Jean Barker

'Heroes' betrayed

2015-08-28 10:34

Jean Barker

I’m anti-war. I don’t even know if I think it’s worth going to war to bring peace, mostly because it rarely seems to work out that way. I question the justice of and motivation for most wars ever fought.

But – and this is a big one – IF you’re going to send people off to other countries to fight a war for your country, and IF you’re going to call them heroes when signing them up to die for their country, then they should be treated like heroes who have risked their lives for you when they return, however broken they may now be.

But these heroes who leave return to be treated like crap. Not even the ones that survived torture are immune to mockery. Trump recently gained ground in the polls after dissing McCain for “getting caught” and tortured in Vietnam.

It always amuses me that the most macho-by-mouth are the least macho in reality. Donald Trump has no time for the poor, the weak or the needy, or for war heroes who survived torture. No, he inherited money from Daddy, avoided conscription by citing minor disabilities, has his clothing line made in Mexico while whining about American job losses, and lives another day, to torment anyone with a brain from the safety of Fox News.

Immigrants? They can go screw themselves. Unless they’re models from Czech Republic called which case, he’s more than happy to do the screwing.

Compassion seems to have become a dirty word. But it’s desperately needed. Some things just can’t be swept under the rug. Things like… well… People! And yet we keep trying to forget them.

Win…. or else!

Conservative America respects success, and shuns failure, perceived or real, like leprosy. Donald Trump’s supporters are just scared kids siding with the schoolyard bully. They’re just terrified that if they don’t help him beat on the kid with glasses, they’ll be the next one he targets.

I suspect this fear of being the loser is the reason the returning soldiers are treated like they are invisible. America effectively lost the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and well...everywhere, really. So these broken men, who make up almost 20% of the homeless population of the USA are – to the macho boneheads who make up 20% of any country’s electorate – an embarrassment.


There’s a community of mostly veterans who live under a freeway bridge I drive past almost every day. Roughly 20% of American homeless people are US Army Veterans, dropped by the system, disabled or psychologically damaged. 

These guys live under the bridge not for shelter (it rarely rains or blows in LA) but because the LA County Police don’t have jurisdiction under freeway overpasses. This means that a new law, which allows LA Cops to trash homeless peoples’ property left in the same place for more than 24hrs, can’t be implemented under the highway. The “Staties” (State Police, a separate force, who do have jurisdiction there) would have to care, and they don’t come off the freeways in case city folk laugh at their uniforms.

One of the homeless men who lives under the 101-Alvarado interchange seems to have drawn the attention of artists in the area, who create a strange new “home” for him every few weeks. First, it was a living room painted on the wall in 2D. Then, they created a living room with real furniture, but no roof or walls. Now it’s a Wendy-house, with a lawn and deck chair. A graffiti artist with a sense of humor called SKIDBOT (as in, Skid Row) even sprayed a stunning view onto the concrete wall, the other night. See pictures here

Something about his house woke me up. Instead of turning away in shame, I see a hope, a dream, and I’m brave enough to care again.

Nothing new

These guys under the bridge aren’t the first veterans that uncaring leaders have abandoned.  It doesn’t make the history books, but in 1932, thousands of WW I Veterans cheated out of their bonuses, disabled and desperate, converged on Washington, DC and began squatting, marching, and demanding their money. 

After a few months (and after some had started planting veggie gardens) they were attacked by the police, and their makeshift homes destroyed. Is what we’re doing now really so very different?

It’s time to care. 

Jean earned an MFA in Directing and Screenwriting and works in the LA film industry. She tweets as @jeanbarker and blogs pictures of signs and more, here. She will be back.

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