Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
     Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
       In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
     In Flanders fields.
--John McCrae

I'm sad today, and I was all set to blog about something else, because I'm annoyed with the Dickensian Debt Commission "draft" report.

But something else has gripped my heart, and I hope you'll understand why I'm sad and how this all ties in together.

Pfc Andrew Meari died November 1 in Afghanistan. He's home today, but truly not how any parent wants their child to be home. He's on his way to a funeral with full military honors at Abraham Lincoln cemetery. My husband was coming back home and he told me that there were "at least 150" patriot riders biker folks, several fire department vehicles, police and officials... and people. Lines of people up and down the street, each holding flags. Here's the link to the story: - and I think you should read it. It's not long. It's not like he was a veteran of many years who'd come home and been able to live his life. He died in his 20s.

When we heard that Meari died, we noticed the streets start to line with flags. It's what we do here. But to have people take time out of their day to stand there and honor a young man that many of them probably didn't know reinforces my belief that we really aren't curled up around our electronic devices. We can still take time to show our humanity.

And what else strikes me is that that boy could be mine. He is of the age where either of my kids could've gone to school with.

When I grew up, at the tail end of the Viet Nam era, we saw the flag-draped coffins. We saw the news footage. We knew people who'd been there. I have second-cousins who've been there. And somehow, I thought, "This'll be it. There'll be no more wars that we have to worry about."

And for a while there, Shrub tried to make that so. He declared an illegal and immoral war, based on "intelligence" that he selectively ignored, and now trumpets how proud he is that there have been "no further attacks" on American soil since 9/11. Conveniently, this intellectual gnat fails to point out that the first one happened on his watch and memos dating back to the August prior to the attack proved that something was brewing.

So when the war actually happened and it wasn't as "sanitary" as he might've wanted, he declared all photos of military caskets forbidden. Instead of a hero's welcome, our military dead were snuck back home under cover of darkness, and woe betide those who dared to take a picture of a casket. Because you know we weren't allowed to see that things got ugly, fast. That's one way that the 24/7 news cycle wasn't helping Shrub's version of his legacy.

Afghanistan has fought with itself since before Christ. And after us, they'll still be fighting. We had no valid reason to be there, and we're not going to come in guns-a-blazin' and change a culture that refuses to be changed. We may improve it here and there, but we will not make it a mini-USA. Nor should we try. As parents, we're told "pick your battles" and as a country, our leaders need to know when to do that as well. The past leader failed miserably.

So Pfc Meari gave his life. He and the buddy that died with him were in the direct line of fire of an IED. They saved the rest of the unit.

The Debt Commission (this ties up nicely, don't worry) published an early draft in which they want to cut lots of things to make up the budget shortfall. Among those things, you can include Social Security, military spending and other social services. Let's see... military people are now asking their families for Kevlar vests as presents since they can't get them from the government. And when they come home, they're lucky to get "on a list" at the VA. On a list to see someone. That's only for the physical part - don't even talk about the mental health services.

What galls me is that nobody is talking about the obvious: let the Bush (actually Reagan-inspired) tax cuts expire. Even Reagan's economic advisor recently said they weren't working and they should be allowed to expire. I suppose if the Republicorporatists could find an ice floe big enough, they'd put this guy on it for daring to suggest that something St. Ronnie decreed was a failure.

The Debt Commission's chairs are two banker types. Rich bankers. Or is that an oxymoron? Anyhow, their best bet is to cut the stuff that we middle- and lower-class families rely on. The government "entitlements" (they aren't entitlements if we've paid for them, by the way) that we have earned: like Social Security and if you're a veteran, VA benefits.

If you read the first few chapters of any Charles Dickens novel, you'll see that he paints a very vivid and nasty picture of what it's like to not have any money. Which is pretty much where our middle class is heading now. So I've saved you time in reading - you don't have to read the Debt Commission report: just read Dickens because the first half of any of his books will paint you the same picture.

I am reminded of the Flanders poem I posted above. It's not the most appropriate because it was written in WW I...but then again, maybe it is. The combined military and civilian casualties from the Bush wars now tops at least WWII - and it'll surpass I, II, Korea and Viet Nam at this rate. We won't count the Revolutionary War and Civil War. Yet.

Pray for a vet. Hug one if you know one. Shake the hand of one and just say thanks.

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