State of the Union was pretty good tonight. (Oh, I might as well mention it, Crowley is going to just HAVE to write something shitty about Obama in the comments anyway.) But there was one part where Obama lost me. When he started going on about Iran … sigh. The money you want to take from the defense budget to fund clean energy resources isn’t going to be there if you get us further into the Middle East. Further into another unwinnable war.
My friend, John, and SEVERAL of my young, male compadres are all about Ron Paul (I never hear women championing Ron Paul’s cause). Oh, dear lord. It’s like they’ve found a new religion. Their savior has come, and he can be yours too, if you’ll let him. I won’t let him, but I would love if I could cut out the rest of the crazy and go with his plan just to fuck off of all the wars. I don’t know where we get off thinking we’re so much more awesome than all of the other countries who went to Afghanistan and came back home whipped, with their tails between their legs. And you’d *think* maybe Vietnam would have given us some recent lessons in such matters, to boot. But, we just don’t seem to be very good at history. It’s like we’re alcoholic when it comes to war. There’s some strange mental blank spot that prevents us from remembering the suffering and humiliation (and death and horror) of even a year or a decade or a generation ago.
And I’ll be the first to admit, there’s a huge percent of the population that can go by, willfully ignorant to it all, if we so desire. If you have no one enlisted, and you want to turn a blind eye, you can. There’s no draft. No rations. No victory gardens. No working together to help the troops. In fact, I don’t really even see those overblown dramatic commercials for the military anymore, either (I’m not exactly sad about that, but that’s one less reminder of what’s going on). There’s no personal toll or loss for most of us to be in these wars; our gas is a little more expensive, but just like the alcoholic and the person addicted to cigarettes, it’s not stopping anyone from buying those SUVs and driving them everywhere. Or continuing to drink and buy cigarettes (“When they get to $5.00 a pack, I’ll definitely quit!).
But someone’s paying a toll. Someone’s losing. Families are losing daughters, aunts, wives, mothers — brothers, uncles, sons, fathers. American and all over the world. Men and women are losing limbs, memories and the ability to come home to a normal way of life. Communities are being torn apart with families grieving and people struggling to make a living and wondering how they will make their mortgage, even *after* they return home with a hero’s welcome. Veterans are left with scars that no one else can see and desperately fight to assimilate into their old world while still trying to make sense of memories and events they’ll never quite leave behind. I don’t know that we’re doing any better of a job of helping these men and women now than we ever have.
I talk about this because I was trying to get rid of some things in my inbox and I came across a draft of something I had written when I was still working for the apartment finding service. I think it was the Saturday before I was let go. I had written down some notes about a man who had come in to get an apartment. He was somewhat handicapped. It was hard to tell exactly what was going on. He seemed a little physically disabled, but there also seemed to be some mental struggle as well. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but one of the managers was helping him out. When people couldn’t take the stairs, they would always just take care of them downstairs. I was happy to see that he was being so well taken care of.
He was filling out some paperwork, and he started telling his story. He was in the military. He was on a personnel carrier. When he said that, I was thinking aircraft carrier at first, so I wasn’t really expecting the rest of the story. But it makes sense once I think about the words … it’s a *personnel* carrier. They’re the ones that are like the fast tanks. They’re the ones you can climb out of the back and shoot and fight. He was in one, and they got hit. There were three of them — him and two of his friends, two of his brothers in arms, and he was the only one who came out alive. It took him a whole year to learn how to walk and talk again.
He told us that he can’t remember things. That he couldn’t remember having conversations an hour later. Or how much money he has with him or how to buy a soda. That it’s very easy to get lost. If he has to go into buildings, he’s not going to have very good luck. I remember that we (do you like how I instantly co-opted him? I wanted him to do well) needed to find him a place that was going to be a straight shot, bus route wise, to where he was getting help — some place related to the VA or something. The military was going to pay for his housing and such; a landlord really should have no problem accepting any application we turned in. It was guaranteed money.
Just like I’m sitting here, crying now, I just remember thinking that here is a guy who now has physical and mental disabilities — who KNOWS he has them — who was previously fully functioning. We might not have agreed on politics, I don’t even know. He could have been a right-wing, gun loving Republican, for all I know. But now, because of a war that is so needless, he is irreparably damaged. And two of his friends? They’re not even here to tell the tale. So, he’s got that on top of it all. Broke my heart.
I know that it’s a speech. But I just don’t want any more war, Mr. President. It’s good for absolutely nothing.