BEVERLY HILLS — Something is driving me crazy lately. I had been trying to think of a way to summarize it, when an article in a large New York newspaper captured the essence of my concern perfectly. The article noted that in Gotham, among the truly rich and self-obsessed, there were now haircuts costing $800 and sometimes more, and that prices for haircuts among the beautiful people were in an upward spiral as more and more well to do men and women competed for the attention of the hairdressers considered le dernier cri in chic.
This article was in the same edition that carried a lengthy and heart-rending story by an embedded correspondent about fighting by a company of U.S. Marines in Falluja. The combat these men had faced was exhausting, terrifying, confused, and brutal. One of every four of the unit’s men was either killed or wounded within a week. Death came violently and suddenly to men described as “popular,” “admired,” and, above all, “young.”
Men barely out of high school, from towns no one near me in Beverly Hills has ever heard of, died from loss of blood after being shot in the leg, from being shot in the face while charging into a fortified mosque, from being shot in the head by snipers. I cannot even imagine the sense of catastrophe that must have overtaken their families.
Now, I am a supporter of President Bush. I voted for him, contributed to him, and campaigned for him, and I would do it again. I don’t think the war is meaningless at all. It has great meaning in terms of suppressing a potential threat to decent people and toppling a vicious regime. I do think we should have had about four times as many men and women in the occupying force as we do, but that is not really what’s tormenting me here.
What bothers me is the stunning inequality of sacrifice in the war on terror. I guess I am old fashioned and a bleeding heart. But it makes me sick that people are spending $800 on a haircut while young Marines are paid very roughly that amount per month to offer up their lives in Falluja or Mosul or Ramadi or Najaf. It is upsetting that young wives are left widows because their husbands are fighting for the nation against terrorists in Iraq, and at the same time, music producers are chartering ocean liners to make an impression at a party. While the mortars rain down on U.S. Army bases in Iraq, the dollars rain down on anyone who owns real estate in a high end neighborhood as the real estate boom roars on, seemingly endlessly.
There is something “unlovely,” to coin a phrase, about such lavish living back on the home front and such drastic suffering in the armed forces. Believe me, I count myself and my family among those not shouldering enough of the burden. And that’s the point. We here at home — unless we have family or close friends in the fight — are doing absolutely nothing to pitch in and help, and that is wrong. Yes, there are fine groups like Soldiers’ Angels that we donate to. And I, as a small scale celebrity, will soon go on a USO tour. But where are the War Bonds’ drives? Where are the higher taxes that high end earners — and I definitely include myself — should be paying, to show solidarity and to help pay for a war that benefits this society that has done so incredibly much for us?
Back here at home, if you don’t read the newspapers or watch TV, it is as if nothing had happened. But something is happening. Our best and bravest are fighting magnificently and sometimes dying. I wish there were some national effort to make us at home reach into ourselves to help — with money, with love and affection for the families, with anything the men and women in the field need. These men and women who are losing their lives are not foreign mercenaries. They are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, and heroes. They do more for us in two minutes on Sinai Street in Falluja than every player in the NBA and every star on every TV show does in a year. Please, Mr. President, think of a way we can help them, make common cause with them, let them know we’re all in it together. It is only common decency.
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