More than four centuries ago, the English poet John Donne famously said:
“Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in humanity.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”
For whatever motives may be behind the veterans’ care revelations, the nation is witnessing a debacle of mammoth proportions. We feel the urge to vomit as the death toll from mounting deferred care, and the stories of neglect; falsification of records; phony waiting lists; absent accountability; inept and dishonest administration practices; and just plain sorry behavior fill the airwaves, Internet and daily newspapers. America is supposed to be better than this.
SPEAKING OF OUR veterans in past wars, several quotations are apropos.
Adm. Chester Nimitz said of the Marine invasion of Iwo Jima: “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” His words are ensconced on the Iwo Jima Memorial adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery.
“All gave some; some gave all.” Many people attribute this to Winston Churchill, speaking of troop losses in World War II.
“Truth is the first casualty of war.” Aschyleus, the ancient Greek playwright, wrote that, and is quoted by Oliver Stone in the movie Platoon.
We own an inestimable debt of gratitude to our veterans. What they have received, especially during the current administration, is abominable, even if only half of the stories reported by the media are true.
I am not writing to point fingers at those given impossible tasks by a president who has cut funding to defense and veterans’ care, and whose priorities are far from those of the nation’s defense, and the care and support of its heroic and even not-so-heroic veterans. Despite rolling up more deficit spending than all previous administrations, we still are not safe from terrorism, nor are we able or willing to expend the funds and energy to properly care for those who bear the wounds of war and the disorders that stem from it.
WE ARE, HOWEVER, able to fund every absent-minded social giveaway project that rolls down Pennsylvania Avenue, and send the president’s family on vacations worthy of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, never failing to lavishly repay his “political debts” to supporters.
There is more to this than has been reported to date, and which many fail to realize.
What is playing out before the eyes of the nation is not just a nasty spectacle of the way our veterans have been neglected. The bigger picture is this: We are witnessing the incipient stages of what federal health systems will do to all the medical and surgical patients in America who will be forced into the “benelovence” of Obamacare.
Even if you don’t care about what is happening to the nation’s vets, ask yourself this: Am I next?
John Donne had it right! We will all be “diminished.”
(The writer is an Augusta allergist and immunologist.)