Have we lost the ability to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? Have our senses been bombarded to the point where we are numb? Is it the torrent of horror they call the news that’s done it to us? Or the even more graphic horrors they call entertainment?
Whatever the reason, and I’m sure historians will some day figure it out, Americans have lost the compassion that once made them truly “exceptional.” They have come to accept the tragedy of war abroad and the misery of poverty at home as the way things are, as something they can do nothing to change, as an abyss they’ve had the good luck to avoid – so far.
Yes, we honor the troops. Yes, we show pictures of the brave young men and women learning to walk on those grotesque artificial legs, or to eat with those pitiful “prosthetic” arms. Yes, we sound the trumpet and fire guns in the air as we lower their flag-draped caskets into the earth. And we go jogging or play golf or whatever we do with our arms and legs. thankful in the depths of our hearts that we are not among those unlucky victims of a monstrous system.
Do we really stop to wonder what it must be like to be them – or one of those who love them?
And fellow-Americans living in poverty. so many of them returning veterans, do we spare them a thought? In the dregs of this horrific winter, do we wonder if they have heat? Or food? Or even shelter?
Or do we thank our lucky stars that we still have an income, that we haven’t been laid off, or that our retirement checks are still coming?
As I read the news, I see that Americans are still being killed and maimed in places like Afghanistan … returning veterans are still homeless… funds for food stamps are being slashed… and the Republicans have blocked another attempt to extend benefits to the long-term unemployed …
And I wonder who are the people responsible for this tragic state of affairs? How do they sleep at night?
Why do we tolerate them?