Sean Sullivan - Hallwalker
ForeignPolicy recently posted @stephenwalt's latest column titled "Two Chief Petty Officers walk into a Bar..." A twitter post by Foreign Policy stated "@ForeignPolicy: America used to love laughing at the military. When did it become so taboo?" While I fully believe this touches on a much broader issue regarding polarization of our society towards the extreme, I want to focus on the main theme of the article mentioned above which, broadly speaking, speaks to the way people act towards and treat those in the military. Given my nationality and experience, I can only speak about the American people and military. In my opinion, we as Americans have become so uptight that no one can joke or have an opinion about anything without being ruthlessly attacked. We used to be laid back, ingenious mother f*ckers, that could joke about everyone and everything while still consistently over-achieving in everything from entertainment to science and innovation to the corporate world. I also feel like this polarization has conditioned more people to lose that fundamental respect they had for their fellow man (and yes, I mean it in the human kind respect which encompasses woman as well). There have always been certain individuals who never had that respect like those scum that spat in the faces of returning Vietnam vets, but there is a special place in hell for those types.
All that said, I want to concentrate on the Foreign Policy column. As a little insight into my thought process here, I believe there are 3 mindsets of people who join the military. These are not absolute and many people have a combination. First, those that have a deep respect for this country and want to give back to this great nation based on the idea that we should remain free. They completely believe that everyone is entitled to LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS (notice that says pursuit... It doesn't say stand around and demand it be given to you). The second mindset is the people who feels they have no future where they are. College isn't really an option (or at least not at this point in their lives) and they want to find a new path and believe in the mission of the military. The third is more focused than the second in that all they want is the GI Bill and don't necessarily agree with the full objective of the military. For your information, the ultimate objective of the military (when put into action) is to "put warheads on the foreheads of our enemies". This was defined by one of the leadership courses I took while serving. This third group is offended by that definition and, once in the military, rationalizes that they are not part of that objective.
News flash - if you are admin, you pay those that do. If you are in the medical side, you rehabilitate or keep those that do healthy so they can continue that objective.
Obviously I digress a little (ok, a lot) finally to the point of this post: in my opinion, we have lost our sense of humor as a nation. This is because people have made common sense, irony, and the humorous, essentially anathema. There are so many things in and around the military that are absolutely hilarious! There is so much irony and so much that makes no sense but they are what they are. As a (former) military member i dealt with the bullshit, strife, and hilarity because I wanted to. No? Yes... It's a completely voluntary military. Sarcasm and humor are some of the more "healthy" outlets members use to relieve stress. You want to make some Jarhead's day? Make them laugh.
Intent is everything. If your intent is to pull humor from a situation, DO IT!! If your intent is to defame or degrade, standby because one thing the military, as a group of past/present/future members, doesn't put up with, is attacking it's brothers and sisters. We fight dirty and you may not walk away whole.
Here is something that may be a little off-putting, but don't take offense; just read on. We (speaking as a former member) feel a little uncomfortable when thanked for doing what we feel is a duty; a thing that we feel is right and true and just. Don't get me wrong, as a veteran of the military and the CIA, I sincerely appreciate the sentiment of a stranger thanking service members for our service but we want it to be from people who feel like we are one of you and not resulting from some unfounded idolization.
You may not be aware of this but many of us fear coming home. We forgot what it is like to be a part of normal culture. We know that normal life has moved on without us and we will be an outsider when we get home, hopefully only for a short time. We forgot what its like to be part of our family. We need to feel like we are actually home again. We need comedy! We need to feel like you are a friend that can say hello, thank you, kiss my ass, and tell us a joke.
Tell us how much you've always wanted to try galley/chow hall food. Ask us why it is that the Military branches can't get their shit together and all make our chevrons go the same way. Ask us why if the Navy has chiefs, their junior enlisted aren't called Indians? I've heard so many different mil jokes (only getting into the benign here) but they are all funny; well most anyway. Our nation has forgotten what a healthy sense of humor is and it is about time we found it again; especially about our military! Thank you Mr. Walt for bringing up this topic. This was probably not the intent of your piece and you may have a few choice words for me after this but I appreciate the coattails.
Finally, let me be clear - respect our military; they give up a normal life for poor pay, no place to truly call home and many times, adapt to a daily life of extreme danger. That said, we are normal people that fully volunteer to do that job (granted, we may be a little crazy but what's a little crazy among friends?). Respect us and if you choose, thank us, but part of why most of us fight and sometimes die is so you can keep your sense of humor and live the American dream. If we lose that perspective then we have fought for nothing.