Monday, November 21, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

By Kathleen Bradean

(I apologize to the non-US readers about how US centric this post is, but the topic is giving thanks, and this is the week of Thanksgiving in the US - Canada celebrated their Thanksgiving the second Monday of October - so my thoughts ran to US events))

In this decade of hate, where hate speech is entertainment and people allow their worst selves to run amok like a tot hyped up on sugar and caffeine at a birthday party, quiet class continues but is largely ignored. We've seen from the Penn State tragedy that blind allegiance to anything leads to moral corruption. So I'm always leery of belligerent flag waving.

But for all the inexcusable things our government has done and our military too, I'm a staunch supporter of the individuals serving in the U.S. armed forces. That may surprise you, but it shouldn't. After all, I grew up around military people. Sure, there were a few gung-ho whack jobs with far more testosterone than sense, but by far, the men and women I knew entered the service with just that thought in mind - service. The few I knew who saw combat didn't enjoy it one bit - to grossly understate what I understood to be their feelings. It was a burden they carried on their souls.

What appalls me is how many of the homeless men in the U.S. are veterans of the armed forces. It burns me down to my core when I hear about staff infecting patients with unsterilized instruments, rodent infestations, and substandard care at VA hospitals. (I've accompanied Pop to a few doctor's visits at VA hospitals across the country, so I've seen the gamut from pretty good to 'I wouldn't dump my worst enemy on this doorstep.') The suicide rate of our troops on active duty is a national disgrace. I doubt we even bother to track the suicide rate of military personnel one, two, or five years after they leave the service. If we do, we should add those numbers to the homeless and get a real idea of the price people pay to serve in the military - and then we should work our asses off to fix that. Even a one percent decrease in suicide and homelessness would be good, but I'd love to see twenty-five or fifty, or even ninety percent.

Tuesday, November 8 was just three weeks ago. Do you remember that day? Probably not right off the top of your head. For most people, it was a workday. Unless your kids are on a modified schedule, it was a regular school day. Nothing too terrible happened. Yes, people in Connecticut were entering their tenth day without electricity, and the weather forced the Occupy Wall Street folks to prove how serious they were, and around the nation people died and were born and applied for unemployment or celebrated anniversaries and groaned that the price of turkeys had tripled over the past few years...

And some of us even voted in local elections.

The reason why you probably didn't remember that day, even if you remembered to vote, was that nothing much happened. Oh sure, some people won elections and some people lost them, but the thing is, that the transfer of power was such a peaceful event that it didn't even register with us. Think about that long and hard, because that's one of the greatest gifts of living in the U.S. Someone had power and they lost it in a fair (let's not quibble) election and their reaction wasn't to grab guns and start slaughtering people. No. Their reaction might have been to get drunk and cuss, but they relinquished power.

Everyone in the world should be so lucky.

Compared to the mayhem that follows winning a national sports title in this country, our political demonstrations are downright civil and orderly. And that too, is a great gift. The idea that you can hoist a sign that offends so many people and not get shot. (I'm aware of the police attacks on OWS protestors, but that's the police, not the military - important difference)That you can be seen walking a picket line and you don't have to worry about your spouse being "disappeared." That people who are no longer active duty military (and some who are active duty) stand with us or across the road from us at demonstrations and hold signs instead of guns because they believe in this peace, this country, as much, if not more, than the rest of us.

And that's what I'm grateful for.

8 comments:

  1. Sobering, and true.

    As I watch the people in Syria and Egypt being gunned down by their own military, I have to agree with you.

    Thanks for the reminder!

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  2. I take far too much for granted and am trying to change my ways.

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  3. These observations are quite true. One of the most fundamental cornerstones of our democracy is that the military has so far always been willing to take orders from civilian leadership. That makes the difference possible between democracy and totlaitarianism.

    Garce

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  4. Garce - When I listen to fireworks shows blasting off all around us on July 4th, I think of the people of Sarajevo and how for years the same sound meant motor fire and death. Peace is truly something to be grateful for.

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  5. As the spouse of a member of the military, I truly appreciate your thoughtful post. Thanks, Kathleen.

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  6. Kristina - As a military brat, I know you're serving too, because you sacrifice a lot as a military spouse.

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  7. Good post, Kathleen. From what I've heard, the treatment of U.S. military veterans is a scandal (or it should be). Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (called "shell shock" in WW1) was first diagnosed in those who had served. They should get a the best medical case, not the worst.

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  8. Jean - I couldn't agree with you more.

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