More Casualties From Suicide than Combat is a Wake-up Call for America

Part of human nature is the propensity to ignore long-term consequences in order to deal with short-term problems. Americans are no exception to this instinct, in fact, we are outliers.  Modern America has cultivated and refined the primal drive for instant gratification, weaving it directly into the DNA of our culture.  As a result, our society is now replete with massive moral contradictions that naturally flow from constantly choosing the easy short-term relief over the painful long-term cure.

We have a problem with drugs, and drug-related crime, and so we decide the best way to deal with the problem is to incarcerate more people than any other country on the face of the Earth.  Not just more people total, but more people per capita than notorious human-rights abusers like China, North Korea and Iran.  The result is that we now have a new slave-labor class of inmates who work in areas ranging from manual labor to telephone customer service for literally pennies a day.  This is a real problem obviously, to say nothing of the fact that when the state releases one of its indentured servants, it piles on the totally unrealistic expectation that convicts will somehow change their criminal behavior when they re-enter a society where they can’t get a job, rent an apartment, or even vote.

But if we trace the crime and drug problem in America, we have to go back to the fact that as a society, we allow people to graduate from high school totally unprepared for life in the real world, without the basic tools that adults need to succeed in a competitive, capitalist society.  Meanwhile, over in fantasyland, politicians spend all the meager attention they pay to education by engaging in a pointless debate as to whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution.  It’s like no one even cares that the average high school graduate has no idea about American History, let alone Science, Economics, or anything else of value in the real world, so long as they get their way on the irrelevant question of whether the world was created by an omnipotent, but somewhat mercurial being, or by a meaningless explosion.

We are leaving an entire generation of Americans forced to choose between working a low-wage, dead-end job or paying five or even six figures to attend a decent college.  Instead of preparing our young people for the challenges of the 21st century, our education system is preparing them for the 26th century world of idiocracy.

But more than either of these things, the problem that most reveals our flaws as a culture is the shameful way we have treated our veterans in the 21st century.  In 2012, the number of active-duty casualties from suicide actually outnumbered the combat deaths in all of Afghanistan, 349-295.   But it’s even worse than that if you look at the number of suicides by America’s veterans.  As of February 4th, TWENTY-TWO veterans kill themselves EVERY DAY.  That’s one EVERY 65 MINUTES.  How could we let these people down like this, to the point where massive numbers have decided their best and only choice is suicide?  This is our wake-up call America.  We must do something about this problem, now, whatever it takes.  And we must do it in a way that considers not just short-term statistical success, but also long-term change, no matter how painful that change may be.  We owe at least that much to the people who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.


For the story of just one of these tragic losses, watch this 60 minutes segment about former Marine Clay Hunt: