We need to look at the problems of inequality, evictions and the crushing of low wage workers as crises of opportunity. We could continue along our current path with low wages, difficult to obtain mental health treatment, pitiful SSI benefits and exploitation by payday lenders, storage facilities and unscrupulous landlords. Or we could try fixing the system. The book Evicted suggests expanding the housing voucher program while at th same time prevent landlords from overcharging people the way they currently do.
Bernie Sanders and many low wage workers have raised the demand for a $15 per hour minimum wage. As I was driving downtown on our horrible main street, I wished that repaving our roads could be expanded to create more jobs. I wished that lead pipes could be removed the same way Madison, Wisconsin did it. That would create jobs.
I wish that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would begin stricter regulation of unfair lending practices. I wish that corporate wealth could be reined in and excess profits could be used for the common good. I wish for a lot of things that I am being told aren’t realistic. And that in the immediate future what will probably happen is the military get all the money it wants and spend most of it trying to fight terrorism. But the real face of terrorism is the crushing of our spirits by poverty, evictions and exploitation. We need a political revolution.
I just listened to the National Public Radio story about the federal suicide prevention hotline for veterans. Faced with a growing suicide rate of veterans and active duty personnel, President Obama called for increasing the telephone support available. we were losing more active duty troops to suicide than the number being killed in combat.
When I visit the VA the signs are everywhere promoting the hotline. Veterans are encouraged to Call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1) or chat online. Suicide has emerged as a greater threat to our military than terrorism as people weary from repeated deployments and family stresses take their own lives.
In a very real way this can be seen as blowback from the global war on terror which includes the longest war in American history. I know that the blowhards in the Bush administration who championed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars never gave a second thought about the impact of these wars on the troops and their families. They were brazen in their ability to ignore cries from across the globe to stop the wars before they began.
And now, after 4 years, these are President Obama’s wars. We have the low grade occupation in Iraq with so-called advisers and then there is the increasingly unpopular Afghanistan War that he thought that he could win. He too ignored the maxim of never fighting a land war in Asia. (The night shift arrives and the calls keep coming)
I think about the despair that must have carved holes in dozens of lives from returning combat veterans who were horrified by what they had done and witnessed. The upcoming battle over the nomination process for the secretary of defense will provide another opportunity for those who seek to continue the bloodbath to voice their opinions. They will say that the president must be prepared to back up the feverish rhetoric on Iran with the very real threat of launching an attack on people who pose no threat to Americans. And the secretary of defense must share that same passion for war.
At work last night in the mental hospital I heard Bob Dylan’s song Blowin in the Wind. There were those chilling words “too many people have died” referencing the wars we had fought up to that time. And yet a new generation has come and the wars keep coming and so do the calls to the suicide line.
The center piece of the NPR story was that the night shift had arrived and began taking calls but the real center piece is the failure of American foreign policy to negotiate, understand people in other countries and the limits of our ability to impose our way of life upon them. Those who suffer the consequences are the soldiers and their families. we can reduce the number of calls by ending the wars.
For the third time in the 8 years I have been a peer specialist a consumer with whom I have been associated has died. Each time there have been warning signs and each time I tried to offer support. As an atheist I see death as a finality, the nothingness into which we will all vanish at some point. It is not something to rejoice in hoping to overcome the sorrows of life. I do not look forward to seeing anyone in an after life. Which is why I tell people cling as tightly as you can to the one, wild precious life we are given.
But sometimes their grip on life is loosened by circumstance beyond our control. Often by the time I meet consumers they have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse. Often they have lived on the street and endured frost bite, extreme heat and everything in-between. You try and tell people to take better care of themselves but ultimately the decisions they make are theirs. And whether and how long they survive is up to them.
Thinking about this I posted reminders to my facebook friends about doing something fun. The time is now to create positive memories for one another. I would hate for us to part in anger and then learn that it was too late to repair the hurt feelings.
Even though I know instinctively we are not going to be able to bring everyone with us on the road to recovery it is always hard when someone leaves us far too early in life. Let those of us who remain redouble our efforts to live healthy and productive lives.