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We owe them

8:36 am in Uncategorized by

I’ve imagined the following exchange hundreds of times. It sounds so stupid, but it must be the way things really work in America.

Veterans Administration Employee: “Hello, I’m Bob Hammelflicker. How can I help you today?”

Veteran: “I’m Casey Williams, and I could really use a new leg.”

Bob: “What’s wrong with your current leg?”

Casey: “There isn’t anything wrong with my right leg, but my left leg is missing below my knee.”

Bob: “I didn’t notice you were missing a leg when you walked into the office.”

Casey: “It was more of a severe limp, actually. The Army gave me a prosthetic leg before I was discharged, but it has never fit right and is always painful. I’ve got a civilian job where I have to walk a great deal and this leg isn’t working out. I need a new one.”

Bob: “So your leg isn’t actually missing, is it?”

Casey: “What?”

Bob: “Well, Mr. Casey, you have a leg don’t you. You say it is prosthetic, and I have no reason to doubt that, so it isn’t really missing.”

Casey: “Doubt me! What the fuck, Bob? I lost my original left leg when an IED blew up the Humvee I was driving. I was in the Army for 9 years. I had six deployments into combat. I have two Purple Hearts, the second one is for losing my left leg.”

Bob: “Calm down, Mr. Williams. First we have to get proof that you were even in the Army.”

Casey: “Proof, proof…what do you think, I’m just some one-legged bum that thought I’d go see if I could scam a new leg off of the VA?”

Bob: “No, but we have to make sure you are eligible for a leg before we can help you with the application for a new leg.”

Casey: “Eligible? Eligible…I had two perfectly good legs the day I was sworn in. I had two perfectly good legs for most of the nine years I was in the Army. I was mustered out of the Army with one perfectly good leg and a fake leg. Two legs when I came in and one leg when I came out. Isn’t that eligible?”

Bob: “On the surface, yes, it sounds like you are eligible, but the VA has a process, and we have to stick to the process.”

Casey: “Process?”

Bob: “Yes, a process. Assuming you were in the Army and that your leg was removed in a traffic accident…”

Casey: “Traffic accident? My leg was blown into a bloody mist by an IED.”

Bob: “That’s one of the things we will have to determine…”

Casey: “Ask the fucking Army, Bob. They must have written this all down somewhere.”

Bob: “That’s one of things you will need to provide before we can get you examined by VA doctors.”

Casey: “I have to provide proof? I already provided a leg, isn’t that enough? And why in the holy hell does a VA doctor have to see me?”

Bob: “We have to determine the extent of your injury.”

(Casey fumbles with something below the desk top. He lifts a prosthetic leg above his head and slams it on the desk in front of Bob.)

Casey: “There you go, Bob, that’s the extent of my injury.”

(Bob pushes a button on his phone and leans in close to the phone.)

Bob: “Security, please send two officers to my office immediately: we’ve got another one.”

We owe these men and women. We owe all the people that served in peace and in war. There is no excuse for making these people beg for their benefits.

I know a lawyer that spends most of his time fighting with the United States government to get veterans what they were promised they could have when they signed up. That is wrong.

If we can’t take care of our veterans, we are not a civilized nation. They bet their lives on us, and we make them dance like puppets to get their due.

I have ranted about this before. I will rant about this again. We were complicit in fucking up these people’s lives, and we better be complicit in getting them what they were promised.

Currently, waits to be deemed eligible for VA benefits can be measured in years. YEARS!

Someone with PTSD waiting years to find out they can get help is a crime. Telling someone with PTSD that their request for help has been rejected because of some stupid technicality is a mortal sin.

If the United States of America doesn’t have the will to take care of the men and women that have given their bodies for potential sacrifice, we haven’t the will to do anything anymore.

I have a part-time job two nights a week. One of the “kids” I work with was sworn into a Marine Corps delayed entry enlistment on Wednesday. I hope he has the most uneventful, boring career any Marine ever had. I feel that way because I don’t want him to have to depend on us they way we may have to depend on him.

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Louder and slower

12:53 pm in Uncategorized by

I was married for 21 years before I got divorced. In the 11 years since the divorce, I’ve accepted the things I did wrong and I’ve embraced the things I did right.

One of my worst shortcomings was acting as if volume and speed were the answers to spousal communication. If I didn’t get my way or my point across, I’d repeat them louder and slower.

As you may imagine, this approach to matrimonial communication didn’t work…AND…it made my ex feel like I thought she was stupid (which she was not). That made her determined to ignore me and my wishes. I deserved it.

This was the approach taken by the Republican Party in the last election.

The Repubs repeated their tired, old message louder and slower, over and over until they really pissed us off. That’s when folks decided to wait in long lines to teach these sons-of-bitches a lesson.

I was born in 1954. I grew up watching Black people getting their heads bashed in, and I heard people say really stupid shit about why it was OK.

I watched as we sent millions of Americans (including my Dad) to Vietnam, and I heard people say really stupid shit about what we hoped to accomplish over there.

I saw women fighting for equal rights, and I heard people saying really stupid shit about why it was OK to keep them barefoot and pregnant.

I saw gay Americans move from the closet to the streets, and I heard stupid shit about why it was OK to knock them back into the closet and take away their rights.

Saying real stupid shit only works when a majority of people believe the stupid shit you say. That usually means that the people that say and believe stupid shit are kindred in some way…religion, race, sex, sexual preference, socio-economic status.

There is no lack of people saying stupid shit in America, but the number of people that believe the stupid shit is shrinking rapidly because all of the groups of people that were marginalized group-by-group in isolation became the majority this decade.

These are still disparate groups in many respects, but they have all started to know stupid shit when they hear it, and they have come to understand that the ballot box is the best weapon they can wield against the people saying stupid shit.

I have to admit that I thought all the Citizen United money and the voter suppression drives in key states were going to blunt the power of the electorate…and I believe the intervention by the Justice Department using the Voter Rights Act as it entrée into the fight saved the day for America’s new majority.

This is a fledgling coalition to be sure. We came together to defeat the people saying stupid shit, but we undoubtedly have many more internal squabbles ahead of us. The new minority will be digging for the issues that will separate us into pieces parts again, but I think we can recognize more stupid shit when we hear it.

A sizeable majority of Americans want to:

  • Balance the budget on the check books of the rich. All that entails is letting the Bush tax cuts expire only on Americans that make more than $250,000.00 a year.
  • Get the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bring these people home to their families.
  • Close Guantanamo. Tear it down and send everyone home.
  • Muzzle Wall Street so they can’t bite us in the ass again.
  • Quit trying to keep Gay men and women from enjoying all the benefits of American Citizenship.
  • Find an immigration policy that rewards good people and removes bad people.
  • Leave women alone to make decisions about their own reproductive health.
  • Live in a country that takes care of its poor, sick and elderly.
  • Have corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Take a look some time at the huge list of very successful corporations that pay no federal income tax.
  • Decrease our dependency on petroleum products and develop clean, renewable energy sources.
  • Make sure our past, present, and future veterans get all the help they need and deserve.

If our political leaders could accomplish any three of these things before the 2014 mid-term elections, they would be surprised at how much the electorate would appreciate it and how good it will make them feel.

The House and the Senate must be pretty depressing places to work. Success is measured by how little of anything worthwhile gets done. For God’s sake, don’t get caught doing anything that allows the other side to receive any credit for doing something right.

We shall see if the Republicans are capable of learning that repeating the same stupid shit louder and slower isn’t the way to get anything done…Lord, I hope they can learn.

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Forget the election

10:34 am in Uncategorized by

Let’s imagine a young man that graduated from high school in 1998. He always wanted to be in the Marine Corps because his Grandfather told him all the stories of when he was a Leatherneck in the Korean War.

The young man, call him Tim, enlists in the Corps and discovers that he actually loves the service. Tim finishes basic and all his post-basic advanced training and marries his high school sweetheart, Maggie, early in 1999.

By 2000, Tim makes Sergeant and he and Maggie have a little girl. They live in base housing in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

On September 11, 2001, Tim is called into Platoon Headquarters. The Marines are on high alert. We have been attacked.

For the next two years, Tim and Maggie live together for less than a quarter of the time. Tim went to Afghanistan, came back, and was deployed to Iraq. Maggie, her daughter, and a new infant son were moved out of base housing to make room for the families of Marines waiting for deployment. They had to move in with Maggie’s parents.

Tim comes home, fathers another daughter, and gets redeployed to Iraq. Maggie has kids but no husband. Tim has war and loneliness; he doesn’t know his children.

Tim and Maggie were 20 when they married. By 2009, our high school sweethearts have turned 30 and they have had an on-again-off-again marriage that has produced children and frustration.

By late 2009, Tim is a Gunnery Sergeant. He has been awarded two combat medals and a Purple Heart for a minor wound from an IED that blew away three of his men. Tim is a lean, mean, Marine Corps killing machine with a Hell of a case of post-traumatic stress disorder cooking inside his skull.

Tim came home from Iraq after five deployments. He was living with Maggie and “her kids” at his in-laws. Both Maggie and Tim were relieved when he got deployed to Afghanistan in the 2010 Surge…

This story does not end well. Tim got shot real good to win his second Purple Heart. He got his million dollar wound, but it cost him his right foot.

By Christmas 2012, Tim and Maggie are divorced. Tim has been waiting 18 months to receive his VA benefits. He lives with his parents and drinks too much and smokes too much weed. The Marines are through with him, and he sees people get killed in his dreams every fucking night. Last week, Tim spent a good part of Saturday with the barrel of a .45 caliber automatic nestled on his tongue. Tim is beaucoup dinky dow and will never be whole again.

Maggie drinks and smokes too much, as well. Her oldest, Sarah, is 12 and already smoking dope and is just this side of “going all the way” with a pimply-faced case of testosterone poisoning named Rory.

Sure, sure…the story of Tim and Maggie was cooked up inside my commie, pinko, liberal brain, but it ain’t all that much fiction.

It’s time for America to try to make it up to the people whose lives we let two Presidents fuck up just so no one could call them pussies.

First, bring all currently deployed service personnel home. Fuck Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and pre fuck Iran. Let them eat oil.

Second, immediately approve all pending VA benefits claims. If a few service personnel get benefits to which they aren’t fully entitled, I don’t give a fuck.

Third, find and follow the lives of all veterans and make their lives as whole as we can. I don’t care if it costs a bunch of money. We stood by and let politicians send these poor people charging up Neocon Hill time after time…we owe them.

Fourth, quit blowing people up to get them to change their minds about democracy. It’s like trying to teach a pig to sing…it’s a complete waste of your time, and it annoys the shit out of the pig.

How many lives did we waste and ruin in our psychotic national search for revenge?

All I know is we can stop wasting an ruining lives today if our leaders have the stomach for it. It’s so easy for them to start a war, but they don’t seem to have the metaphoric balls to wage peace.

A quick note to all those racist motherfuckers that have signed petitions asking that their state be allowed to leave the United States of America…Fuck You. You sons of bitches helped screw up the lives of our military personnel by running around with your anti-Muslim boners…you can fuck well stay here and help unfuck these peoples’ lives as best as we can.

When you have helped fix all the shit you helped break, then you can move the fuck out.

Happy Thanksgiving; I’m taking next week off…unless one of you sons of bitches pisses me off.