Don’t forget our veterans

So, as a nation we have gone from essentially ignoring our veterans (except for Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day) to giving them such lousy medical care that they either get sick or sicker or die.

Here, then, is the inherent message from the United States of America to all those who would, in the future, volunteer to fight for their country:

It is better to be killed quickly in battle than to be wounded, either physically or psychologically, and come home for care.

Remember the scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center a few years ago? Had it not been for the Washington Post, we wouldn’t have known that our veterans were not only getting lousy medical care, but sometimes no care at all.

And now we have Phoenix. Ah, Phoenix, where retirees who go to civilian hospitals with Medicare probably get decent care, but veterans who seek care at VA hospitals get … What? Dead?

What kind of nation do we pretend to be when the men and women who fought for us, so that we could continue to pretend to be that kind of nation, are ignored until enough of them die because of lousy medical care.

Oh, and then we get incensed. Then. Just as then-Sen. Barack Obama did in 2008 when he blamed President George W. Bush for the VA mess at the time. Obama called it an “outrage,” according to Sen. John McCain, writing in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, and said “we are all dishonored.”

Well, then, we’re all dishonored again now and the president, while we’re sure he cares, seems to be taking his sweet time.

It’s human nature, of course, not to be terribly concerned with the fate of people not among our immediate circle. And human nature is a fine thing, or at least we might as well say it is because it’s unavoidable. In the vernacular, it is what it is.

But now and then it would be nice if we were to rise above it.

As a nation, we could, for instance, remain aware of the existence of veterans. We could, for instance, ask our elected representatives, every chance we get, “What are you doing for veterans?” And we should not take scripted answers, not listen to nonsense about impending legislation or self-serving comments. No, we have to demand specifics. And we can do it, especially in New Hampshire, where personal campaigning is the order of the day.

We can ask Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, “What, precisely, do you intend to do to make sure veterans get the medical care that they deserve? Precisely, senator, precisely. Give us one concrete example.”

And we should certainly ask the same of those who would take her place, specifically Scott Brown, who is probably going to win the state’s Republican nomination. Precisely, Sen. Brown, precisely. One concrete example.

Want to bet neither of them has one?

We have to wonder how different things would be if we still had the draft, and if it were actually a fair draft, not the old one in which the poor and minorities got drafted and the privileged got to go off to graduate school and, ala Dick Cheney, get five deferments so they never had to fight.

Fair draft: Your name gets called, you go, period.

Oh, then things would change because the parents of Little Johnny from Dartmouth would make damn sure he got decent medical care if he came home wounded or traumatized.

But it well never happen. You know why? Because so many of the parents of the privileged serve in Congress or in arms of the federal government, so they’re going to be sure their kids don’t have to go out there and get shot. Forget about it. Thus, no draft, or at least no fair, honest draft..

It’s great to be privileged.