Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Word For "Generic Concept"

This from an Anonymous commenter on the last post:

The crazy vet is a generic concept. It's like the "Postal" guy. While a Middle Easterner or an Arab or a Muslim is an actual guy. There are actual kids and families who are Arab, Muslims from the Middle East.

Behind every veteran identity (Marine, Ranger, Soldier, Sailor, etc.) is an actual identity, that is off limit.

Most law enforcement are military veterans, I think they know what they need to prepare for.

That's exactly what I'm talking about. It shouldn't be a "generic concept." It has been made that way by a meme that has been started and supported by anecdotal evidence; by such things as Lizette Alvarez's slanted reporting in the New York Times. She's not the only one; she's just my poster child. A word for "generic concept" is stereotype.

The same could be said of the Arab stereotype. Each Arab has their own story, their own history, their own experiences, their own trials and tribulations. Take this logic and turn it the other direction and it works just as well. As a matter of fact, in the original article I wrote about, the law enforcement officer wondered if he might offend the ethnic group by stereotyping them, but gave not a thought to training children to shoot a veteran and depicting the bad guy as a veteran; as if that were completely inoffensive and rational.

We are a country of images. Someone pointed out recently that many Americans have little contact with this war or the men and women who are fighting it. The image of the "crazy vet" has taken hold to the point that when a cop is tasked with coming up with a training scenario, he dreams up a crazy murdering vet. That is completely unacceptable.

Completely unacceptable.

There are no other words for it. It's no understandable. It's not accurate. It's stigmatizing, and while people like Lizette Alvarez couch their writings as "bringing attention to the plight of the veteran" as if they really give a damn, they are doing more harm than help by a far sight.

Most law enforcement are military veterans, I think they know what they need to prepare for.

No, many law enforcement officers are military veterans, but I don't believe that most of them are. And no, I don't think they do know what they need to prepare for. I'll bet you a quarter that the Border Patrol Agent who dreamed up that nifty little scenario isn't a vet. With cross-border kidnappings and murders happening on a fairly frequent basis, I'd think that they could come up with a more realistic scenario. In fact, in the general geographic area where these men operate, there have been hostage situations involving drug traffickers barricading themselves in houses with competitors held hostage. Those are realistic scenarios, and things that the Border Patrol may have to deal with.

Perhaps they don't want to stereotype drug dealers.

What struck me about this comment is the matter-of-fact way that someone who has come to accept the meme justifies this subtle form of abuse as completely reasonable.

Lizette's work is nearly complete.

Here are the facts; you are less likely to be harmed by a veteran than a non-veteran. We are not "victims." There are a tiny tiny tiny minority with chips on their shoulders who participate in such jackassery as IVAW and their ridiculous "Winter Soldier" displays. They cry out in some crazy mimicry of "victimhood," but for the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of us who don't participate in such bullshit, they are the complete dorks of the veteran world. Many of them have been thoroughly discredited, and some have proven to be frauds. All of them will live forever in shame before the rest of us.

We are not victims. We are not crying babies. We are grown adults who have made the choice to stand between this nation and whatever danger presents itself, even if there are sheeple who don't believe that the danger is there.

I see a lot of honorable people dealing with the effects, physical or otherwise, of their sacrifices for their country, only to have writers with beautiful prose and oafish motives cast aspersions on them en mass with manipulated data and piteous cries of how they "care." These honorable veterans are not moaning in victimhood, nor are they dangerous. They are the people who, if anyone's life was in danger, would be most likely to endanger their own lives to protect that stranger. These are people who very often give of themselves, of their own time, their own efforts and their own money to make a difference; and they do make a difference. They are the ones who find ways to personally contribute to making the lives of wounded warriors better, instead of moaning about how "someone" or "the government" or "they" should take better care of our veterans. These veterans are the ones who are not so overwhelmed by the dichotomy between war and patient caring that they shirk it off for someone else to do something, satisfied with their acceptance of an ignorant stereotype.

"Generic concept" is exactly what I'm talking about.

So, what Anon is saying is, "Hey, it's only a stereotype. Behind the stereotype identity is an actual identity, and that's off limits."

Errr... what?

Never mind that it doesn't make a lot of sense, or that the whole thing is contradictory. What this says to me is, "Yeah, it's become a stereotype, but don't worry about it. It's just like stereotyping Postal workers because of all the workplace killings. As long as you have your actual identity, then you can just withdraw from your military identity and you're just fine." The thing is, it's not fine. In this country where intolerance is unacceptable, in this country where stereotyping is decried... when it is against a group for whom sensitivity is bred in the media... we are sliding down a slippery slope towards demonizing and victimizing those who have demonstrated commitment to this country, and it's led by the media. Those who have sacrificed their safe easy chair in their living rooms, those who have sacrificed time with their families, firsts for their children including the births of those children, those who have lost friends and given of themselves are becoming the accepted bogey man of training scenarios as if it were simply a matter of course.

Regardless of what the facts say.

We have the Department of Homeland Security writing opinions that returning veterans are a threat to domestic security, and instead of some great hue and cry against it (except from veterans groups themselves,) there is, "Hey, it's okay... law enforcement knows what they're doing."

Nice, people. Really nice.

Now, I've been thanked personally by more Americans than I can count; these are people who are not going to listen to such claptrap. Many of them are veterans themselves, or have family members who have served or are serving. They cannot be turned against the veterans. It's the other, larger, portion of the population who can be influenced by images and repetitive, subtle messages that are at risk of buying into the imagery that is being created. As a matter of fact, the comment that this post regards is a great example that the unacceptable is being accepted.

I saw the slope, and I pointed it out, and we are well down it right now. The only answer is to react with vigor every time the stereotype is forwarded. When there is significant pushback whenever such a falsehood is advanced, there will be a little more thought put into a concept, instead of the lazy acceptance of a stereotype.

My brother returned from Vietnam to people waiting to shower him with dog feces and epithets. I have not had that experience, nor will I tolerate it while I have the words to fight back with. The Deer Hunter didn't come out of the blue; it was a culmination of the distrust that developed between the country they had served and the veterans of that war. It started with stereotyping and demonizing. It resulted in the largescale casting of Vietnam veterans as hapless victims. There are groups at work here in the United States whose business it is to create that same divide. Their tactic is to shape the vocabulary of the current conflict. They resolutely use certain terms, paint pictures and advance stereotypes in order to further their ideas. My tiny voice will not likely stem this tide, but I will not sit silently by as my cohorts and I are cast in a suspicious light in the very country we have risked our all for.


  1. When I read what you posted, I wrote a really long reply (including what I think of IVAW), but I was afraid it didn't make as much clear sense as yours. So, thank you for what you wrote.

    Best I can do is talk to people -- which basically I would talk to a rock if it would stand still for me -- and be open about the soldiers and the fact that they are PEOPLE. They're just people who happen to be willing to fight for their country.

  2. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that stereotyping veterans as loonies is not right, any type of negative stereotyping for that matter.

    I'm just comparing your use of the concept of identity. Your military identity and an actual cultural identity are two very different things.

    When I say 'generic' what I mean is that your identity as a soldier or veteran is something that can be left behind when you re-enter civilian life. How you utilize this luxury is up to you. Some people like sporting a Ranger haircut and wear military T-shirts everywhere they go, others blend with the general population.

    An Arab, a Muslim, doesn't have that luxury.

    As for law enforcement, their job is similar to yours, they have to prepare for every possible scenario. There have been quite a few veterans that have committed violent acts in the past. They're just preparing for this possibility.

    Unlike the civilian world, stereotyping (criminal profiling, positive stereotyping) in law enforcement is used to prevent crimes. As long as they stay within the laws, it's fine by me.


    "Small" update on an IVAW star.

  4. Anonymous,
    You say you can just leave 4 years - 20 years of service behind you easily. That is not true for a civilian job so how could that be true for those who serve this country. What surrounds you becomes you.

  5. I understand that, Sanmon. But being a soldier for 20 yrs at the age of 18 or 22, is very different from being Arab, Muslim from birth to death. When Arabs or Muslims complain about bias, it's a little different compared to a military person's complaint, who in the end has a primary identity. That's the identity we need to prioritizes here, not one's occupational identity.

    But keep in mind this "crazed" veteran scenario is as much alive in the military more so than in the civilian world. At least in the civilian world, they don't make you wear a bright orange crossing guard vest. But this is an entirely different topic, I hope Bill and Bob can touch on.

  6. I think that the 'stereotypical deranged gun-loving psycho vet' has been a simple media campaign pushed by the leftist / socialist US media since Vietnam days... they haven't changed it, still the same lame efforts.
    BUT in the last ten years or so, partially due to Pres. Bush'v visits to the troops with camera coverage, AND due to the large numbers of returning vets whom people see in everyday life, the media's smear campaign is less and less convincing.
    These days it seem almost everyone knows someone who served in the sandbox or the 'stan, and they KNOW that the guys and gals they see in their towns are not all crazed psychos ready to explode.
    Yes, a lot of folks DO being back baggage... that is hard to avoid, whatever the conflict platform. But I think the media's 'hate the vets and the guns they own' campaign is failing more and more every day. Thank God for that!
    PS - to all who have served- mil or civilian - God bless you and thanks for your service.


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