Vets in the Congressional Crosshairs

The other day, a bill in congress was voted down, primarily by Republican opposition. The GOP blocking legislative proposals that have to with any range of important issues is nothing new. The mantra they repeat most often is “we can’t afford this” especially if no spending cuts are included to “offset” the bill’s financial component (the cuts they suggest are mostly having to do with social programs, including food stamps, social security, Medicaid and so forth). So, what was this latest bill that the republicans deep-sixed? Well, nothing less than providing the Veterans Administration with additional funding to provide greater assistance to–who else?, our veterans. You know, those who served in the military, even ever smaller number of those whose service was way back in WWII, and up to current deployments around the globe.

The cold-heartedness of such political cynicism is obvious enough. So, even our military veterans are cut no slack with the “deficit hawk” conservatives in congress. Given that it is congress that supported recent troop deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the cruel irony of these naysayers is virtually palpable. How could it not be ironic–and galling– given the now well documented disengenuousness of the reasons the Bush administration advanced for the invasion of Iraq, which cost several thousand of our troops to lose their lives, and tens of thousands more injured. The expression what’s wrong with this picture? aptly applies as the bitter rhetorical question that it is in this context.

Well, there’s so much else to bitch about as far as our dysfunctional government goes, but I am not going in that broader direction here. This Vietnam era vet will stick with fresh anger and disgust for our congressional failure that the defeated bill spotlights. It’s simply the latest de facto evidence of a cynical and sinister bunch of cretins who occupy congress. Who votes for this kind of government? How did things come to this point as far as witnessing both republicans and democrats failing to promote the common good hardly ever anymore, and now not even being able to do what’s right for a small faction of our citizenry called military veterans. Nothing personal, I’m sure. Just protecting that bottom line. Make do with what we can afford, okay? And we can’t afford to do any more. Now excuse us while we fund some projects for our home districts. Maybe another bridge or two to nowhere.

Perhaps those who voted to deny the vet’s bill passage will get an earful from their constituents, but I doubt it. Keep that pork coming into their voting districts and the sheep will not bleat a bit. Hell, the public-at-large is detached, distracted and deluded about what’s worth paying attention to beyond their backyards.

This disgraceful slap in the face of those who serve (and these days, it’s all volunteer service) is now par for the congressional course. How many members of congress ever wore a military uniform? Hmmm.

So, while we still have Afghan troops being killed and wounded, and await congress’ inevitable approval of deployment again somewhere down the road to further the cause of saving the world for democracy, even if it means shredding the Constitution a la Iraq, current and future service members know where congress stands on spending for all that goes with military missions. At least we might be comforted in knowing that there’s a mid-term election coming soon, and perhaps the voting public will disengage just enough from the popular culture’s empty calorie menu of guilty pleasures to seek vengeance. Well, at least the voters who have sons or daughters or extended family or close friends who served to protect our many freedoms, especially the freedom to cast a vote, might feel motivated for some polititcal payback.

But do NOT hold your breath waiting for significant change to come. Like global warming (which astoundingly, many of the same republicans who deny vets their due, do not believe is real) I fear we may be past the point of no return politically. We’ll just wait for the implosion, I guess, and when things fall apart and the center can no longer hold, everyone will be able to easily visualize a reality that answers the question that need not be asked: what’s wrong with this picture?

Better too late, even, than never, I suppose.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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