In Memoriam to Memorial Day
It is an ad whose producers requested I support with a modest contribution, which I did. The ad asks all of us to ponder what exactly is meant by the phrase "America the Beautiful"?
Indeed, not only what do those few words mean to each of us, but what do they mean to me? Not just today, but every day? Broadly as well as specifically? As a people and as individuals, what standards of social comity and citizenship should we seek to reach?
I admit that prior to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq I wasn't especially political. I tried to be as much of a "live and let live" sort of guy as I could. That invasion, and most particularly the casual repeated redeployments of our volunteer military into the cauldron, changed everything! Especially as those redeployments were at the behest of a cadre that had done just about everything they could to avoid military service, when it had been their turn. Their disposition, and the calling of all and any who sought to stop and question their policies as un-American, spoke loudly and voluminously to me of the most despicable hypocritical cowardice. Remaining silent, living and letting live, were no longer options I could abide.
I've two sisters, both younger than me by three and a half and five and a half years. For many, many years Vietnam composed a line of cleavage between my youngest sister and me. She opposed it from the beginning. I had volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army Infantry. Even at the time when it all began I was able to grasp the historical environment that made the adventure all but unavoidable. As the ensuing years have unfolded, I have been able to see the tragedy in a clearer perspective. Deliberate lies were what had led to the deaths and mutilations of thousands upon way too many thousands of both Americans and Vietnamese. The ensuing years have also fomented in me the proposition that, while nothing we could have done prior to March, 2003 would bring back a single soul or erase the smallest tear in flesh or mind, we had a moral obligation to at least secure from those horrible costs the determination to never, ever permit such a travesty to recur.
I gave all who voted for George Bush in 2000 a pass. How could they have known? But in 2004, I just couldn't do that. Their individual ballots for the Republican candidate were cast with the blood of others, and that to me was an unforgivable trespass of all that is honorable or decent. Those who voted Republican in 2004 were the engines that made the continuing ignominy possible. All who voted Republican in 2004 have the blood of thousands on their hands. And like Lady MacBeth, they cannot wash out that terrible spot, regardless how hard they try or how loudly they shout.
I no longer stand when the National Anthem is played. It is an abject lie. We are not the "home of the brave." Fewer than three percent of Americans bear the burden of defending on the ground any part of the ground we walk upon. And virtually none care to draw a cent from their personal accounts to help pay the tab. The sorrowful fact of dismaying Republican shame is that the very same week in 2003 when men and women were being sent into harm's way in Iraq, the GOP cut veterans' health benefits as being too expensive!
Too damned expensive!? Too damned expensive!? They -- Bush and his crowd of cowards and all the voters who had supported them -- were ready to insist those they had sent were "heroes" and that those heroes had in exchange from those who had sent them their "thanks for their service to their country" and their "prayers." Always those words of gratitude and their prayers. I ask, exactly, in dollars and cents, how much did those words of gratitude diminish the financial accounts of those issuing them? How much does a prayer cost in dollars and cents . . . or in sweat? Can any words uttered by man be emptier? Or more thoroughly dishonorable, more contemptibly repellent?
I've not yet been able to gauge whether it's gotten worse; the basic demeanor and behavior of Republican office holders and voters. Or whether their attitudes and personal conduct remains as abhorrent as ever to even the most modest of standards. In our nation's capitol and in the state houses where Republicans hold sway the meanest of deprecations are becoming manifest as bills passed and signed into law.
U.S. Representative Paul Ryan's budget passed the House. The Wisconsin congressman's plan seeks to lower the top federal income tax rate from 33 to 25 percent while at the same time eliminating both the Medicare and Medicaid programs, as they currently exist. His proposal would replace the blanket coverage seniors now have with federal vouchers that would send them to the private insurance market. The difference between the voucher amount and the annual private insurance premium would be to each senior to somehow come up with; depletion of personal resources, relying on their kids, or doing without. As to Medicaid, Republicans want to replace the stipulated as to their use the funds sent to the states with block grants the states could use however they wished.
More than 40 million Americans depend on Medicare for their health care. The greatest part of Medicaid expenditures are consumed by America's senior citizens in nursing home care. What I would like Mr. Ryan and all who support Republicans with their votes to do is to identify exactly that American and groups of Americans who is not and are not worthy of adequate health care. Which person or persons' lives are less important? Which individual's pain and suffering is irrelevant, dismissible? Private insurers operate with administrative (including profit) costs in the 30 percent range. VA medical care and that of both Medicare and Medicaid have administrative costs are all below 10 percent. What value is added by the private insurers that validates their role in the health care providing scheme to the extent they're worth that 20 percent increase in cost?
This veteran receives 100 percent of his medical care -- every examination, every lab test, every therapy, every prescription -- gratis via the American taxpayer. That noted, I also note that I cannot contend that I am not the least more entitled to that level of care than is anyone else in the country. I did not volunteer in 1964 on the premise that four decades later I'd get my health care free. I volunteered for several reasons, but free medical care was not among them. So, when the ad suggests that Republicans are tossing grandma off the cliff, just because grandma isn't likely a veteran is no reason for me not to care, or for her not to expect she will not have ongoing medical care. On this Memorial Day it is time past time that all of us inquire whether America is beautiful, or whether we give a damn what kind of country and people we are?
To Dave and Karen, thanks for forwarding to me the ad, and for being the kind of Americans you are. -- Ed Tubbs, Tenino, WA
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