You’ll pardon me if I find all this shock and awe, all this clutching of the pearls at what somebody said on the Internet, just a little self-indulgent.
It’s not as though we’re short on reasons for outrage these days.
The Washington Post is running a series of stories about substandard care for returning veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where returning Iraq vets are housed in rat- and roach-infested rooms coated in black mold.
Newsweek is reporting on the difficulties of Iraq vets in securing adequate mental health services once they return to the States. The magazine told the story of vets ending up homeless — homeless, as though we’ve learned nothing from Vietnam — or worse, committing suicide because the help they desperately needed just wasn’t there for them. One soldier’s stepmother described watching her stepson argue with hospital personnel who wanted to put him on a waiting list:
“Marianne was listening in on the conversation from the dining room. She watched Jonathan (Schulze), slumped on the couch, as he talked to the doctor. ‘I heard him say the same thing: I’m suicidal, I feel lost, I feel hopelessness,’ she says. Four days later, Schulze got drunk, wrapped an electrical cord around a basement beam in his home and hanged himself. A friend he telephoned while tying the noose called the police, but by the time officers broke down the door, Schulze was dead.”
The number of Americans living in severe poverty — defined as a family of four living on less than $10,000 per year or an individual living on less than $6,000 — has reached a 32-year high, according to a survey by McClatchy Newspapers. One in three “severely poor” Americans are children, younger than 17.
As residents of the Gulf Coast struggle to rebuild 18 months after Hurricane Katrina, insurance companies are pulling out of the area. They’re saying the risk of future destruction isn’t worth the cost of covering families and businesses there, and their pullouts ensure that businesses will leave, worsening the poverty the storm revealed.
Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff went on trial for lying to investigators about who revealed the name of a covert CIA operative. The trial illuminated an entire campaign to subject national security for political gain, and demonstrated the compliance of the Washington press corps in following the Bush administration’s leads in who to attack, and why.
A court of appeals ruled that prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have no right to challenge their detention. If you’re a terrorist, in the eyes of an administration whose Justice Department has yet to secure a significant terrorism conviction, then you have no right to say otherwise. No right to defend yourself. No right to speak at all. They’ve spoken, and you’re done.
It’s not as if we’re short on reasons for outrage. It’s not as if we’re living fat and happy in peace and prosperity and all we have to worry about is that someone on the Internet used a bad word.
But that is, apparently, a whole lot easier to get upset about.
Talk about an obscenity.