Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Beyond the Yellow Magnetic Ribbon

Going after Rick Santorum is pretty much a fish/barrel operation. But when he says things like this, it's hard not to get worked up:

"And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"

You can see the video of him saying that
here. It's at a Centre County, Pa., Republican Party meeting. Upon reading more elsewhere, some are saying that Santorum was talking about putting on one of HIS bumper stickers, which is frankly too cynical to even address here.

Anyway, hearing that made me think of our friend Joe. Joe is a Marine who fought in Gulf War I. He is a big floppy dog of a guy, a gun nut, a carpenter, a DFL activist and a strong union man. He smokes cigars and knocks heads (including his own; he's not a picture of grace) and has a big diesel pickup that I drove once and now love. He is nervous, loud and kind. He's interested in everything -- history and world religions and, unfortunately, Avril Lavigne, but we love him anyway.

One day, while in the Gulf, he was standing in front of an anti-air radar when someone turned it on, giving him a full and direct blast of radiation. Joe, already wound up pretty tight, hasn't been the same since. He also has the disease that doesn't exist, Gulf War Syndrome. He has killer migranes that keep him from work. He gets fatigued and has chronic pain. He sleeps badly and wakes up thrashing and screaming from nightmares. He now sleeps on the couch, which, understandably, is putting a strain on his marriage. He is depressed. He carries a pharmacy in his pocket.

Well, Joe decided to go to the VA to get some help. Since Gulf War Syndrome doesn't exist, they eliminated most of that right away. They threw prescriptions at him until he wondered if maybe they weren't really taking him seriously. He kept pushing, hoping for therapy or at least a recommendation, until they finally came up with something for him:

A two-hour class, once a month, during the work day, about meditation.

That's the best they could do.

"A two-hour class on meditation?" Joe was yelling on the phone. "Jayzus H. Christ, I was a fuckin' BUDDHIST!"

And notwithstanding the humor value of a 6-foot-4 Marine screaming "I was a fuckin' BUDDHIST," what's happening to Joe is one of the saddest things I know.


  1. That is funny, war-induced illness aside. Could the government please step out of the 19th and 20th centuries? We've had a new one for, oh, 5 years now.

    Because I do greatly dislike the patriotic rhetoric surrounding this war...how perverse it is. Certainly, I admire people sacrificing for our country--- what a gift that is unfathomable to understand. But it's all about the battle, too. We're squandering these sacrifices at the moment...it's just absurd, yet the government is still using Revolutionary and Civil War era rhetoric to describe why we're willing to sacrifice people in the Middle East. The government is taking advantage of these brave souls, and pissing all over their honor,and our nation's collective honor. That's a huge disrespect. And it's appropriate to be upset about it.

    Not to mention all of the thousands of Iraqis who have died or been maimed in this situation. But oh yeah, they don't count, do they?...

  2. Kris, why do you hate America so much?

  3. He's clearly a terrorist and I hope he's under surveillance.

  4. Obviously. Joe, too, for that matter.