Around (just after) Independence Day (USA) this year a Facebook friend of mine posted to her feed a link to an article that told the story of an American veteran who killed himself on that holiday.
Does that count as irony? A quick google on the definition of the word brought back, “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.” I don’t find veteran suicide (or ANY suicide) amusing, but I feel like a veteran suiciding on Independence Day is ironic. Of course, no one can actually consider the word or concept of irony without thinking of Alanis’ song, “Ironic,” which is filled with a lot of non-ironic situations. I wonder if that makes her cringe, ever. But I digress.
I think anyone who looks into veteran suicide – which is a sad and huge problem in this country – will find a lot of connections to mental illness that our military people develop. Like anything else, the causes are manifold and complex. Hell, daily life – without the influence of the massive amount of dysfunction evident in our military – can and does bring many people to mental illness. When you add into that the very fucked up way our military functions, it’s no wonder so many exit their military service with issues, or develop them soon after. I really have no desire to get into much of a debate about war or terrorism or our armed forces.
To be clear – I don’t feel especially patriotic when I consider the men and women serving. I’m grateful, and very much so. And I wouldn’t intentionally do or say anything to disrespect the things they sign up to do… their willingness carries immense value and if nothing else prevents me from having to do the same. Having said that, though, I’ve personally known too many people (mostly guys) who enlisted for no other reason than they were young, reasonably healthy, and had already started to seriously screw up their own lives and thought they’d found their last chance to try to be something other than a bum, a deadbeat, or an inmate. I know there are brilliant people serving, but a sad and overwhelming majority of the people I’ve known who enlisted basically did so because they literally had nothing better to do – and to me that isn’t noble. At all. But whatever.
This post isn’t meant to be about all that. Regardless of why folks enlist or what they do while serving, or how “damaged” they are as they return to civilian life, we should support them and care for them after their return. And as a nation, we practically don’t. It really frustrates me and lessens my already weak sense of patriotism to consider that I live in a country that has quite literally almost always been at war – internally or with other nations – and the people responsible for building our military, for securing and allotting its funding, and sending our troops out to kill and be killed have neglected caring about resources needed when war is over.
I know that both of the major political parties in the USA are to some degree responsible for this ridiculousness, but for a very long time and most consistently Conservatives and Republicans have been very “pro” funding wars but very “con” funding social programs – and in recent years a lot of social programs have taken serious hits to their funding because of these political efforts. So we like to send our men and women off into terribly violent circumstances, get them all screwed up, and then bring them home to… practically no support or care.
And it’s probably because many of these social programs are either too hard to access or don’t have enough funding, or both, then we have these sickeningly ironic situations of veterans suiciding on our Independence Day. How tragic to fight for a country and help to protect and maintain its independence, have no access to the aftercare you need, that you then are not only unable to celebrate on the day of biggest celebrations for your country, but that it’s so distressing that you end your own life?
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti