I know there are quite a few international visitors to this blog. And from my concert tours I am aware that many of you have a hard time understanding how American culture is changing.
You might be interested in the story the New York Times
ran yesterday about Sam Ross, because this story says so much about America and Americans.
Sam grew up poor. The class divide has grown substantially here.
He has no contact with his mother, and his father is serving a life sentence for murdering his stepmother. His grandfather mentally and physically abused him. Family violence is rampant in American culture.
Many of his family members are either prisoners or prison guards. Prisons are a huge growth industry here, and Sam's family is participating as both vendor and customer. The US has more prisoners per capita than any country in the world. In some places, working in prison and doing something that will eventually make you a prisoner are the only job opportunities.
Sam joined the US Army after seeing an ad for it on TV.Two thirds of children in this country watch two or more hours per day. One quarter watch four or more hours per day.
After Sam was wounded in Iraq he was in a comma for a month. He woke up to learn that he had lost one leg, the hearing in one ear, and the sight in both eyes. Since then he has had 20 surgeries. “Five on my right eye, one on my left eye, two or three when they cut my left leg off, three or four on my right leg, a couple on my throat, skin grafts, chest tubes and, you know, one where they gutted me from belly button to groin” to remove metal fragments from his intestines.
Sam went back to the trailer he father murdered his stepmother in. He attempted suicide 17 times. He tried to check himself in to a mental hospital. Then he burned the trailer down, for which he was charged with assault, attempted homicide, and arson. His bail was set a $250,000 cash, which of course he could not pay, so he was put in an isolation cell, where he tried to hang himself.Here we are back at the prison industry. Returning Iraq war veterans are a very promising market for the vendors of prison services.
This story is sad. Unbelievably sad. But the saddest thing about the whole sad story is Sam’s description of how he felt when he joined Army and thought it was going to be his ticket out of poverty, violence, a life watching TV, and becoming a prison guard his only good career option:“It was like, ‘Wow, man, I was born for the Army. I was an adrenaline junkie. I was super, super fit. I craved discipline. I wanted adventure. I was patriotic. I loved the bonding. And there was nothing that I was feared of. I mean, man, I was made for war.”
People from elsewhere on this planet can learn a lot about America today by closely examining that sad statement.See NYT article here.