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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thomas Young: The Last Letter

Truthdig.com has posted Thomas Young's "The Last Letter" addressed to former President Bush and Dick Cheney. Here is the link: http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/the_last_letter_20130318/ Dated March 18, the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War, Young is filled with melancholy rage.  Young clearly feels deceived and used. He characterizes the Iraq War as the "largest single strategic blunder in U.S. history".  He rails against Bush and Cheney writing:  "I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned". This sentence is heart breaking as is most of Young's letter. But I cannot help but feel there are larger forces at work. Young has been out of the news since 2007 and now weeks before he will kill himself he has suddenly re-emerged. Let's be blunt: VSED sounds much better than suicide, assisted suicide, euthanasia or hospice care. VSED is a benign acronym and has been at the forefront of Compassion and Choices campaign "Peace at Life's End: Anywhere". It seems logical to assume Compassion and Choices professional campaign to promote VSED has purposely clouded issues at the end of life. It is what I would do if I wanted to insure assisted suicide legislation was passed into law. Confuse people for we are a society that does not discuss much less accept death. This is to our detriment--especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly terminally ill and disabled. Young sadly highlights this  confusion. Is he committing suicide? If I argued this those caring for Thomas as part of hospice would be deeply insulted. How assisted suicide? Do not go there, that is not legal and any person assisting him could be subject to prosecution. 

In the social vortex Young has found himself in it seems from the comfort of my home he is being supported by the anti-war movement and I sincerely doubt it is a coincidence Young has emerged into our collective conscience on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War. I also do not think it is a coincidence that in the article by Chris Hedges Young referred to suicide and in his "Last Letter" states he is in hospice care. Remember Young was quoted saying "I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time" an that "instead of committing conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes". To me Young is clear: he is committing suicide in a nonconventional way. I find this objectionable for many reasons foremost among them is who, if anyone, has tried to reach out to him and point out he can lead a rich and full life. 

Young's "Last Letter" was followed by an essay by Ron Kovic the well-known Vietnam anti war author. I found his essay, The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq" moving but fell far short of directly supporting Young. That is arguing life is worth living. See http://www.truthdig.com/dig/item/forgotten_wounded_20060117/  
Kovic wrote about disabled Iraq veterans and speculated:

What will it be like for them when one morning they suddenly find themselves naked sitting before that mirror in their room and must come face to face with their injury? I want to reach out to them. I want them to know that I’ve been there too. I want to just sit with them in their room and tell them that they must not give up. They must try to be patient, try to just get through each day, each morning, each afternoon any way they can. That no matter how impossible and frustrating it may seem, how painful, regardless of the anxiety attacks and nightmares and thoughts of suicide, they must not quit. Somewhere out there there will be a turning point, somewhere through this all they will find a reason to keep on living.

It is my sincere hope Young experiences that turning point Kovic writes about. A time when he realizes life even one filled with pain and complications associated with spinal cord injury is worth living. 

2 comments:

Middle Child said...

Sometimes I think the hugest difference in someone with severe disability's attitude - is if they have just one person - be it a child or friend whatever who loves them - with love which doesn't judge but is real - people blossom...I may be very wrong here its just that toe more my husband and I loved each other - and as our girls grew into an adult love for him he just blossomed...he fought to live...looked forward in spite of the pain he was in - in spite of biodily issues - we had an attitude to that of "food in - Food out" and at the things which sent others into horror - we would often fall about laughing when something went horrible wrong - and the girls grew up in this environment - they are the sanest people I know...Does Mr Young have people about him who love him and want him to live?

william Peace said...

Middle Child, There are very good reasons people with a disability fear hospitalization and are reluctant to access the health care system in general. Without significant social support in the form of loved ones or friends who advocate on your behalf care suffers. Too many health care workers consider a person with a disability as nothing more than unwanted extra labor. Physicians assume a complex history is involved and do not want to see people who are a time drain. It is into this vortex that prevents people with a disability from getting adequate health care.