Within just one issue of a news report I receive each day by e-mail, there were four stories that, in a weird but common way, related to one another.
As we’ve agreed in these spaces, everything is related to everything else in this nation, this world, and indeed in this universe. You can’t be fighting one battle without acknowledging that there are going to be other battles that will then need your attention. Sadly, what that usually means is that while you are fighting a battle to try to restore some measure of justice and fairness to America, some small minded and humorless group is off trying to pass what I have often termed “distraction” legislation.
Consider, if you will.
Today, Thursday April 6, there is reported the story of one Rob Booker, a former Army National Guard member who served his nation during the unnecessary Gulf War. For the last two years, Rob and his family have been trying to qualify for veteran’s benefits in hopes of getting medical attention to assist in his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known both as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Rob has had no success in gaining such care since, in almost every single instance, any disease that a Gulf War veteran acquired and asked the VA for help with was routinely denied as being “non-service related”. What this simple little two word denial truly means is that the VA does not have to prove that he didn’t get the disease during his duty in the Middle East but that Rob and all of the other veterans must prove that they did. Naturally, that is usually impossible for someone without the financial means to wage such a battle as well as lacking the physical health to do so.
Instead of simply opening the doors of the VA hospitals based solely on the fact that Rob and the hundreds of thousands of other Americans like him risked their lives and futures in order to assure Corporate America a continuation of the cheap oil it desired, the VA has now chosen to conduct a “study” to see if the incidence of Gehrig’s disease is greater within Gulf War veterans than in the population as a whole. How very sweet of them, wouldn’t you say? I mean, conducting a study to see if those who are dying, or who have already died, should have been covered by veteran’s benefits?
At one point, Rob was advised by a VA representative to go back to his civilian doctor and have him alter his diagnosis to one that was covered by the VA. As Rob’s wife Lynn Booker said, “We didn’t even bother. No doctor is going to change a diagnosis and set himself up for malpractice.”
Well, the reality of this situation is that in late March, the VA finally agreed to treat Rob’s disease at one of their hospitals. Sadly, that small offer came a bit late since Rob Booker had died in February, just short of a month earlier.
Gentle readers, the reality is that all of our children and young adults who we send off to protect Corporate America’s overseas interests have been treated in this vile manner since the Korean War. This nation’s government cannot praise their military men and women quickly nor loudly enough when it’s time to send them off to murder other human beings in another of their idiotic and usually completely avoidable wars but cannot forget or outright ignore them fast enough once they return and ask for assistance from that same nation and government.
Men and women returned from Korea to a nation which hardly understood why they were fighting so far away and who tried to ignore the scars that these brave men and women brought home with them.
When we sent our children off to the jungles of Vietnam, no one in the public truly understood why we were there nor could they even find Vietnam on a map if their lives depended on it. When the children and true progressives back in the “world” began to see just how unnecessary and wasteful of lives that the “war” truly was, they began to fight and march and demand a return to sanity and an end to the madness that this horrendous war was proving to be. That left the returning men and women, some obviously physically disabled but so many more emotionally and spiritually destroyed, to be welcomed back either with cries of “baby killer” from the unthinking youths or to be ignored by the older generations because they were embarrassed with their lack of knowledge about what was happening in and to their own nation.
When these children began dying from their wounds or their exposure to Agent Orange or to commit suicide at a rate beyond anything ever witnessed in this nation (but completely covered up by the military and the conservative movements that culminated in the horrors of the Reagan Revolution), nothing was done, When evidence mounted that Agent Orange, in particular, was causing untold suffering and even terrible birth defects in the children of our veterans, nothing was done. Once thousands of Americans had already died or taken their own lives from the emotional and physical pain, the government set up “studies” and delayed and delayed and delayed. It wasn’t until nearly twenty years after the fact that the government finally admitted the many, many diseases directly attributable to Agent Orange, described as the most toxic chemical ever devised by mankind, was “service related” and finally agreed to list the veterans suffering from them as being eligible for treatment at VA hospitals.
Now, we have the brave men and women who fought another unnecessary and destructive “war” who are again being treated with the same shameful and mean spirited ignorance. Again, it has become a situation where the sick must prove the causes of their illnesses rather than having this nation stand up proudly and offer that medical attention to them simply because these fine Americans had answered a call for duty and had acquitted themselves with utmost honor and bravery. There need never to be anymore compelling reason than that to give these people exactly what they need and deserve.
What does Congress and the nation seem to find so much more compelling than saving the lives of our men and women who so proudly served this nation?
Well, our vaunted Congress is busy passing another law for a problem that exists only in the tiny minds of the Religious Right (a true oxymorn) but is of little or no significance to any but the most uninformed. The Republican-controlled House today again passed the so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Ban”. Now, understand that I term it the “so-called” because you will never find in any medical dictionary or medical reports or medical studies any reference to a “partial birth abortion”. The phrase exists only in the warped and nearly empty minds of the Religious and Rabid Right (but there I go again, repeating myself).
In fact, even the Right cannot point to any exact instance where the procedure, itself, has been used for any reason whatsoever except to save the woman’s life.
Of course, when one spends a moment thinking clearly about the entire abortion debate from the Republican point of view, it nearly makes a sick kind of sense. Consider the following steps of reasoning that the Republicans undoubtedly follow; First, women who vote tend to vote for Democrats since Democrats usually offer the more caring approach to legislation concerning women and families. Therefore, if the woman’s life is endangered by the pregnancy, the Republicans only lose a probable member of the opposing party if she dies during birth. Also, once the woman is forced to deliver the child and then dies in the process, then the odds are fifty-fifty that the child will be a boy, perhaps a boy who will grow into a white, rich, pasty white member of the Republican Party. If the baby is a girl, then the Republican Party can only hope that she, like her mother, becomes ill due to a pregnancy and the cycle can continue.
Too cynical? Probably not cynical enough, if you ask me.
What other topic might hold the attention of our elected officials, something that can help them to ignore the cries from the sick and dying veterans?
Well, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives has decided that they can force the children of that state to ignore reality and any level of scientific proof and to require that only myth, magic and miracles be taught in public schools. That’s right, gentle readers, these idiots have now mandated that the children of that backwater state must now be taught “that human life was created by one God of the universe.”
Oh, to be a biology teacher in this third world state. I would offer to my students the fact that this is now all that I can offer; that the myths and stories of the Babylonians and Sumarians that were plagiarized and included in the bible have somehow acquired the status of “truth”. Very well, I would continue, which one God are we now allowed to discuss? Is it the one that the Christians and Jews worship and which among the many interpretations of that God by those two fractured religions is admissable in this school? Could it be the Buddha? How about the tortoise that some American Indian tribes believed brought the universe into being? How about the other tribes in America who credit the raven or the coyote or the bear? Some believe that the universe sprang into being through the exhortations of a group of Gods who had one of greater power than the others? Could that one be the one and only?
Get real, folks. Whatever religion you follow and whatever relational somersaults you have to put yourself through in order to believe in the imaginary is an exercise fully protected by our magnificent Constitution. What is often termed the “Separation of Church and State”, but is more aptly termed “Freedom From Religion” is all that has kept this nation from degrading into just another nation governed by fanatics and religious murderers who gleefully torture and murder anyone with the termidity to ask if, just perhaps, we should employ the scientific methods instead of blindly following the “ONE TRUE RELIGION”, a religion that changes from nation to nation and even within each nation from absolute religious leader to the next absolute religious leader who had the first absolute religious leader killed because he didn’t enforce the right religious laws that the second thought more important.
Gentle readers, this nation is too easily distracted from what is truly important and too easily focused on the place that myth, magic and miracles should play in our once intelligent national debate. This nation is too easily fooled into believing that an unbelievably rare medical procedure is of any danger whatever to our national psyche. Both of these acts are the acts of cowards. Cowards because the Right has no real agenda that might prove beneficial to this nation and its inhabitants. Cowards because all the Republican Party is able to focus on is either insane posturing while destroying what was once good and decent about America or offering up completely unnecessary legislation whose only purpose is to create a generation of illiterate and unthinking adults who believe, not in truth or reality, but only in the unseen and unseeable and unknowable and unprovable and unnecessary.
As a veteran and victim of this nation’s ignorance, I kindly offer the Right the following suggestion - you can all go to Hell.
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