Monday, January 16, 2012

Did He Just Say What I Think He Said?

A little while ago, a commercial was run on MSNBC. It only ran for a short while and hasn't run, I believe, in quite some time.

There hasn't been anything to air in quite sometime that bothered me in such a way that I was finding myself getting more and more irritated at the ignorance of this commercial, and more and more disappointed in the lack of truth stated within this commercial that I stopped watching MSNBC for a good period of time.

To summarize, the was of a white correspondent of MSNBC basically 'reminding' viewers that hard work and determination is the back-bone of what makes America the greatest place in the world.

I honestly cannot effectively put into words the level of disgust I had for this commercial. It bothered me to my core.

Well, this past Saturday night, while watching a pre-recorded Tavis Smiley Forum - Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity, on C-Span the thoughts I have never herd acknowledged outside of my own mind were not only acknowledged by another person, and in public a forum setting, but voiced from a person I would have least expected.

To understand why I say 'least expected', you have to understand the make-up of this panel. Among the various intellectual white panelists such as Suze Orman and Barbara Ehrenreich, were also speakers such as Dr. Cornel West, Majora Carter, and Tavis Smiley who are some of our most prominent, affluent, educated, and influential black economist, activists, and professors of today. But, it was Michael Moore who put the exclamation point on something I have shouted in my head time and time again.

'This is a nation founded on genocide and built on the backs of slaves...We [America] tried to eliminate one entire race then used another race to build this country, quite quickly, into a world power. This country never would have had the wealth that it had, had it not had slavery'

My surprise was not because of any dislike towards Michael Moore. I actually admire a lot of what he does and agree with him on probably 90% of his views on a lot of issues effecting America and those living in American today. My shock came from the fact that it wasn't Tavis Smiley who set the record straight on how our nation was founded, it wasn't Dr. Cornel West that spoke on who the true contributors of America, it was Michael Moore that shined the light on a history America tends to overlook and often times try to rewrite.

But, regardless of where it was said, how it was said, or who said it. Im just glad it was finally said!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Toy Soldiers

My brother is very proud, very tough, very passionate in his beliefs. He never will show weakness, nor will he ever admit his weaknesses.

He witnessed first hand, my momma's pain both in love and in life, and also saw, more than I, her suffering until her death.

The very long custody battle that followed (my father vs. my step father), eventually came down to one thing. Where ever he goes I go. A recommendation that came out of many different reports submitted to the courts from various mental health specialists which basically concluded that if I was placed anywhere other than where my brother chose to go, I would run away.

My brother being thirteen by the time the custody battle was at the height of its ridiculousness, was able to make his own decision of where he wanted to live. With our father or our step father. He chose our step father. And wherever he went I followed.

I was proud of my brother, and would dare anyone to say anything bad about him. Talking about my brother was just as bad as talking about my momma.

So, to say that I have love for my brother is an understatement.

At 18, he joined the U.S. Marine Corp. He wrote me letters just about every month. Letters I still have to this day.

Of course, by this time childhood demons had taken over my life and I was living more or less as a drifter. Here one day, somewhere else the next. I was a rebel without a cause. But, I was smart. No matter where I ran away to, with who, and for how long there was always one place were anybody was guaranteed to find me, at school. So, there would be times where letters from my brother would come by way of someone else who would pass them onto me at school.

However the letters got to me I didn't care. Reading his letters, which usually began with 'Hey Big Head' and always included some dry humor whose corniness is what made it so funny, always put a smile on my face.

But, around 1990, the vibe of the letters started to change. The stories about the military life he lived on the base of Camp Pendleton soon became stories about the destruction he would witness in the Middle East. He was serving in the Gulf War.

He made it back alive, and unwounded. At least I thought. He had no physical wounds but the mental wounds would run deep. He didn't think he had a problem, and to this day he still feels he was not effected. But, being someone who has suffered mentally and emotionally the majority of my life, I saw it. The person twho had enlisted in the Marine Corp was not the same person that came out.

But, this isn't a story about my brother. This is a story about the 300,000+ military men and woman, who have risked their lives in combat, no hesitation, no questions asked, who have returned home only to fight another battle. A battle which many don't want to admit exists.

Combat PTSD
  • Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10-30%.
  • In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50%- and that’s just diagnosed cases.
  • Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
  • Approximately 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – nearly 20% of the returning forces – are likely to suffer from either PTSD or major depression, and these numbers continue to climb.
  • An additional 320,000 of the returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan may have experienced traumatic brain injuries during deployment.
  • 20 % of the soldiers who have been deployed just within the past 6 years have PTSD.
  • Of the 85% of vets seeking treatment from the VA for PTSD, only 25% actually receive any treatment whatsoever.
  • It can take a soldier from 6 months to 2 years to get into the VA system before receiving treatment.

Combat Veteran Suicide Rates:
  • Veterans are more than twice as likely as non-veterans to commit suicide and the "Katz Suicide Study," dated February 21, 2008, found that suicide rates among veterans are approximately 3 times higher than in the general population.
  • A document from the VA Inspector General’s Office, dated May 10, 2007, indicates that the suicide rate among individuals in the VA’s care may be as high as 7.5 times the national average.
  • In 2008, the VA’s own data indicate that an average of four to five veterans commit suicide each day.
  • Recent statistics show 18 veterans commit suicide everyday.

Our troops are trained to fight for us, honored to protect us, and willing to risk their lives for us. But at what cost? These man and woman give their all for America. But, I have to ask. What is America giving back to them?

Our soldiers are returning home with wounds that we can not see. Serious wounds, debilitating wounds, wounds that need our help to heal. We should not ignore what they gave up for us, so that we didn't have to.

Twenty years after my brother returned home, I can honestly say with a great amount of certainty that he is doing very well. The same can not be said for many who fought beside him. The same can not be said for many who are still fighting.

For many who are returning home and for many who have already returned, they too, wont be so lucky. They too, will return with battle scars. Lets not forget about our greatest casualties of war. There are some wounds that are invisible.

To Support:
Wounded Warrior Project
Warrior Writers Project

Recommended Blogs:
PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective
The Journey: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, and life with Combat PTSD

Saturday, November 5, 2011

We Can't Forget The Ones We Leave Behind!

Life has been tough for a great many of us these past few years. For some of us even longer. The wrath of the economic downfall discriminates against no race, nationality, gender, nor age group.

But as some of us start to pull ourselves up, we cannot forget about those whose struggles still continue. Those whose struggles have only just begun.

A few years ago, during a very trying time in my life, I received a card in the mail. No return address, no signature. The card simply said 'I know that times are difficult right now, But through it all you will be okay.'

I have never been one to talk about my trials, especially while in the midst of struggle. For that reason, I didn't have even the slightest idea of who the sender of the card was. Still to this day, it remains a mystery. But that card, which seemed to come out of nowhere, renewed in me a new strength. The will to keep going. The courage to keep fighting. And the faith that no matter how lonely I felt in my heart I was not alone. The battle may have been mine, but I had helpers in my battlefield.

Life goes on. Our lives go on. But as we each take one more step closer to higher ground, let us not forget about those who are still struggling to reach that first step. Let us not forget about those who have lost their footing.

As with my anonymous card, a simple act of kindness, can renew lost hope.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Do You Draw The Line?

'Treat others as you would like to be treated, 'unconditionally'. Sounds good doesn't it? But lets get real. 'Unconditional' doesn't exist. There are always conditions. There are always expectations whether large or small. When we do a favor for someone, there is a small expectation that that person will, if needed, do a favor for you someday. When we donate money to a charity, there is an expectation that the money will be allocated properly within the respective charity. We elect politicians that lead us, select the universities that will teach us, look to the ministers (for those who attend religious organizations) that will guide us, all with the expectation that they will provide us the with the voice, tools, and support that we need to enrich our lives.

We do things in hopes of reaping some sort of reward. Even if the reward is an emotional one. When you help out a friend, neighbor, loved one, or even a stranger, whether you realize it or not, a small part of you likes or even needs that 'feel good' feeling you get in return.

There are even expectations when it comes to love. It may make us feel good to say to someone or to hear from someone "I love you 'unconditionally'". But, is there really love that is 'unconditional'?

When we love someone, there is an expectation, or at minimum a hope, that that person or persons will love us back. We try to accept their flaws expecting that if we accept theirs they will accept ours. When we have someones back, we expect them to have ours as well.

Love generally includes loyalty, emotional support, sometimes physical and/or financial support, respect, honesty, etc. We, or at least I, would like the above reciprocated.

But what do you do when your 'love' actions are greater than the actions of the other person? In other words what do you do when you do something for someone that you know they would never do for you? You provide emotional support on a level that you know would never and has never be returned. You give respect on a level that you don't get in return.

Where do you draw the line? Or do you draw a line to begin with?

If we are all honest with ourselves, we know that there are times when, before we offer a part of ourselves to another whether it be support, honesty, respect, etc. we ask ourselves 'would this person do this for me?'.

For those people who never have that though, I commend you. I don't think I necessarily believe you, but I commend you either way.

As for myself, there has been times when I have gone so far beyond what I get in return, that I do ask myself  ' Where do I draw the line? Where does it stop? Where do I stop? Do I stop?'

I do believe that everyone needs someone. I do believe that we have to give love to receive love. It is the level of our love that, I think, can sometimes be unbalanced. That lack of balance, for me, often times causes within me resentment. An imbalance that makes me question why I do what I know would not be done for me?

I know that that thought may not be fair, or acceptable, or the popular way to think, but I'm only human! I want to feel covered with the same blanket of love that I cover others with. Of course, I understand I am not 'entitled' but I feel like it is 'deserved'.

Am I wrong? Do I expect too much?

So, I ask YOU, where do YOU draw the line?
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