[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
I am in Austin, Texas. Well, sort of. I am in a hotel, in a row of hotels off I-35. I'll be here for several days, working on another season of the H2 network show 10 Things You Don't Know About.
I like Texas. I like the Texans I have met over the years. Lots of personality, charisma and genuine warmth.
Tomorrow, the LBJ Presidential Library will host the Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over four days, presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush (W) and Obama will speak.
Of all the presidents in my lifetime, it is Lyndon Baines Johnson who fascinates me the most. Like Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal reforms, or Harry S. Truman and his Fair Deal, Johnson had to balance his Great Society ambitions with a war on foreign shores. We will never know what these three administrations could have achieved domestically had they not been wartime presidents.
George W. Bush, a president I can't say I was a fan of, will be forever tied to Iraq. Never once have I concluded that he was or is a mean-spirited or awful person. Had he not run headlong into the destructive quagmire of a needless war, he may have been able to get America up the road in his two terms.
It is America's foreign policies that shape the country as much as anything instituted domestically.
Decades of war culture have caught up with America. There is a price to be paid and medication cannot suppress it away.
You are no doubt aware about the most recent shootings at Fort Hood, located near Killeen, Texas. Specialist Ivan Lopez killed three people, and injured several more, before turning his weapon on himself.
As well as gut-wrenchingly tragic, the betrayal of being shot at by a member of the U.S. military on a U.S. military base in America is devastating.
What makes it so devastating to me is that this event isn't getting more time in the media. There are several things to mention. Lopez was carrying a weapon illegally on base. That is certainly of great concern. It would be pretty difficult to prevent that from happening again, however. Fort Hood is huge. Thousands of people come and go every day.
Post-traumatic stress is being discussed as a reason Lopez did what he did. Some argue that he didn't see combat in his short stay in Iraq. I would mention that computer operators who conduct drone strikes from computers in America suffer from PTSD.
Men and women from all branches of the U.S. military have been coming home from epic-length deployments in need of help. I don't know what more a human could possibly do to show their commitment, bravery and selflessness than to throw themselves into harm's way on the other side of the planet, yet some of them have incredible amounts of difficulty getting treatment.
Why are any of these people made to wait, fill out tons of paperwork, and then wait even more? Why are they made to wait longer than it takes to say, “I need some help.” I just don't get it.
When the president makes a speech or issues a statement about events like what happened at Fort Hood – or anything having to do with the military – I just think of all the people who are waiting for help. It sounds like so much bullshit to me. No president in my lifetime has shown me that they are willing to do what it takes to help these men and women when they come back to America.
You really want to do it right? It would probably take almost as much money and personnel as the war itself. Billions to go in, billions to come out. Finish what you started. Put it all into a single budget and show it to the American people. Put it all in plain English so there is no misunderstanding. Explain how much money is required to keep a single person on medication for several decades, what prosthetic limbs cost to make, how often they need to be replaced over time, etc. Let's see what a war really costs.
When that bit of bad news is done, then show them the human toll. The misery of not only the person who went to war but the family who surrounds them and what they have to go through. Put all this in plain view and then ask the American people if they want to go into another conflict.
Recruiting offices might be a bit more transparent to those men and women who seek to join the military. Large, full-color, high-definition pictures of what war really looks like should be on the walls and windows. Unless, that is, they have something to hide.
These armchair generals on television, talking tough about Putin in Ukraine and how President Obama's weakness is what led to the Russian takeover of Crimea, are a scream. What world are these people living in?
You want a war? You go first. Romney, send all your handsome sons into the shit. You go as well. You can talk to the soldiers about Mormonism, as you did in France during the Vietnam war.
Again, are any of these people ready to pay the cost?
The recent incident at Fort Hood should be the start of a coast-to-coast conversation. Every single military suicide should be mentioned on daily news outlets as it happens, not gathered at the end of the year as some gruesome statistic buried at the back of a national newspaper that lacks the guts to put it on the front page.
The stigma of talking about problems post-deployment and seeking help must be removed. It should be one of the president's top priorities. It is a huge and necessary undertaking.
A country as exceptional as America should expect nothing less of itself.