigh in to get it stopped?

Why does the five-sided-funny-house believe that it is most important for them to protect predatory lenders at the expense of under-paid and under-appreciated service members?
Why do we let veterans live under bridges and behind dumpsters?
Why do we allow bureaucrats to administer programs “by the book” when the book is wrong and our veterans suffer as a consequence?

Why - in a country that can pay CEOs hundreds of millions of dollars in one year, and can pay outrageous subsidies to farmers and oilmen - why do we allow the military and VA medical systems to fail because of insufficient funding? Our priorities are only too obvious.
Why do we reelect people who believe that the way they should support the troops is to introduce (but not yet pass) H. Res. 189? What is H. Res. 189? It is not even an act rather it is a resolution ”Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" should be established.” Good for you! Hello! WE CAME HOME 35 YEARS AGO!

But we shouldn’t be too hard on our representatives, after all, almost none of them have any idea what the troops are going through today. Fewer than 20 of 535 are combat veterans. Of course, that doesn’t stop most of them from pontificating about the need to “stay the course” and to “fight them over there instead of over here”. If “they” came over here, these guys would find a job in Europe, keeping them as close to the results of their inaction as they are today.
A neighbor thinks that there is too much coverage of the war. Others wish that there would be none so that their children wouldn’t have to see those disturbing photographs. One fellow in the next town thinks that, “All this PTSD stuff is crap. They are just a new kind of welfare cheat.” Guess which war he or his son served in? NOT!

These same folks believe that our soldiers are not doing anything wrong when they commit the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere – “After all they cut off heads over there, so making them stand on a box for a while is nothing.” I guess neither is forced buggery, or electric shock, or prolonged sleep deprivation. After all, we pride ourselves not being quite as bad as the other guy, don’t we? We are comfortable with letting the worst define our moral character, I guess.
Meanwhile we let our soldier’s families live in squalor while we make sure that Burger King and KFC get their fair share of the soldier’s pay in the combat zone. We rush supplies to our allies in Israel and “examine the supply situation in search of a good solution” for our own in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We used to be proud to stand tall – to set the example – even to “be all that you can be”. We believed in the right and the good, instead of just the toughest and the baddest. We soldiers were supposed to be reluctant warriors, not members of a warrior caste. We were not cowards! We knew that being the good guy, even in combat, entailed risks, but risks that were worth it if we were to retain our humanity.

I don’t know when the United States changed, but I am pretty sure that it happened when I wasn’t looking – and shame on me.

How could we have let this happen? How could we have let the cowardice of inaction, the soul-debilitating meanness of torture, the lying masked as valid reporting, the spinning of inconsequence to make it appear meaningful, the deprivation of real benefits; the theft of national treasure, all of the products of this current time – How could we have let all this occur?


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