Today was a normal day in the life of Ivory Johnson. But what he has come to accept as being normal is actually a national travesty. Ivory is a Marine veteran from Little Rock, Arkansas now living on the streets in Dallas, Texas. He like so many Vietnam veterans is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is unable to maintain a steady job.
Ivory proudly wears a veteran cap and recounts with vivid detail events that occurred more than 40 years ago. He questions the effectiveness of the Veterans Administration in their efforts to make whole as much as possible those who gave blood, sweat and tears in the name of bringing democracy to a foreign land.
The experiences during his six-year stint were not as relevant as the fact that he is haunted by those memories on a daily basis. Despite the fact that he is disabled due to his mental stability, he would rather have a job than to be on the streets begging. This sense of security according to him is not possible because he would lose the benefits of his disability by earning taxable income.
The experiences shared by Ivory are not unique because they have been told by countless Vietnam era veterans. What is unique is the fact that the United States of America is still peddling the notion of democratizing the world while at the same time ignoring those whose boots were on the ground in support of this ideology.
It is no secret that the majority of homeless people living on the streets across America are veterans or people abandoned and left behind by a veteran.
Vietnam has been rebuilt and a large number of apparel outfitters have set up shop there. If that’s not enough, vast amounts of recourses went into rebuilding Iraq following the invasion and occupation under the Bush administration.
We are still involved in the longest war in American history in Afghanistan. Guantanamo is still holding prisoners indefinitely with no end in sight unless President Obama closes it by executive order before he leaves office.
At a time when men the age of Ivory should be holding their grandkids and enjoying their retirement, they are merely trying to survive in a nation where their sons are shot dead in the streets by police officers using the same callous techniques used to gun down Vietnamese for having the audacity to try to have a life in their own land.
We did learn one lesson in Iraq. We insisted on having a hand in writing their Constitution. We made sure that they had open and free democratic elections. We insisted on building the largest United States Embassy on the planet there. Believe it or not, we insisted that each citizen would have free universal health care.
During this same time, benefits to our veterans are suffering the effects of austerity and no infrastructure bill has pass through the Congress in over six years. The prisons are swelled to capacity and the killing of unarmed black men has become normalized.
And if all of this reality is not enough to make you sick, there are efforts to suppress the vote of minorities and continue to give tax breaks to the rich.
Gerrymandering has made it do that politicians no longer care about the concerns of the citizens that send them to Washington. They are more concerned about getting large donations from billionaires while at the same time getting poor and downtrodden Americans to vote against their own best interest.
We can no longer keep up this charade about the exceptionalism of America. The world is looking and wondering what happened to America. They tell the world how they should run their country while at the same time pass laws that would make it illegal to offer food to a veteran such as Ivory Johnson.