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The Shameful Truth: The Horror, The Horror
The terror of U.S.
I was all set to write a column about all the reasons our nation should support public education, public medicine, and re-examine its policies of incarceration. We could actually cut spending AND help people.
I was buried in the economics and logic of turning this country around and examining the roots of the problem (corporate profits and the need for campaign finance legislation), which, to my dismay – but not surprise – no one in Congress or the president himself is really examining. All this panic about raising the debt ceiling and the fixes of the brilliant politicians take us, as usual, away from the real problems and the real changes we need to make, not to mention divorcing the ludicrous war profiting corporations we have married.
Then I read this morning's paper. Tuesday, August 2, the New York Times, page A13. There is a pretty flow chart explaining the compromises and some of the cuts in (to be) Congress's legislation and Obama's compromise for raising the debt ceiling.
And there is suddenly only ONE subject I can write about. Yes, I wrote an entire article about it. But now it is even worse; our country has sunk to a new low. We are a disgrace to ourselves.
That ONE subject is: "WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO SPENDING CAPS."
Since Reagan the debt of our country has primarily been because of the wars we have fought or tax cuts by Republicans. President George Bush acquired six trillion of the fourteen trillion of debt in his two terms due to both the wars and tax cuts. In conjunction with this - WE ARE CUTTING VETERANS PROGRAMS!!!
Almost half of the first round of cuts will come from "security spending," which includes the Pentagon budget but also the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and, notably, veterans benefits and compensation.
We are a sick, addicted-to-war, for-corporate-profit country. My stomach aches. I am ill because I am a part of this. We are all a part of this. We live here, we elect these Congress people and presidents who feed war with OUR tax dollars and OUR debt, while denying our vets services and care that they will need to go on, not fighting, but living.
Part of the problem with war is that we pay and keep paying. We pay in costs to rebuild other nation; we pay in the injuries that the soldiers acquire, the extent to which we know not yet. The emotional and physical wounds of our soldiers from these wars, for which we have no cap, will be unprecedented.
In 2005 I did a documentary about traumatic brain injuries. At the time, two-thirds of soldiers wounded in Iraq suffered from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). I knew then that the veterans would be returning from these wars with brain injuries in epidemic proportions. I also knew first-hand what this meant; few understand as well as I, as someone who has suffered from and lives with a Traumatic Brain Injury.
I dream of getting these veterans the counseling and resources that they will inevitably need. The average cost of a traumatic brain injury in the U.S. is between a million and four million dollars. These soldiers have given their LIVES, their bodies, and their brains to our country, to us. We have paid for them to go to war, with barely a protest, and NOW we are going to cut Veteran Programs.
According to the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center between 2007 and 2009 more than 70,000 soldiers were diagnosed with TBI. 2010 had the highest combat casualties and the lowest rate of mortality for wounded soldiers since the wars began. Consider that, according to New York Times, "fewer than 7.9 percent of the Americans wounded in 2010 died, down from more than 11 percent the previous year and 14.3 percent in 2008." In addition, more soldiers in 2010 were wounded by explosive devices, which are one of the leading causes of TBI for soldiers. They acquire blast brain injuries, their entire brains being shaken and damaged from the impact.
We are all collusive in this if we do not do something now. Complacency is compliance. We have complied with these ridiculous wars, so deeply reflecting Vietnam both in senselessness and corporate profit, and we are compliant in raping these returning soldiers of their care and counseling needed for the extraordinary trauma that they are enduring.
We have heard about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because the Army recognizes that more quickly, because it is technically "treatable." But a traumatic brain injury requires an entire life of treatment, with many many potential illnesses resulting from the TBI. For example, depression is very common as well as impulse control, memory problems, aggression. In addition, a quarter to half of people with a TBI may have at least one psychiatric disorder the first year following injury.
I haven't discussed the physical problems that can manifest from brain injury or from the other wounds returning soldiers will carry. Standard ailments with brain injury: dizziness, head aches, trouble walking, motor-coordination damage, seizures, sleep disorders, balance, trouble with stimulus and noise, sensitivity to light or photophobia, incontinence, speech problems, and on and on...
So you see why I am sick.
Years ago, I predicted a homeless epidemic from returning soldiers with brain injuries, because I knew what they would be up against returning to a society who knew so little about TBI, and a government who wouldn't take responsibility for them. I knew what a huge responsibility this would be, one that a mother or father might take on, but not an employer.
And that is what the government is to these soldiers, an employer. It uses the soldiers' sweat, bodies, and brains to fight while the corporations, who encourage the politicians to vote for war, profit. And the politicians profit through campaign contributions.
I am Distressed. Forlorn. I sit here, writing to you - you who have no name, no face, but who I put so much faith in, to do something. Do something. Anything. Please.
Call your congressperson and protest the cuts on Veterans Programs.
Call your congressperson and protest the WARS and the unlimited spending on them.
Call your congressperson and protest the way your taxes are spent.
Get out in the streets, wave a banner.
The 26th Amendment – granting the right to vote to 18 year olds – took only 3 months and 8 days to be ratified because we, the people, demanded it. Why have we stopped demanding?!
We should not be fighting these wars. This I know.
But if we have the gall to send boys and girls, men and women, off to fight a war on TERROR that can neither be won nor localized, and we are not going to spend the money for proper treatment for veterans, then not only are the WARS the terror, but so are we.
And that's the shameful truth.