I don't want to seem shrill, but there's something slightly...unedifying about this so-called death book controversy.
I suppose my qualms have something to do with the fact that several years ago, the GOP cheerfully spearheaded a couple of wars that continue to kill and maim American soldiers. And that having squandered these people's lives and health and sanity for political and financial gain, they now propose to strut around in tinfoil halos, posing as their guardian angels. I find this offensive.
It's offensive because they're infantilizing and condescending to people whose suffering, in many cases, is a direct result of the Republican pretense to military competence.
It's offensive because they'd have no problem glorifying premature death if the soldiers in question had been blown to pieces in Fallujah last Thursday, and no problem sweeping them under the carpet if they'd committed suicide while on duty in Afghanistan, and no problem walking past them with a sneer of distaste if they were begging for change on the sidewalk.
It's offensive because it suggests that soldiers are weak-willed pawns with no ability to think for themselves, and no ability to tell crocodile tears from genuine concern.
It's offensive because the real risk of suicide is highest among soldiers who've been emotionally shattered by what they've seen and done in Iraq and Afghanistan, but aren't being given the psychological help they need...partially because to acknowledge the depth and breadth of their suffering would be politically inconvenient (it might even shake our faith in our "essential goodness"), and partially because it costs money that'd be better spent on tax cuts for Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and the Scaife family.
Above all, it's offensive because it's not just a lie, but a sadistic lie, in that it makes a hard situation harder, and demonizes caregivers who must confront forms of anguish that conservative politicians generally prefer to ignore, in favor of waving little vinyl flags that were made in China.
What makes all of this especially disturbing is that it's so goddamn pointless. This slander is not going to turn the tide in the GOP's favor, nor boost them in the polls, nor make Jim Towey's five-dollar Message of Love mandatory reading for despondent veterans. Like the stomach-turning Festum Asinorum held outside Terri Schiavo's hospice, it's more likely to alienate people who are straddling the fence, and don't have the luxury of imagining that the Rapture will make living wills and estate planning irrelevant. It's hard to see it as anything more than an act of sheer spite, the biggest pay-off for which is the delight these con artists take in seeing their malignant horseshit portrayed on cable TV as the promptings of our national conscience.
Although my immediate response to this behavior is usually incandescent, sputtering rage, I know that's not very productive. There's really only one worthwhile reaction to these lies, and that's to remind ourselves that we can't allow important public-health questions to be decided by people who first send soldiers to war as casually as they'd order a steak, and then publicly slander the treatment and counseling that vets and their families need, in hopes that doing so will keep healthcare unaffordable or unattainable for the rest of us.
Losing on this issue, to these...people, is simply not an option. As I said in a much earlier post:
It's interesting that the people most likely to buy "United We Stand" bumperstickers are also very likely to see themselves as standing outside the webs of interdependence and mutuality that necessarily bind worthwhile human communities. This stance is typical of people who can't face up to their own vulnerability. Unfortunately, because they pretend to be invulnerable, they can't be relied on to protect themselves or their country; you can't protect anyone from a danger you refuse to acknowledge. These people aren't America's fearless guardians, as they like to pretend; they're cowards insofar as they won't face up to reality, and traitors insofar as they present an obstacle to protecting the nation's health.With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to agitate for healthcare reform.