For the past five years since my retirement, I’ve volunteered several days a week at the local VA Medical Center. During which time, I have met a lot of impressive individuals. They are Veterans, who have given so much to this country but prefer to remain in the shadows. Many of them ask only that they can live their lives and enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that this country offers all of its citizens as long as one works hard and forgoes the ubiquitous victim culture that has spread like a contagion among all social classes.
There was one particular person, a black Vietnam Vet, who often struck-up a conversation with me as I wheeled him down from his room to X-Ray for his weekly treatment. He remarked that Vietnam saved his life. His proclamation was somewhat of a road to Damascus moment for me. This Vietnam Veteran was referring to the reality that as a young black kid, growing up in Detroit in the late 1960s, he and his friends were engaged in all sorts of delinquent, if not entirely criminal behavior. He recalled that his entire lifestyle during this time consisted of taking and selling drugs, cold-cocking strangers on the street just for fun, robbing liquor stores and homes, sexually exploiting young women, as well as a host of gang-related activities. He related that many of the guys he hung out with, were either shot dead, died from drug overdoses, or just metastasized into useless “nothings,” whose chief occupation was to add to the dysfunctional atmosphere, that was typical in the public housing projects of Detroit.
He maintained that he would have ended up dead if he hadn’t been drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam. It afforded him the time as well as many other young black men, the space to grow-up, and forgo the obligatory “18-22-year-old stupidity gauntlet.” A lifestyle that frequently ends in a Michael Brown/Freddie Gray, thugs-are-us scenario.
In retrospect, despite the animus, many on the Progressive left have for the military, and especially the “Clintonian loathing the military types,” which I was idiotically entangled with during my pugnacious black-hippie-militant phase in the 1960s. The draft and obligatory military services were by default, one of the few successful government programs. It gave a lot of young black men time to grow up and take responsibilities for themselves, their families and communities. According to this Veteran, military service taught him discipline, resiliency, coping skills, and accountability. It helped instill essential work habits and basic civic comportment.[i]
Unfortunately, the giveaway, dependency culture ushered in by the Great Society Programs of the1960s, set the stage for the cultural regression and social pathology that we see played out in many black communities today.
My friend, this VET past away not so long ago. But what he uttered in just a few words, said it all. As “Americans” who happen to be Black, we survived the ravages of slavery, then Jim Crow society, and other racial indignities. What today’s black underclass haven’t conquered were the effects of the welfare state. It served as the catalyst for many of today’s social maladies. Blacks killing blacks, pregnant unwed mothers, generational welfare dependency, the malpractice known as inner-city Public Education, accompanied by the “big lie” of police brutality within the black community.[ii]
Today, we have a well-funded victim culture led by the Congressional Black Caucus, leftist academics, NAACP, NAN, Al Sharpton as well as our former Nobel Peace Prize-winning President, Barrack Hussein Obama. Their incentives are to keep black folks continuously aggrieved and mad at “white society,” and the perceived racist culture that has hamstring black socio-economic progress.[iii] However, whites like most “normal people” are merely busy with their lives, trying to pay bills, look for bargains at Wal Mart or ALDI’s, educate their kids, and just live! Outside of the few racist nutjobs who belong to ineffectual white and black supremacy groups, most of us are far too busy, to go out of our way and discriminate against blacks or anyone else for that matter.
Again, to quote this Vet, Blacks folks need to get their “shi….” together and quit blaming someone or something for their continuing failure to take advantage of the glaring opportunities that are afforded all Americans. Democratic politicians, along with their sincere but misguided liberal constituencies have managed to make the self-destructive behavior less costly for those bound and determine to nuke their own lives. With all the best intentions, liberals and the cultural left made poverty and mediocrity far too comfortable. The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his seminal report on the Black family, hit-the-nail-on-the-head. He stated that the social welfare system and many of the anti-poverty programs introduced as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society made having children without the benefit of marriage less cataclysmic. The undercutting of the nuclear family within many black communities became an inconsequential “life choice.” Much like choosing whether you want to join Planet Fitness or your local YMCA.
This is not to say that racism doesn’t exist here in America. Racism is an endemic feature of all human societies. But it doesn’t negate all of the advantages available for anyone who is willing to do the right thing. To my deceased friend, rest in peace, and thank you for your service and sage advice.