I had an entirely different topic in mind for this blog, a very upbeat look at the New Year, but the shutdown of our government presents such an amazing opportunity to change the world for the better, I could not resist proposing at least one option: Let’s take this chance to bring our children and grandchildren serving in the military home. Get them out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and a place most of us didn’t even realize our children were being killed — Yemen.*
Learning that the military leaders Stateside would not lose a penny in the shutdown and that war is considered absolutely the most vital task our country could be conducting, should not have been a surprise to me, but it was. What’s worse, our young people are over there without pay. Even worse, if any of them die, their families are not entitled to the death benefit. Don’t believe me? From ABC news yesterday, 19 January:
Additionally, families will not receive the $100,000 death benefit provided for fallen service members. That money can cover funeral costs and family travel. It also helps to bridge the sudden halt of once-regular paychecks that the deceased was receiving — paychecks that end immediately after the individual is killed.
During the 2013 shutdown, Congress worked to mitigate the shutdown’s effects on the Department of Defense by passing a bill allowing for the death benefits to continue. Another bill allowed service members and “essential” Department of Defense civilian personnel to be exempt from the pay freeze.
“Ah,” you say. “So they’ll be paid retroactively when the shutdown ends.” Um, no. ABC, whether intentionally or not, neglected to mention that (a) the bill allowing for death benefits to continue did not pass, and (b) it was a signed order by President Obama that authorized paying the past wages (but not the death benefit) to military and furloughed government personnel. In case you haven’t been paying attention, anything, but ANYTHING Obama did, Trump will not do. Do I need to repeat that? Anyone believing Trump will pay retroactive wages, let alone death benefits, to our troops overseas is suffering from a major delusion.
So, let’s bring our children home now. We need them, our strongest and bravest young people with a heartfelt desire to defend our constitution. The war against democracy is here. The terrorism of government leaders who champion money over human life is happening right here, right now. Trump and his cronies really thought the Democrats would back down, but that’s because they don’t understand those of us who value human life and dignity over unadulterated greed. This is not a partisan issue; it’s simply about being compassionate humans.
You probably are aware that the military has but few soldiers hailing from the upper class, and even fewer that have Senators or Representatives as parents or grandparents. In fact, it’s less than one percent overall. (There’s that 1%/99% thing again.) Trump and his cronies thus have no “heart investment” in paying or protecting our troops. Trump has lambasted our troops more than once for their lack of skill, bravery, and competence. (This alone should qualify him for impeachment.) Truly, Trump’s way is a dead end.
It’s up to us. Somebody please start up a “Bring Them Home” fund and get our kids out of there. I’d contribute, and I’ll bet you would, too. Let’s do it while they’re still alive. Mothers, fathers, extended families, the Nation; we want you, our fighting sons and daughters, to know WE NEED YOU HERE. You have not been abandoned by those who love you and respect what you’re doing over there. Leave the war, if it must continue, to the mercenaries and professional soldiers. Trump always said they should be the ones there anyway, so let’s let them at it.
Trump probably believes that blaming the shutdown on the Democrats will ensure more Republican wins in the upcoming elections, but he has gravely underestimated the American people. The 99%, those of us who are so happy the Democrats stood up for not only the Dreamers, but all of us, will return the favor by voting against Trump and anyone who supported his racist agenda.
Federal employees too, if they’re honest, realize their jobs came about largely because of the Democrats. And we ALL know it’s mainly warmongering, greedy-for-oil-and-power Republicans who got us into the wars in the first place. Trump is so out of touch with average Americans he believes we all, like he does, only want money and more money. He has no concept of serving our country, for he was never in the military. We all want to prosper, certainly, but not at the expense of our humanity. What does it matter if we “win” (what does that even mean? How will we know?) our various offshore wars against terrorism if there is nothing but racism, hatred, and poverty for our troops to come home to? Indeed, without action on our part, there may be no way to get them home at all, for the parents of the children fighting cannot afford to bring them back — alive or in a box. Trump will make sure they get no financial help, so it’s up to us.
Why can’t we turn at least one aspect of this nightmare into something positive? Can we bring them home? Which is more un-American: a whole-scale walking away from war; or a strutting, pompous President who keeps our strongest and bravest children in bloody arenas just to get his own way? The Democrats drew a line in the sand and stood up to this bully on our behalf. Democrat or Republican, let’s use this time to Bring Our Children Home.
“You may say I’m a dreamer,” as the song goes, and that’s okay. “I’m not the only one,” either. Extraordinary times like these spark the kind of passion and creativeness that give those dreams a real chance of coming true. Let’s change the world!
*The war in Yemen we’ve heard virtually nothing about — even on MSNBC, which aired 5,000% more about Russia in the last six months than Yemen — is unconstitutional because it was undeclared. How much do you want to bet that this is the argument Trump will use to deny payment to all the troops, not just the ones serving there, when the Great Shutdown ends?