May 27th. Memorial Day, USA
There are some instances in life when we are powerfully moved by something or someone, sometimes for no explainable reason that we can think of. It could be an experience, a trip, an event, an Obama, or any number of things.
In 1983 I took my children to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. Looking at that incredible monument I felt the tears burning my eyes, the sadness wrapping itself around my heart. I had opened my political eyes in the sixties. Vietnam, as many other profound issues of that era, affected us deeply. We had detested colonialist France’s incursion into that part of the world and we could not quite believe how America – that America we had so admired and loved – could have waged that war. We had followed Vietnam’s news closely and as the death toll rose we thought of all those young soldiers suffering and dying in those jungles, and of all the innocent Vietnamese slaughtered senselessly.
(We also remember how free speech America slaughtered its own protestors at Kent State University! And it is still persecuting and incarcerating its own dissenters, while scolding others who do!)
A few years later, I met a charming man with whom I would discuss authors, books and life as we sat smoking into the evening. He was a Vietnam Veteran. George though, and some of his friends, could not readjust to life without war. They could not fathom going back to a regular job and an uneventful life. Combat had seeped into their blood. They therefore became mercenaries, guns-for-hire that would go to places in Africa and do battle, get the thrills and make lots of money! They did that for quite a few years before eventually settling down to a routine life. He passed away in his sixties, a few years after I met him. Our recent wars in the Middle East have produced an abundance of American mercenaries. We often call them “sub-contractors” who are doing a slew of dirty jobs that we do not want our regular military to do.
Many of the Vietnam Veterans went back to their families; many got married and led normal lives. They were, however, another “silent generation.” They did not want to talk or think about that part of their lives.
Some could not adjust at all. They suffered from PTSD. They grew dependant on drugs and alcohol. They could not keep a job. They had no homes. Their families did not know how to cope with them. Neither did America! There are about 160,000 of them. There are about 1000 from our latest wars in the Middle East. They sleep under this nation’s bridges, on its park benches, in some shelters. My heart breaks for them! In the richest, most powerful nation on the planet; in the country that has spent more than a trillion dollars for its latest unnecessary, unwarranted wars, we cannot spend a few million to take care of these human beings. It is so very shameful! And, yes, they do have advocates trying to help in any way that they can. But the government that sent them there to begin with hasn’t done much. Collateral damage!
There are many Georges all over the Middle East that we decimated. They, too, opened their eyes to the gored corpses on their streets; blood and ordnance around them; they dodged the bullets, they witnessed family and friends uprooted, suffering, droned and maimed for life. Like George, they will always hunger for the smell of gunpowder in their nostrils. Some will become hired guns and head for any war, anywhere; others will come back to haunt our neighborhoods and towns. It isn’t odd that they aren’t grateful for our twisted favors!! We should not act surprised. We cannot wonder why they hate us. Hate freedom? Really?!?! Does anyone still believe in this inane argument?!?! How utterly naïve!