Custom Search

Thursday, November 08, 2007




Back in the 1980's comedian Richard Belzer had a routine poking fun at President Reagan. Sarcastically referring to Reagan as "the most sensitive man in America," Belzer would voice words that his target never used. It was comedy, the warping of reality to get a laugh.

In one segment, he remarks on unwed mothers, welfare recipients....and veterans. I cannot recall the exact wording, but it was something like, "Unemployed vets.....just keep on marching fellas." It indicated either an insensitivity to veterans in trouble or suffering from a tin ear when it comes to recognizing a simple decency. It was, perhaps, unfair. But comedy is unfair, even if making a point; that point being....what do "we" owe veterans?

So here we are two decades later. In Belzer's America, Ronald Reagan was addressing Vietnam veterans. However, unlike that time, we have a full-blown conflict on our hands. The president who started it is still in the White House. He's the decider. He's the man in charge. Et cetera & ad nauseum.

And, of course, he CARES about veterans. So why am I seeing a story like this from AP's Hope Yen: RETURNING TO WORK A PROBLEM FOR RESERVISTS?
WASHINGTON - Strained by extended tours in Iraq, growing numbers of military reservists say the government is providing little help to soldiers who are denied their old jobs when they return home, Defense Department data shows.

The Pentagon survey of reservists in 2005-2006, obtained by The Associated Press, details increasing discontent among returning troops in protecting their legal rights after taking leave from work to fight for their country.

It found that 44 percent of the reservists polled said they were dissatisfied with how the Labor Department handled their complaint of employment discrimination based on their military status, up from 27 percent from 2004.


"Most of the government investigators are too willing to accept the employer's explanation for a worker's dismissal," said Sam Wright, a former Labor Department attorney who helped write the 1994 discrimination law protecting reservists.

"Some of it is indifference, some of them don't understand the laws involved," Wright said. "But the investigators establish for themselves this impossibly hard standard to win a case. As a result, reservists lose out."

Under the law, military personnel are protected from job discrimination based on their service and are generally entitled to a five-year cumulative leave with rights to their old jobs upon their return. Reservists typically file a complaint first with a Pentagon office, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), which seeks to resolve the dispute informally.

If that effort fails, a person typically can go to the Labor Department to pursue a formal complaint and possible litigation by the Justice Department.

A report by the American Bar Association as early as 2004 noted problems in which the government was "not seen as an aggressive advocate for the returning veteran." A presidential task force chaired by former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson earlier this year found that agencies could do a better job of educating troops and veterans. The report did not address government enforcement of the law.

I know what the explanation is for this: watch the film "Airplane!" and wait for the segment where two political pundits are discussing what to do about the passengers stuck on a crippled airliner that might not make it. One commenter says, "They bought their tickets; they knew the risks....I say LET 'EM crash!"

Of course it will not be spoken thusly in public, but many companies will mouth patriotism. Many will flap their yaps about "supporting the troops" which has become as damaged a cliche as the "war on drugs" or the "war on terror." No one can adequately define them because.....well, they just aren't there to be defined.

I look upon the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts as a national football game. We're all for cheering the guys and gals out on the field. But if dead, injured, or finished with their duty the powerful step over them to keep sending replacement players into the fray.

It's shameful, but then "shame" is a word to describe a condition or attitude that requires contrition. And there is the rub: many have no ability to be contrite about anything. Serving your country is all fine and dandy, but geez louise....don't think for a moment that doing so is going to interfere with COMMERCE.

If there is a federal law that requires employers to take back returning veterans then it should be obeyed. It's a damned shame we even NEED such a law in the first place, but sometimes the legislature recognizes that the excesses of greed and expediency interfere with national security, whatever about common decency.

And that law needs enforcement by the executive. It requires the chief executive of the nation to step on a few toes to ensure that these returning reservists are granted the full extent of that law. But President Bush himself has declared the "haves" and "have-mores" as his base. If this story gets the attention it deserves, like Katrina and Walter Reed, expect photo ops of the president solemnly declaring that he will do something. Yeah. Sure. Almost seven years in office and NOW he might find a problem?

I hark back to the first year of the Kennedy administration. The major steel companies had announced that they were raising the prices of their products. Not because of any inflationary pressure; no, they just wanted more money. The executives were invited to the White House. During a break of the jaw-boning session, Kennedy was seen to exit the conference room in a state of deep anger.

Turning to an aide he said, "My father was right; they're all just sons of bitches." He was referring to the attitude of men whose greed was impaired neither by decency or the thought of the common good.

Anybody who turns their back on a returning soldier/airman/sailor/marine is a son of a bitch, too.

And so are those who allow them to get away with it. What a lousy way to approach Veterans' Day.
Cross-posted at Michael Linn

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Blogger Papamoka said...

I'm one hundred and ten percent with you on this one Michael! While I was reading your post I was wondering if this is yet another issue the states should take up the slack on? After all one little more thing on the states plate is not going to kill them.

Great post my friend.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Katie & Da Katz said...

Thank you for posting... It always seems like those who serve others get the short end of the stick.


10:54 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home