Monday, March 12, 2007

What's new is old...

I just bought a new computer and was going through some files to see what I wanted to transfer to the new one. The following is a short piece I wrote back in Sept. of '03. The more things change, (you know the rest).

"9/18/03 Over the last 24 hours a confluence of events has made me wonder about what American culture really values. One of the hats I wear is that of family genealogist and I spent a large part of yesterday in the county offices looking for missing details about my ancestors. I know from past experience that birth, death and marriage records are rare to non-existent in the town offices for the 1st 50 to 60 years that this area was settled and spotty for another 70-80 years after that. The stock response is that the records burned and/or that they weren't terribly concerned about keeping records in the early years. Yet when I checked the records of deeds and mortgages for the same periods I found that every inch of land and every dollar exchanged for land has been dutifully accounted for since the county was incorporated."

"This morning I heard a story on NPR about a veteran who despite having been returned from Iraq in a coma and still suffering from her illness had to do battle with the VA for care and she and her daughter spent 2 months homeless waiting to get subsidized housing. A congressman had to step in to get her moved up on the waiting list or she'd still be homeless. According to the report, only 9% of the US population are veterans but 28% of the homeless are veterans."

"Another story in the broadcast was not news to me. I had heard it before. The Bush administration, as part of their budget, is seeking to cut funding for veterans' health care. This is an already badly under-funded system. Appointments take months to get. Appeals of decisions by the VA bureaucracy take 2-3 years."

"We say that the difference between the US and many other countries is that we value human life more than in other cultures. So why is it that we keep strict track of land and money, but not the birth and death of our people? Why is it that we treat our veterans as a disposable commodity? If actions speak louder than words, it appears that land and money are what we value most highly, not our fellow man."

Now back to today: Needless to say I was not surprised at the recent "revelation" of conditions at Walter Reed or the reports that the VA health system is overwhelmed. Nor can I say I was surprised by Bush's hypocracy when he made a speech about how unacceptable the conditions in veteran health care are despite their being so in large part because of his own budget priorities. Several top military officers have been 'fired' over the situation but I suspect they were probably just doing the best they could with the resources the administration had given them and their crime was failing to spin the situation to the administration's satisfaction when they talked to media. Unfortunately the guy who should have been fired is still in the Oval Office tonight.

What does amaze me is that it took so long for the situation to register in the public consciousness. Similar stories have been around for years as evidenced by my essay from 2003 but somehow the public at large was too focused on trivia to notice. Sadly I have to conclude, as I did in Sept. of '03, that the American people do not value the individual nearly as highly as we claim.

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