Thursday, November 22, 2007

turkey day

Happy Thanksgiving! I am lying here after the usual face stuffing fest know as my family Thanksgiving party. It featured its usual deliciousness: turkey, stuffing, mashed taters, rolls, etc. I'm not sure its class level could compare to the Faux Thanksgiving my friends and I threw together in 5 hours last weekend, which featured gourmet dishes from the one and only Melvin's, the super fancy Harris Teeter, and even a splurge at Whole Foods. I'm telling you, we are a classy bunch. Nothing says fancy like Mac-N-Cheese and biscuits. Be impressed.

On a more serious note, I saw this really cool thing on the evenings news last night about this girl who started a program to thank our troops through text messages. She started it in high school, which I thought was amazing because who does things like that in high school? I was still trying to get over a horrifying box dye phase and trying not to fail Chemistry. But then that got me thinking, of all the issues that young people should care about right now it should be our troops. It doesn't matter if you support the war or not. Because to be honest, the phrase "supporting or not supporting war" is pretty idiotic in and of itself. How can you simplify things that much? I think this is a sad and increasingly hopeless war. I think the reasons we got into it our muddled at best. I don't think there was an evil conspiracy behind it though. I do think the leadership failed. The planning failed. In essence my thoughts on this war are a confusing stew of confusion. As most of my thoughts are. But back to my original point. Regardless of your feelings, our soldiers deserve our compassion. Because they signed up for a job that pays shit and that most people would never do. Because they are currently involved in circumstances that I cannot even fathom. Because when they are finished they are expected to come home and go back to how everything was before they left. Because on average they're close to our age. I wrote about this in a much clearer fashion minus all the turkey sleepy drugs or whatever that tripto-thingy is called. So instead of trying to force my full and sleepy brain to express my thoughts I'm just going to paste what I already wrote here.

"Most people will tell you that Halloween is the definitive college holiday. More than New Year’s Eve, more than any of those family-oriented holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, Halloween belongs to the young.

A little less than two weeks after Halloween though, there is another holiday. It is one that can easily go overlooked, but with every passing year ties itself closer and closer to our specific generation. Veterans Day is November 11. In Charleston this year there were a series of events to mark the holiday. Yet I can’t help but wonder how much of that falls on deaf ears when it comes to an age group born long after the last, futile years of Vietnam. On more than one occasion this year I overhead students my age casually asking what the American flags in Marion Square were for. If we’re honest with ourselves Veterans Day is not a holiday the majority of young people take much note of. It seems to belong to graying men with sad eyes standing near memorials or on beaches, thinking about their wars, wars that we acknowledge and honor, but do not, can not, remember. How can a holiday devoted to honoring veterans have anything to do with our generation? It is for our parents maybe, our grandparents definitely, but not for us.
4,320 US soldiers have been killed in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan at an average age of 27. 30,270 have been seriously injured. Yet these statistics do not even touch on the more than 1.6 million US servicemen and women who have come home uninjured, yet with incalculable mental and psychological scars. Advances in medicine have produced the blessing of fewer battlefield deaths, yet once these wounded soldiers return home they are greeted with a system that has not caught up. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that more than 90 studies involving drug and psychological therapies have failed to produce reliable results about how to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, despite the fact that an estimated 12.6 percent of troops returning from Iraq and 6.2 percent returning from Afghanistan will suffer from it. The consequences from this lapse in adequate treatment are staggering. According to a recent five month investigation by CBS news, more veterans have killed themselves after returning from Iraq than have been killed in battle in Iraq. Similar studies point to a rise in homelessness, substance abuse, and divorce rates among recent veterans.

These statistics categorically affirm that we are and always will be a generation of veterans. It is an ugly and uncomfortable reality, but it is one we must acknowledge. The men and women who are fighting and dying in these wars are our peers. The men and women coming home from these wars with physical or emotional wounds are our peers. To recognize this simple truth would mean more than empty salutes or flag waving ceremonies. It would mean allowing ourselves to extend compassion to the members of our generation who need it most right now. It would mean not resting until they receive adequate treatment; not letting the same tide of homelessness affect our veterans in the way it affected the veterans of Vietnam. And perhaps it could mean something even greater. To recognize that returning veterans truly belong to us, are a part of us, could galvanize our generation in a way nothing else has, to challenge our representatives and leaders to find an end to this miserable war and bring them home."

So there it is, my little essay or rant or what not. I thought it was especially relevant tonight, because as cliche and corny as it is, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. And I would personally like to give thanks to the people who in my view deserve it most right now.

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