The American System Of Suffering

…For most Americans, this type of unrelenting, war-related misery is unfathomable.  Few have ever personally experienced anything like what their tax dollars have wrought in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia in the last half-century.  And while surprising numbers of Americans do suffer from poverty and deprivation, few know anything about what it’s like to live through a year of war — let alone 10, as Pham To did — under the constant threat of air strikes, artillery fire, and violence perpetrated by foreign ground troops. 

Still, as a simple thought experiment, let’s consider for a moment what it might be like in American terms.  Imagine that the United States had experienced an occupation by a foreign military force.  Imagine millions or even tens of millions of American civilians dead or wounded as a result of an invasion and resulting civil strife.  

…Imagine a country in which your door might be kicked down in the dead of night by heavily-armed, foreign young men, in strange uniforms, helmets and imposing body armor, yelling things in a language you don’t understand.  Imagine them rifling through your drawers, upending your furniture, holding you at gunpoint, roughing up your husband or son or brother, and marching him off in the middle of the night.  Imagine, as well, a country in which those foreigners kill American “insurgents” and then routinely strip them naked; in which those occupying troops sometimes urinate on American bodies (and shoot videos of it); or take trophy photos of their “kills”; or mutilate them; or pose with the body parts of dead Americans; or from time to time — for reasons again beyond your comprehension — rape or murder your friends and neighbors. 

Imagine, for a moment, violence so extreme that you and literally millions like you have to flee your hometowns for squalid refugee camps or expanding slums ringing the nearest cities.  Imagine trading your home for a new one without heat or electricity, possibly made of refuse with a corrugated metal roof that roars when it rains.  Then imagine living there for months, if not years. 

Imagine things getting so bad that you decide to trek across the Mexican border to live an uncertain life, forever wondering if your new violence- and poverty-wracked host nation will turn you out or if you’ll ever be able to return to your home in the U.S.  Imagine living with these realities day after day for up to decade…

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