We spent a lovely afternoon celebrating Independence Day with family and friends. Kids were swimming, adults were chatting, the BBQ was getting ready to grill our Kafta and the table was set out with all the delicious side dishes. It is how millions of American people celebrate this day, though, probably, with hamburgers and hot dogs rather than Middle Eastern dishes. Nevertheless, it is an occasion that all of us, no matter where we come from, or what we are cooking, share in and feel happy about despite the debate circulating in the nation as to whether President Trump should have, or shouldn’t have, coopted the celebration in order to give a speech and to celebrate our military power with tanks and an aircraft show. Frankly, I did not consider the issue important enough to arouse that much dander and get the stuffed shirts on our television screens to give their pitiful opinions 24/7. Emoting and overplaying is their unattractive forte!
Anyway, my heart was a bit heavy, even though I was enjoying our gathering. The reason is that on the previous afternoon – July 3rd. – I switched to C-Span2 and listened to testimonies given to the Home Veterans Affairs Oversight and Investigation Committee – with a nearly empty chamber and pathetic attendance from our corrupt politicians – regarding the Veteran Affairs Department. Those giving the heart-wrenching presentations were valiant and courageous whistleblowers of all ages, amongst whom was Jacqueline Garrick, Founder of Whistleblowers of America. To sum it up, there is widespread corruption in that Department; no proper oversight; no efficiency; stolen and misspent monies; cover-ups; cushy positions, perks and job security to abet wrongdoing, and so much more! Mind you, they were talking about some of those same corrupt department heads, supervisors, executives, officials and politicians whom we have already seen standing in front of Congress on multiple occasions, raising their right hand and saying: I swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Seriously? Yeah, right! That Oath has become nothing but an intimidating tool applied on us ordinary people quaking in our boots should we find ourselves in a court of law. It certainly does not seem to apply to the high and mighty as we have seen them take the oath and then lie through their teeth time and time again!
Anyway, Rebecca Jones of the Project on Government Oversight, reported that when it comes to those who raise concerns “the VA’s retaliatory culture permeates the higher levels of the agency.” Minu Aghevli, who runs the opioid treatment program in MD stated that after raising concerns she was harassed, scrutinized and subjected to frivolous investigations in order to shut her up. Dr. Katherine Mitchell disclosed understaffing and inadequately trained triage personnel at the Phoenix emergency room and since then has been subjected to extreme and ongoing retaliation. Radiology technician, Jeff Dettbarn reported that in Iowa City veterans showing up for CT scans were notified that their appointments had been canceled as part of a national effort to remove outdated orders, but were never advised of this. Jeff was removed from patient care duties after disclosing his concerns.
All this was disheartening, to say the least, especially that the previous Administration, as well as the Trump Administration have known about this and have promised time and again, and again, to straighten things up. This country has been at war for most of it’s young life, and, specifically, we have been in the Middle East since that fateful 9/11day resulting in young soldiers who have come back missing limbs, suffering from PTSD and committing suicide while not being able to schedule an appointment with a doctor, a follow-up treatment program and/or proper mental and physical care. How can we allow this crime to continue while the corrupt MSM hardly ever speak about this, and while our corrupt elected officials are out to lunch? The real and obvious reason is that they are all heartless war-mongers cashing in on our relentless assaults and meddling all over this globe. Really and truly there is no more a conscience in the upper echelons of this nation, if ever there was one!
In 2016, the suicide rates amongst veterans were 22 deaths per day. 22 shattered young souls per day!
These are unbearable numbers, even though we must keep in mind that amongst the general population during that same year there were about 45,000 suicides. Researchers refer to those deaths as: deaths of despair. That is: mental disorders, desperate financial or other predicaments, opioids, alcohol, bullying etc. The highest numbers are amongst middle-aged white men. Quite sad!
Also, and equally importantly, Luis Alvarez, a former US marine, who was a 9/11 responder employed as a NYPD (New York Police Department) detective was diagnosed with lung cancer as a result of his efforts working at what has been designated as Ground Zero. He died in late June. He is amongst the many courageous emergency workers who are suffering from illnesses related to the World Center tragedy. Alvarez, with comedian Jon Stewart, who is an avid supporter of this cause, gave testimonies to Congress just before he died. He advocated for making the fund designated to support the health issues of those who had served in the Ground Zero clean-up permanent and not to have to come begging for it every time its term expires, which is what has been happening. How heartless of our politicians!
This country is always keen on manifesting its flag, standing up to sing the anthem, tying yellow ribbons around the oak trees, praising the military and our first responders, however, when it comes to seriously caring for them we are hypocritically absent! Tragic!
The next day after our celebration we were at a store that sold second hand books, vinyl records, used toys and made-in-China funny gadgets amongst which was a five-inch boxed doll/troll in the image of President Trump with standing up orange hair. It looked very funny! A forty-something woman – from Conservative Georgia no less! – was smiling as I held the box up so I engaged her, as I am prone to do wherever I go, and we started chatting, lamenting where our politics are; lambasting politicians, the media and their asinine behaviors; wondering where the nation, as well as our world, is going and whether we will all survive. She was especially concerned about her children and their future. I encounter this pervasive angst wherever I go, and, our planet, wherever one looks, seems to be a cauldron that is about to boil over and splatter all of us. Aside from the well-known issues regarding Iran, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Somalia, China, Russia and on and on of real and potential wars, we are still coping, amongst other things, with the opioid crises, insider/employee instigated cyber attack/scamming threats, immigration fiasco, and with daily killings and heartbreaking mass shootings on our US streets. In India, sectarian violence and raping girls are ongoing crimes. And, even in civilized, affluent Switzerland the women have taken to the streets demanding equal pay. So, too, women in civilized France who have also taken to the streets demanding that steps be taken to stop husbands from murdering their wives – apparently about 130 such cases this year alone! What is going on that our human avariciousness and evil have become so prevalent? That a millionaire, like Jeffrey Epstein, is cuffed and taken to jail after decades of trafficking women for sex – some as young as fourteen years – and hauling them off on his private jet (called the “Lolita Express?” How perverse is that?) and to his private island where he served sex and drugs, and who knows what other ills? How many other scumbags like him are there who, moreover, have access to our corridors of power? I bet you many of this nation’s hoity-toity are sweating over this lest their names pop up as the investigation proceeds! How does one explain this sick culture?
There is no leadership, not in our political establishments, not in our places of worship where the catholic Church is still mopping up its predatory messes, not in our corporations where corruption is prevalent and where the good of the all has been traded for the profits of the few. We have reached the 8 billion number world population figure and, aside from the looming climate disasters – and the mass migrations they will be causing – as well as inequality and injustice across the world, not enough of us are paying attention to what is going on. We are in grave peril, people!
However, what raises my hopes, despite a very bad domestic and global situation, is that if there is any country in the world which is capable of reinventing and redirecting itself it is right here in these United States where even now as I write this there are courageous, ethical, moral humans and conscientious whistle blowers– as well as Justice Department detectives and lawyers – standing up for what is right and daily challenging the status quo and the pervasive corruption, often at great risk to themselves. No other place on this broken planet is as equipped as this nation is to do this and to, perhaps, sooner rather than later, steer us, and the world, to safer and saner shores, because despite it all we are still a vibrant, brave democracy. Now I need a glass of wine to keep my hopes up until that day comes!