I just want to point out how spoiled I am. Yeah, I'm an amputee, and no, it's not what I would have picked for myself given a better set of choices. BUT:
- To my great horror and revulsion, my country has been at war for over two years now. Every day the lives and limbs of people young, middle-aged and old, wearing uniforms for the United States, for other countries, and not wearing uniforms at all, are being stolen by this violence for which only a relatively few people actively agitated. I did not lose my leg this way.
- In Albania, one of the very poorest countries in Europe, farmers, their family members and their livestock regularly step on land mines left behind on their property by strangers. In a documentary I saw on PBS, an old, impoverished farmer told how in the previous year he had lost a leg with one step and then the other leg with the next step -- boom! boom! -- that fast. He was shown in his village, sitting among friends and neighbors, all of whom were also landmine amputees. According to that documentary, even if people like him live through the experience, there is no posh rehab hospital for them to go to in their own country, very little transportation available to whatever rehab can actually be provided them, and it will probably take them at least seven months to be fit with their first prosthetics which, due to financial considerations, will also probably be the only ones they ever receive. After that, they will still have nothing more than rocky farms from which to eke out a meager living. These are largely noncombatants trying to live through debris left behind from a war they did not start and which has supposedly been over for years. After all the wars of the '90s, Albanians are not the only Europeans to be suffering in these ways, just some of those in direst straits. I am not one of them. I did not lose my leg this way.
- Children in Viet Nam still step on land mines my country's soldiers left behind (along with some arms and legs of their own) almost half a century ago. I've never even been west of Hawaii.
- I do not have leprosy, nor did my parents or some "beggar master" to whom they sold me maim me so that I would always be able to make a living, mostly for someone else, begging in a gutter in a disease-ridden city of some third-world country.
- In Israel, one of the smallest countries in the world, people have been shooting and blowing the limbs off each other for almost as long as I've been alive, even though individuals of every ethnicity there, when asked, profess to desire peace. The most war I've seen up close was in a town where I used to live where people used to come camp out every year on Memorial Day and perform a Civil War reenactment. I never saw them reenact any amputations.
Neither victim nor valorous, it has not been my misfortune to suffer any of these outrageous circumstances, but it has been and continues to be the misfortune of many. The misfortune of the many amputees who came before me, so many of them victims of war even after war has ended, not to mention the person-to-person evil that comes from hunger, disease, ignorance and a lack of viable choices, remains for me unreal and largely incomprehensible, yet the bravery, hard work and intelligence over generations of so many of these people and all the people who have helped them have contributed to why I don't suffer terribly. I only wish that these kinds of suffering could be stopped, that there could be balm for every victim, and an end to violence whether instigated by politics or sanctioned by personal economics.
It's not just my wish but the fervent wish of many others as well. Here are some organizations working to make it come true:
The purpose of the Barr Foundation Amputee Assistance Fund is "to purchase prosthetic limbs for amputees who cannot otherwise afford them."
The Center for International Rehabilitation "is a worldwide humanitarian network of individuals and organizations that promote the full potential of people with disabilities through education, innovation, and advocacy.... The CIR develops prosthetic devices, wheelchairs, and rehabilitation techniques that lower the cost and improve the accessibility of care for people with disabilities in low-income countries. Through its Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center..., CIR designs these mobility aids so that they can be made locally in low-income countries using materials tha are widely available and cost a fraction of the price of traditional devices.... As a part of the 'Wheelchairs for Afghanistan' program, the CIR has collaborated with Ralf Hotchkiss, a renowned wheelchair designer with Whirlwind Wheelchair International..., to design a wheelchair that is equipped to navigate the difficult terrain of Afghanistan." (And so much more. You must take a look.)
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières "delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation."
Homes for Our Troops builds homes for American soldiers disabled in war and their families.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies helps wounded disaster and war victims of every nation in every circumstance where it is allowed, "promoting humanitarian principles and values," providing "disaster response" and "disaster preparedness," and "health and care in the community."
"The Mission of the Limbs for Life Foundation is to benefit amputees by providing comfortable and fully functional prosthetic care for individuals who cannot otherwise afford it."
"Physicians Against Land Mines is a nongovernmental organization whose mission is to end the death, dismemberment and disability caused by land mines."
"The U. S. Campaign to Ban Landmines is a coalition of approximately 500 U.S.-based human rights, humanitarian, faith-based, children's, peace, disability, veterans', medical, development, academic, and environmental organizations dedicated to a total ban on antipersonnel landmines. It is one of 90 country campaigns that form the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). The ICBL, launched in 1992 works to bring about a global ban on antipersonnel landmines. In 1997, the ICBL and its coordinator, Jody Williams, received the Nobel Prize for Peace for their work banning landmines."