Saturday, November 7, 2009

"13/30" - The Damaged within - Part 2

UPDATE:  Covering their ass is what Congress does best,  This just in:  S1963: Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 - a bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to provide assistance to caregivers of veterans, to improve the provision of health care to veterans, and for other purposes - was passed in the Senate 12 days after the Ft. Hood killings.  Would those 12 day have mad a difference for Mahor Hassan?

  Watching the early stages of CNN's coverage of the shooting at Ft. Hood with my son and husband, I asked aloud - already knowing the answer, "Why's it gotta be a terrorist attack, or possible gang activity before they even know what the hell is going on???"

And when the "lone" shooter was identified - with that "funny-sounding" Middle Eastern name and they began the "terrorist" speculation in earnest (still not knowing what the hell was going on!) - I asked, again already knowing the answer, "Why can't it be that this guy - a CARE-DAMN-GIVER for the legions of soldiers returning from war zones, suffering the effects of having seen some horrific shit - be suffering some PTSD of his own??"  Or, "Why can't it be that some people (military troops ARE people) are just damned tired of fighting, killing, dying, losing limbs and worse - for wars in which there are no rational explanations!!"

The answers to my first questions are pretty clear: - He is Muslim.  And the MSM puts more stock in "being first with a story" way more than they do in being first with facts.  Such is the current mindset of America's Fourth Estate.  And the answers to the second set of questions?  He is Muslim.  And the MSM has long been in bed with politicians who'd rather fan the persistent fears of the "other" upon which this country was founded.  But more importantly, this country is a patriarchy, immersed in the language of manliness - Real soldiers can't be broken.

Though we, as a country, are doing a little better (and that's VERY little!) with domestic violence, violence against women, child abuse and sexual abuse, we - and that includes some of the "experts" - are a terribly long way from understanding a simple, yet important fact - TRAUMA IS TRAUMA no matter its origins and if its effects are left untreated, it not only threatens those sharing the sphere with the perpetrators - but the perpetrators themselves.  As a country, we just can't seem to get that through our, I'm-okay-so-you-must-be-okay consciousness, even though the manifestations of that bass-ackward thinking have been swirling around us from 1619 to today.

We function as if our branches of government, our corporations, our banking industry, our churches and certainly our military services - all those seats of perceived power - are not all bastions of "manliness" and intolerance - still.  And if we're honest, that women have managed to break into them and/or advance up any of those chains-of-command has not made one bit of difference over all.  Conversely, the complicit female presence has pretty much maintained the status quo, or made it worse - all in the name of feeling powerful themselves.  So where do the "damaged within" go for real help?

Chris Hedges explains where, in Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad:
"The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam. Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence. We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.
The Afghanistan and Iraq wars have unloaded hundreds of thousands of combat troops, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, back into society. According to joint Veterans Affairs Department - University of San Francisco study published in July, 418,000 of the roughly 1.9 million service members who have fought in or supported the wars suffer from PTSD.
As of August 2008, the latest data available, about a quarter-million military veterans were imprisoned on any given day-about 9.4 percent of the total daily imprisoned population, according to the National GAINS Center Forum on Combat Veterans, Trauma and the Justice System. There are 223,000 veterans in jail or prison cells on an average day, and an unknown number among the 4 million Americans on probation. They don't have much to look forward to upon release. And if any of these incarcerated vets do not have PTSD when they are arrested, our corrections system will probably rectify the deficiency. Throw in the cocktail of unemployment, powerlessness, depression, alienation, anger, alcohol and drugs and you create thousands, if not tens of thousands, who will seek out violence the way an addict seeks out a bag of heroin." (emphasis mine) All of you, screaming that Maj. Hasan had never been deployed so he couldn't possibly be suffering PTSD, need to re-read the highlighted portion above.  Are we so blinded by his Muslim-ness, or too caught up in that "Real soldiers can't be broken" manliness, or that, "I'm-okay-so-you-must-be-okay" craziness to put two and two together and come up with four?

According to Hedges (and I concur), the answer is a resounding Yes!:
"There is a yawning indifference at home about what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hollow language of heroism and glory, used by the war makers and often aped by those in the media, allows the nation to feel good about war, about "service." But it is also a way of muzzling the voices that attempt to tell us the truth about war. And when these men and women do find the moral courage to speak, they often find that many fellow Americans turn away in disgust or attack them for shattering the myth. The myth of war is too enjoyable, and too profitable, to be punctured by reality. And so these veterans nurse their fantasies of power. They begin to hate those who sent them as much as they hate those they fought. Some cannot distinguish one from the other."  (emphasis mine)
In what little the media did get right about the major, it seems the Army, through the use of a "bad performance review," could have been doing some "muzzling" of it's own while he was stationed at Walter Reed, the facility about which the lack of real treatment and, in some instances, abusive treatment have been copiously reported.  But of course, that's not how it's being spun.

Without even knowing what was in the review, I challenge - any of you - to make some damn sense of what was just said in that video!  If the review was so bad, why didn't it affect Maj. Hasan's promotion and subsequent transfer to Ft. Hood?  Was it a toe-the-line-and-shut-the-hell-up-you-ungrateful-bastard-or-you'll-lose-everything warning (muzzling) to the major?  What was it's purpose??

If he was unable or unwilling to continue to provide poor, or no treatment to his patients after hearing, for the last six or so years, what they had been, and continued to go through, why was he still there?  Even Greta seemed to be sidling up to that question!  Call me stupid, but that twisted logic, along with that pesky Stop-loss policy Congress created, is nothing but a recipe for the disaster that happened at Ft. Hood.

Fort Hood, written on the body,  by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon, is an interesting and prescient piece about the soon to be aired documentary about our "fighting men" - at Ft. Hood, set to begin airing on PBS starting November 8 at 9:30 p.m.:
"Much will be written in the days to come of the mind-set of the alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist who counseled military personnel and was reportedly distressed over his own imminent deployment. Though Schiesari's film predates the horrifying violence at the fort yesterday, it reveals a military culture rarely seen. By following both returning and deployment-bound young soldiers and the stories told on their bodies, she gets under their skin." (emphasis mine)
The trailer alone is, or should be, enlightening:

This is something with which I am intimately familiar.  My youngest was deployed to Iraq for a year as soon as he went into the Army in search of a better life - in his own control - at 21 years old.  Yeah, as young kids increasingly do these days, he had a couple tattoos already (my husband's and my name among a couple others).  But he got this rosary tattoed around his neck during his MOS training before deploying overseas.----->

Because I try, everyday, to live in the light of truth,  I had to ask his permission to tell this part of his story - I thought it only fair.  He gave it.

Since stop-loss was catching so much flack during the time he was in, the Army instead convinced many kids to reenlist while in-country with the lure of "the bonus."  The  son certainly could already see the new car he planned to buy.  But, as soon as they set foot back on U.S.terra firma., he and some of his buddies in his platoon sought out some of that "medication" Hedges talked about above, not realizing that they'd be tested the next day.  The "sting" (for lack of a better word) netted quite a few of them.  But he wanted to stay, and I resolved to help him because the choice was his, not mine.  After a lot of back and forth between me, his female commander and his First Sergeant, in writing and by telephone, it was decided he could. 

But his commander went on maternity leave before he got the official all-clear, replaced by yet another female.  And  he was caught "disobeying a lawful order from a Superior Commissioned Officer" (I shit you not, that is the exact wording in the letter she sent in response to our bullshit congressman's inquiry).  His crime?  He was caught operating a motor vehicle on post after his on-post driving privileges had been suspended - pending determination of a disputed charge levied by the Ft. Bragg police department who had jurisdiction over open roadways leading into, and out of the post.  He was sent home with a General Under Honorable Conditions discharge, and a bill to repay the Army for the bonus he'd received - both of which continue to wreak havoc on his life as he tries to move forward.

Trust me, he understands how he got here from there and beats himself up about it way more than he needs to.

Am I excusing what he did?  Nope.  I'm understanding how he got there.  That being said however, it all changed him - though he continues to swear up-and-down that it didn't.  He's gone from being the sweetest, most compassionate, helpful, loving, grateful kid (I save everything!  He was in middle and high school respectively when he wrote and left these notes for me) - to this angry, often hostile and short with me (and many others), young man, that I rarely recognize a lot of the time.  And it  hurts - deep in my heart.

But like many of us, considered "collateral damage" by the government and the military, we "soldier on" (no pun intented), hoping that eventually, we'll get it right.  We're still soldiering.

Like everybody else, I'm waiting to see what the major has to say about the whys and wherefores.  But unlike most who wait, I wait with discernment.


ea said...

I want to tread lightly, as this is so personal for you. You don't indicate directly what your son's feelings about the military are now. Curious if you have heard of the organization called The Other Side (I think that is the name). As I recall, it is a group of former military personnel (and others) who try to get to young people and warn them of the lies told by military recruiters in order to get them to enlist.

Deb said...

No problema is life.

Like most people - before these last three wars - he went into the military primarily to make that better life. It wasn't all that "Rah-rah-rah, USA, USA!" (though once he was in, I did see him walk a little taller when wearing that uniform. And I can't lie, there was a time when I felt the same).

For him, it was a means to several ends - mostly freedom from parents with the ability to travel, pay his own way and learn skills that'd lead to a profession on the outside. Despite all that's gone on, he'd go back in if he could - for those same reasons - only smarter about how the game is played.

It's like I told Son #1 the other day, "I was asleep a lot longer than I've been awake. And I own that." Until they "see" beyond the materialism, and how much of yourself you have to give up to get it, all I can do is share my observations about this life we live - often to eyes rolled up in heads! But sometimes, I do see clarity and "it's a good thing." :-)

Respectfully, I don't think kids for the most part (and they are kids), care about the lies, or even make the conscious connection that - war = killing people you don't know for reasons you are unaware - unless they are raised by parents who've always been conscious or in an environment that is counter to the prevailing culture here in America, IMHO. I've watched my oldest become more consciously aware of a lot of things in the last 4-5 years that never occurred to him before. Son #2, in his early 20s, is coming along, but he's not there yet. I believe people come to things in their own time - no matter what they are told. So for me, even though the telling continues to be important, I know I won't be "heard" until he's ready to receive it - if at all.

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