Friday, June 24, 2011

Are Americans in Danger of "Falling Down?"

In the movie “Falling Down” William “D-FENS” Foster, played by Michael Douglass, was an  unemployed divorcee who becomes frustrated with the woes of society and, as a result, goes on a rampage of violent terror in his California town in an effort to right some of these wrongs. He does this in a way that only a psychotic vigilante can. This all day terror spree ends with multiple individuals dead or wounded and of course his own life being taken. In the end, it doesn't pay to lash out against the LAPD, bad day or not. James Richard Verone was a lot smarter and much more polite in his approach, but has displayed the kind of actions that in this ridiculously uncertain time can quickly evolve into more cases like that of “D-FENS!”

Earlier this month Verone, a 59-year old convenient store clerk, walked into a North Carolina bank and handed the cashier a note demanding $1 and medical attention. Afterward, he sat and waited for police to show up.                                                              


James Richard Verone

Like “D-FENS,” Verone had been a productive member of society, working everyday to make a living, paying taxes, voting and just assuming that doing the right thing would ensure that everything would be ok. Unfortunately, reality has a way of reminding us how uncertain our future can become almost overnight. Verone lost his job of 17 years as a Coca-Cola truck driver as a result of the economic downturn. He briefly held down a second truck driving gig and after it ended he took a part-time job as a store clerk. This job, however, required more lifting and standing than his middle aged body could take and his health began to take a turn for the worse. Later he noticed a protrusion on his chest which presented Verone with a high level of pain, beyond what he was able to deal with, but with no medical insurance and not wanting to trouble his siblings, Verone was left with little options as to how to take control of his ailing health. He was so desperate for medical attention that he hatched up the hair brained scheme to rob a bank for $1 and be sent to prison, where he would HAVE to be given medical attention. The fact that prison inmates have insured medical service and everyday working Americans are not is a topic all to itself; a topic however, that does deserve some analysis.

Verone is now behind bars, having been charged with larceny, not bank robbery, since he only demanded $1. He skips meals to avoid contact with other inmates, refuses to pay his $2000 bond, which was reduced from $100,000, and is currently receiving the medical attention he needs.

If anyone has ever sat in a holding cell overnight, or god forbid, had to spend any substantial period of time incarcerated, then you know that prison is not the kind of place where you go for 3 hots and a cot. For Verone to intentionally get himself incarcerated to receive medical treatment means that he was either a sick and very desperate man that did what he had to do in order to keep his health in tact or that he is a very mentally sick and desperate man that had an emotional meltdown not too far from the meltdown that “D-FENS” had. 

But I digress.

Verone says he hopes to have foot and chest surgery while incarcerated, spend a few years behind bars and, once released, move to the beach.  

Are we the fools? Are those of us who work hard everyday and stress about job security, mortgage payments and medical bills foolish for doing so while people like Verone, tired of feeding the machine, give in (or should I say give up)? Or is Verone a desperate victim? Do you expect that more law breaking acts such as this or possibly worse could begin occurring more frequently because of the current climate of disparity in this country?

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