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American Will - By Larry Matthews - Guest Commentator

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I’m going to ask you to imagine you are someone else for a moment. In fact, I’ll ask you to imagine you are two people. First, imagine you are a twenty year old Marine. You are in the intensive care unit at one of America’s state of the art military medical centers. Your legs have been blown off. BC Question: What will it take to bring Obama home?Your penis has been blown off. You have a ghastly open stomach wound. Your despair is overwhelming. Next to you, another young man has suffered a traumatic brain injury. Half his scull is missing. Maybe this is too uncomfortable for you to imagine, so we’ll move to the second person.

Now you’re a ten year old girl living in a cheap by-the-week motel with your parents. You’re hungry. There’s nothing to eat. Your mother works at an eight dollar an hour job and your father picks up day work when he can. You have no idea what tomorrow will be like. Your parents fight a lot because they’re broke, humiliated and scared.

What do these two people have in common? Two things: They are our countrymen and they’re being shafted by the U.S. government. And there are thousands of them.

Let’s look at the Marine. Thousands of U.S. service men and women have been killed in the stupid and fruitless wars of the past ten years. Tens of thousands have suffered grievous wounds. Thousands more have suffered post traumatic stress disorder, non-visible brain injuries, and other aftereffects of war. In the hideous architecture of the war in Afghanistan, the bullet has been replaced by the improvised bomb, giving rise to the explosion - if you’ll forgive the word - in traumatic amputations among American forces. As the Washington Post recently reported, penis losses are common. American troops are now making “don’t save me” pacts with their comrades because they don’t want to end up like the Marine we imagined ourselves to be earlier in this piece.

Why do we even care, we who are comfortable in our homes during this carnage? Aside from the sheer humanity of it, aside from the carnage being imposed on Afghans, aside from the overwhelming cost of it? Because there is no point to it, that’s why. There is no conceivable victory in this thing in Afghanistan. That means the sacrifices are for nothing. It means that the young Marine has lost the sweetness of his life for a barren military adventure that will come to no good end. There is no feel-good, flag-waving result just over the hill. There is only despair. We are allied with thieves, warlords, drug kingpins, and double-dealers, led by the crazy uncle in the attic known as Hamid Karzai, whose primary activity is shaking down everyone he meets. We are again reduced to panning for hope in the military’s press releases about how many of the enemy we are killing. Sound familiar? Does the word “Vietnam” ring a bell? How about the slogan “Out Now!”

Now let’s get back to the little girl in the motel. Various surveys tell us that roughly one third of American children live in poverty. Of this group, African Americans and Hispanics are the majority, and plenty of white, Asian and Native American kids are hungry, too. Their parents work when they can but are in the group of Americans who are counted among the working poor. Every night American children go to bed hungry.

Hunger in America. I’m old enough to remember when Washington vowed to wipe it out. Not anymore. We have a new “reality” in Washington, one that is measured by a politician’s willingness to throw his countrymen under a bus as a sign of fiscal responsibility. “We can’t afford it!” is the new slogan up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. We can’t afford to feed our children. Think of it.

The wars have cost us about a trillion dollars, give or take. As it turns out, the money is coming out of the little girl’s mouth. Such is the depth of the corruption in our political system that the only way people like Paul Ryan can feel good about themselves is by sanctimoniously ripping away whatever is left of the social safety nets, while at the same time defending the so-far unindicted criminals who brought down the financial system while they became rich beyond even their own imaginations. We are dangerously close to a Marie Antoinette thing here, with ragged children begging for bread from people whose only real concern is a private jet with wifi. And, of course, a low tax rate.

Both the Marine and the little girl are the ghosts of Christmas future for America. The Marine and the thousands like him have given their youth and courage to a sad, sour cause. As a nation, we will be dealing with the aftermath of these wars for decades and we have to wonder how these horribly maimed Americans will be viewed in ten or twenty years and whether they will give up and join the awful list of veterans who are taking their own lives. Even the best outcome here is terrible. The little girl and the millions of other poor children are the nation’s future. We need them to build a better America, the one we all thought we lived in until the scoundrels took over. Will she grow up to feel as though she is a stakeholder in this country or will she grow up to hate her abuser?

What is commonly referred to as “The Left” has been marginalized to the point of irrelevance in the current political discourse. It would appear from all forms of mass media that the only opinion that matters is on the right, which, for the purposes of this column, will be referred to as Dumb and Dumber. Dumb would be the Republican leaders in Congress. Dumber would be the Tea Party types who arrived with a message that the only thing that matters is the stuff they make up about everyone who’s not like them. The President appears to be having a hard time finding some firm ground on which to stand.

Even Nancy Pelosi, once the most powerful woman in America and one of the three most powerful people in Washington, is left by the side of the road in the rush to set fire to social justice. This budget hysteria, this rush to be “tough”, is serious business. There are consequences that can be measured in dollars and lives. The same insensitivity that sent young Americans to die and to be maimed in military misadventures is at play in the decisions that are now being made to cut aid to Americans who are hungry and homeless. The starving child is one with the soldier. Do we have the will to save them? Guest Commentator, Larry Matthews, is a veteran broadcast journalist. He is the recipient of The George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast for his reporting on Vietnam veterans. He is also the recipient of a Columbia/DuPont Citation, Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press, and other awards for investigative reporting. He is the author of I Used To Be In Radio: a Memoir, and two novels. Click here to reach Mr. Matthews.

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Apr 21, 2011 - Issue 423
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