“The devil is a lie.” -Rick Ross
Last week, I witnessed our veteran community come together in a rarely precedented show of cohesion and support. Veterans from all across the country, from all eras, bonded and combined their strength in order to combat a grave insult to our legacy.
Yeah, the veteran community came together via social media in protest of a shirt.
The shirt depicted a silhouette of basketball players erecting a street hoop in the fashion of the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Veterans came out in droves to scream and cry at what they deemed a slight against them by the shirt’s manufacturer. Sensitivity glared like an exposed nerve as vets slammed the image, saying it was disrespectful and it somehow made light of the sacrifice of those killed on Iwo Jima.
The shirt was eventually pulled from production and a public apology letter was issued. Cheers of victory filled the interwebs from Twitter to Instagram. Social media rang with “Yut! Yut!”, “Semper Fi,” and “we did it brothers, strength in numbers!”
I give a slow clap to our community for their efforts. Congrats. You got a shirt pulled from production from a company that supports veterans in some of the most tangible ways possible. Way to fucking go. 22 guys kill themselves every day, the VA is STILL riddled with corruption and negligence, society and the administration is starting the process of turning their backs on us, and a SHIRT is what you banded together for. I hope you’re beyond proud of yourselves. I GUARANTEE the Iwo Jima survivors have better things to do than worry about a shirt. They’re busy basking in their victory and trying to find ways to haul around those mondo balls.
This brought to light a much wider issue. HNIC and I discussed this and agreed that it’s something that needs to be addressed. It’s what has been dubbed “Veteran Outrage Syndrome”, and it effects our community just as much as PTSD and TBI. It’s something that is serving to further alienate our community from society. It is the belief that being a veteran somehow entitles you to the right to offend everyone else but it’s a grievous sin for someone to offend you. It is the implication that being a veteran of the U.S. military makes you superior in your sensibilities. No one can speak out against you and your opinions because, “Godammit, I’m a veteran!” Any opposing voice is met with accusations questioning everything from your citizenship to your service experience in an attempt to circumvent any logic in the viewpoint that has transcended their baseline dichotomy.
We all know these vets… “I love to get upset about things I have no control over!!! Fuck yeah!! Then I’m gonna subject everyone in my newsfeed to my obtuse, ignorant, and blind anger!!! Fuck yeah!!! I’m angry every damn day online!!! MURICA!!! You KNOW that means I’m a bad ass!!! And if you don’t like it that just means you’re a PUSSY!!!! And if you don’t agree with me FUCK YOU!!!” #FromGunfightsToInternetFights
With the advent of social media, veterans have began to slowly assimilate into a kind of “hive mind” mentality. It makes complete sense considering the thing that ties us together is our experiences within an institution that IS a hive mind. It’s what most know and remain comfortable in the continuation of the practice. This mentality has managed to stifle free speech and critical thinking in place of blind anger towards…well…just about anything. That’s rather sheep-like behavior coming from a bunch of dudes calling themselves “sheepdogs.”
News feeds are bombarded almost daily with disgruntled veterans cursing their brains out at images of people stomping on the flag, or a screenshot of some misguided idiot voicing their off-color opinion of our armed forces. Some share these images, while other, more vitriolic rhetoric calls for the offender’s heads on a pike. The OAF Facebook inbox and wall are constantly messaged with more of the same with people saying “make them famous” or “blow this motherfucker up.” My answer to that is usually: why? So we can perpetuate their momentum? Think about it: 12 years ago if someone burned a flag, it MIGHT have made a 10 second blurb on the local news. Now, with social media what it is, those ridiculous displays of free speech are shared and shared and shared until they become “viral”, which ironically is EXACTLY what these protestors want. But, I digress.
I find it coincidental that the same people that publicly vent their anger against flag-stomping and someone saying “fuck the military” are also the same people daring the U.S. government to come take their guns. They stand tall, wearing an over-produced t-shirt proclaiming that they’re “defending the Constitution” and that their oath of enlistment has “no expiration date.” These barrel-chested, freedom fighters post statuses bashing gays and transexuals in the military, women in the infantry, make fun of people getting hurt, and point out incessantly that America is getting “too sensitive” and “politically correct.” However, a shirt comes out and they raise their collective knife hands. They bash everyone and everything non-veteran in their path and throw their military service in peoples faces as if it’s a Royal Flush in the card game of life. Yet when something to their distaste comes around, they are the most vocal in their offense. It’s funny to think that they want to defend the rights the Constitution affords, unless it offends them, then they make it a viral campaign. However, the guy that posts about the VA or suicide gets little to no attention because it isn’t enraging enough, nor does it adequately validate ones status as a veteran.
All this type of hypocritical outrage does is make us look like idiots, further segregating us from the society we bash, the soft society we claim “doesn’t understand us.” Banding together is awesome, but I think instead of giving in to VOS and hopping on the hate bandwagon, we need to step back and really pick our battles. The sooner we realize that we’re not the only ones entitled to free speech, that being a veteran garners respect, not superiority, and that there are more important things going on, the more we’ll see visible change. We can change the way veterans as a whole are perceived and portrayed. We can enact change in the care we are given. We can change the landscape of society thru the veteran community itself. Or, we can keep embarrassing ourselves and prevent shirts from being made.