Thursday, June 8, 2017

With Suicide And Overdose Deaths On The Rise, Is America Great Again?

My extended family absorbed two pieces of bad news yesterday. One father of three shot himself in the heart after struggling with the PTSD that follows veterans home from battle; his twelve year old daughter heard the gun shot but could not open the locked bathroom door. His pain may have ended, but hers is unimaginable.

But my country will continue to spend hundred of millions each year to convince its children that the military is a great job opportunity!

Closer to home, a young father died of an overdose. He had just earned his GED. He left behind a pregnant wife and a couple of small children. Maine now loses a person every day to opioid abuse. That's a statistical average. Some days we lose more than one.

These are the wages of poverty among generations that have known nothing but expensive, distant wars.

The wages of stop loss and head injuries and repeated redeployments that render U.S. soldiers unfit for continuing to live.

The wages of high poverty and low health care and a society that treats addicts like criminals rather than people suffering from a deadly illness.

It's no wonder people fall for the words of a demagogue with bad hair promising to make their country great again.

Instead, our country is now invading Syria and threatening Iran and Qatar and China and Russia and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and...We're massing troops on the border of too many countries and we're the biggest weapons dealer the world has ever known. Our own people are gunned down in the streets by police, and struck down at home by drugs meant to ease their pain. Or they take a gun in hand and end the pain once and for all.

My love goes out to everyone suffering under the rule of the wealthy. Whatever mistakes we make, we deserve to live and to see our children grow up, to hold our grandchildren on our laps and whisper how important they are.

I share this piece by the German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht in the spirit of healing our deadly devotion to wealth and the violence it requires to maintain it. (Thanks to Bruce Gagnon for sharing it to his blog yesterday with the title "Forgive Us, We Were Fools.")

To those born later

By Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)

Truly I live in dark times!
Frank speech is naïve. A smooth forehead
Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
Has simply not yet heard
The terrible news.

What kind of times are these, when
To talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
When the man over there calmly crossing the street
Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends
Who are in need?

It’s true that I still earn my daily bread
But, believe me, that’s only an accident. Nothing
I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I'm lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat
From the starving
And my glass of water belongs to someone dying of thirst?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise.
In the old books it says what wisdom is:
To shun the strife of the world and to live out
Your brief time without fear
Also to get along without violence
To return good for evil
Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them
Is accounted wise.
All this I cannot do.
Truly, I live in dark times.

I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger reigned.
I came among men in a time of revolt
And I rebelled with them.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

I ate my food between battles
I lay down to sleep among murderers
I practiced love carelessly
And I had little patience for nature’s beauty.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

All roads led into the mire in my time.
My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.
There was little I could do. But those in power
Sat safer without me: that was my hope.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

Our forces were slight. Our goal
Lay far in the distance
Clearly visible, though I myself
Was unlikely to reach it.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
Bring to mind
When you speak of our failings
Bring to mind also the dark times
That you have escaped.
Changing countries more often than our shoes,
We went through the class wars, despairing
When there was only injustice, no outrage.
And yet we realized:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. O,
We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship
Could not ourselves be friendly.
But you, when the time comes at last
When man is helper to man
Think of us
With forbearance.         

We are all Mother Courage now, scrambling to make a living off the war machine while trying (and failing) to keep it from consuming our children.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Essentially why some in my generation went back to the land.
It was not to escape society's ills, or to shirk a middle class citizen's responsibility, but rather to participate in life on a human level, and to take responsibility for the space we occupy on earth.