As I joined a line of former GIs taking advantage of a Macon restaurant’s offer of a free meal on Veterans Day, it struck me that despite the warm reception former soldiers now enjoy on the day honoring their tours of duty, America has relegated the wars the U.S. is currently prosecuting, as well as the veterans who fight them, near the bottom of a list of national priorities.
We just have come through a savage mid-term election in which voting turned on admittedly important issues such as the economy and joblessness, national health care and immigration, but during the shouting there was little concern about the fact Americans are fighting and dying in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The reality that America is embroiled in a relentless and confusing war effort that has continued for 10 years has migrated to the bottom of the list as issues perceived as being more pressing have risen to the forefront.
Yes, the jobless rate remains at the 10 percent level -- actually much higher if you consider those who have had to take part-time jobs or who have just given up looking for work -- and it’s understandable that priorities morphed as the economy tanked. But the degree of change -- one that relegates war and the veterans who fight them, as well as the threat of terrorist activity, so far down the list is hard to understand.
If you don’t think this is the case, then think again. A few minutes of Internet research turned up five recent polls -- surveys by CBS, USA Today/Gallup, Reuters/Ipsos, CNN and the Pew Research Center -- which conclude Americans have relegated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the threat of terrorism, well below considerations about the economy, federal spending, health care, education and immigration, frequently in that order.
For example, Reuters news agency and Ipsos Public Affairs, a polling agency, conducted a survey of 1,075 adults nationwide on Oct. 28-31 which asked respondents what they consider “crucial, important or not important” and which issues Congress should assign top priority. The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, identified jobs as the top priority, followed by the budget deficit, health care, taxes, energy, the environment and seventh, Afghanistan.
None of the surveys even listed veterans’ issues as a priority -- even though recent news reports suggest we have lost more veterans through suicide over the past 10 years than the number of soldiers killed fighting in Afghanistan last year. Did you know a returning veteran stands a far greater chance of not finding work than those who never put on a uniform?
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