May 31, 2017

1 06 2017

All the festivities of Memorial Day are over. Now, let all the summer fun begin. We’ve had our parades, made our speeches, waved flags and had solemn moments of silence for those who gave all. On the long weekend, of course, to make it more convenient. We’ve celebrated Memorial Day Weekend by opening our summer camps and lake houses, perhaps the first barbecue of the season, parties and get-togethers with friends and family. Hope you all had a great time.

And no, this isn’t going to be one of those tedious lectures about the real reason for the holiday, and how it isn’t all about having fun and cutting the ribbon on Summer 2017. The dead don’t give a damn. They are beyond suffering. Memorials are not so much for the dead as for the living, to reassure ourselves that we won’t be forgotten when we go, that our graves will be mourned over and our names will be spoken with reverence. Memorials also give the bereaved an opportunity to grieve, and to be comforted.

No, this is going to be a tedious lecture on how willing we are to sing praises and bestow honors on the dead, while ignoring the suffering of the living. That’s right, veterans. Oh, I hear you protest, but we have Veteran’s Day to celebrate them. Yes, one day in November to remember those who served. In the meantime, we allow our government to ignore them, to cut funding to the programs that serve them, or applaud a few pennies added to the VA budget.

Tens of thousands of those soldiers whose service we are so grateful for are homeless, suffering from PTSD, sleeping on the streets. An average of 20 veterans a day die from suicide. Meanwhile, our government pours billions upon billions into the defense budget, making weapons, our politicians talking tough and planning more wars to create yet more veterans to lie neglected in the street after they have expended their usefulness to the Military Industrial Complex.

We fall prey to the rhetoric of fear, terrorized into cheering government leaders who pledge to strengthen defense. That fear which they capitalize on keeps us from thinking through the consequences of aggressive defense. Billions in tax dollars are lavished on expensive weapons systems while our infrastructure crumbles and we argue about the cost of health care. But let’s not go there. Let’s focus on a major source of suffering, an inevitable by-product of our military presence abroad: veterans. Soldiers get shot at, blown up, see their buddies get shot at and blown up, witness the brutality of war, and it never seems to end. Bombing the hell out of people doesn’t seem to accomplish anything but radicalizing more terrorists. War is a soul-killing horror. And we put our soldiers through it for political reasons that are often vague or based on nationalistic ego more than real defense.

True, some military personnel come back and adjust without much problem. But the ones that don’t desperately need help. They aren’t getting it. The result is the shameful statistics I’ve cited.

No matter what your politics are, no matter whether you think US defense policy is absolutely justified or dangerously wrong, there is no denying that it creates a population of veterans who deserve to be taken care of. All the words of honor, praise and “support” will not feed them, shelter them, or get them the medical and psychological services they need. Next time some ambitious politician tries to get your vote with his talk about saving tax dollars by cutting social services, remember just who is going to be hurt. It’s not just some hypothetical, lazy “taker” trying to get on the government gravy train. It’s a very real human being, one whom you have lauded for their service to our great nation. And now you are telling them you think cutting taxes is more important than rewarding them for their service.

But by all means, let’s honor our dead and take care of their graves. It’s a lot cheaper and easier than taking care of the living.




3 responses

4 06 2017
Mary Jolles

I heard a piece on NPR about family caregiver services for veterans being cut in various states around the US. The frustration and desperation of the soldiers and their family members who care for them was enormous. In many cases the soldiers’ spouse had quit a job in order to stay home and care for their loved one. Why these states’ VAs made these decisions is a mystery to me. Since the publicity, some states have stopped cutting these services to new applicants, but have allowed the previous cuts to remain, instead of reinstating payments to these families. Crazy!

4 06 2017

It is baffling to me and makes me truly angry. People get whipped into a righteous frenzy over transgender bathrooms, and yet are not outraged a whit by this. Go figure.

5 06 2017
Mary Jolles

I saw a great tee-shirt slogan on Twitter: in colorful letters on black shirt, slogan reads: “You can pee next to me.” Wonderful!

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