I am a veteran and happy that I do not need medical care from an insensitive and incompetent monster. The VA “scandal” seems to be a metaphor for all that is wrong with the United States Government and the country in general.
Anyone traveling in England or viewing news reports on the country will notice just about everyone wearing a little red thing on his or her lapel. Some are of cheap paper; some are jewel-encrusted. This phenomenon occurs each year and has for almost a century.
What people are wearing is supposed to symbolise a poppy and they are used to commemorate suffering of World War I. The English have vowed never to forget and make a great show of this effort. Anyone not wearing a poppy is criticised. I have found this somewhat admirable, having grown up in a country that easily forgets, yet touts patriotism as its unique national characteristic. I recall how my service in Vietnam was honoured and celebrated.
I bring up the poppy phenomenon, because I notice a change this year. For the first time, I have spotted articles and opinion pieces in the media critical of the glorification of war. After all, World War I was one of the dumber conflicts, absolutely needless and fought to placate the egos of distant rulers. Millions suffered at the hands of incompetent leaders.
A few years ago, I traveled with an Australian friend to Ypres in Belgium to see where his grandfather had died and was buried. We studied the memorials and displays; I had read a bit of history. Standing on the ground almost 100 years later (and having been to a “more comfortable” war) one cannot imagine the horror, even with the aid of photographs. One cannot put oneself into the place of the generals, who sent me to suffer insufferable conditions and to die needlessly, while they dined in comfort far to the rear or back at home. (If you want example of the incompetence, read Gallipoli, by L.A. Carlyon.)
The red of the poppy should symbolise rage, as well as sorrow. But, it does not. People still permit their “leaders” to send poor souls off to war, maybe not as stupid, but often as needless. As long as nations glorify the military, politicians will find a way to waste lives and resources.
I walked into the room and caught my wife watching Oprah. Before I could retreat, I noticed that the topic was war veterans. Being one myself, I paused to see where the discussion would lead. The main thrust of the program was about the suffering of wounded and slain veterans and their families, but also about the indifference of the majority of the population. At least the all-volunteer military today is honored by the few people that occasionally think about them: in my day, we were reviled, despite the fact of being forced to “serve”.
Nevertheless, something struck me in listening to the program. One phrase was uttered several times, when talking about the suffering of the soldiers and their families. These men and women are supposedly “making the country safe”. This is myth, perpetuated by the ruling class to incite and maintain irrational fear.
We were told during the Vietnam era that we had to defend the country against the creep of communism. If Vietnam fell, the rest of Asia would soon fall, and they would be at the shores of the United States. A close reading of history proves that this was a falsehood. A lot of people got rich off this war, but the country started on its slide into deterioration and poverty. I noticed the first homeless people upon returning from the war.
The same myths are being perpetuated about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Politicians used fear following the attack on New York to justify lies about the need to invade Iraq. Many soldiers died or suffered lasting wounds to enrich military contractors, without making the country one bit safer. One could argue that it is less safe, because more people have been angered and former friends have become disillusioned about the values and course of the country. The endless struggle in Afghanistan is against an enemy that poses even less of a threat, but the population is still warned about the need to “make the country safe”.
The myth continues and is supported by such luminaries as Oprah. Even when hoping to ease the suffering of those at the front line, she repeats the lies.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.