The paradigm shift is occurring; the American veteran narrative is changing.
Back in January we posted an article asking military, veterans, and civilians alike to recognize the false narrative that is propagated by the “22 a day” rally cry. The responses fell into two distinct categories; Thank God, I’m So Sick of That Damn Garbage and then How Dare You, You’re Denigrating a Cause with Positive Outcomes.
Recently, Derek Weida posted a solid video on his take of the 22 syndrome, as well as the directions veterans are (and should be) heading. Again, mixed reactions.
Now, war-journal juggernaut and acclaimed author Sebastian Junger through a lengthy Task & Purpose article (that is well worth the read), has contributed to this very-real shift in our cultural attitude toward the veteran in 2016.
The days of victimhood are over. The hypocrisy of being the toughest, best and brightest—yet at the same time needing college freshman CrossFit chicks to do 22 pushups on Instagram to save all our lives is being left with a quivering lip in the rear view. Good riddance.
While problems certainly remain, the VA being high on the list, take a moment to overlay the clear, future-oriented proclamations in Derek’s video, and the two aforementioned articles. I'll highlight a few now—but there are many more;
- taking a hard look at the most recent statistics
- speaking plainly about both financial and cultural incentives to malinger one’s ass off via a PTSD diagnosis
- addressing the possibility of self-fulfillment in the suicide conversation
- talking about the bold disparity between military and civilian life— asserting that an existential adjustment issue grips many veterans (akin to documented reactions of people returning from the Peace Corps)
- and then how 'bout this one; “22 a day” cheese-fest media rarely ever shows the largest demographics at risk—those who never deployed, and our beloved Vietnam vets (often dealing with non-military stressors such as the death of a spouse)? All we see are GWOT types scared of fireworks and/or having Hollywood-grade flashbacks in the grocery store.
Compare all of that—the energy— to the vague fogginess of all the self-inflicted veteran victimization—call it vet lag. Like jet lag. Hell, hashtag it #Vetlag , you are cleared hot. Feel free to put that puppy on the appropriate social media gems.
To be fair, a good chunk of the victim-mongering is well-intentioned. Yes, there are those loose, undefined "they turned their backs on us maaaannnn!" types, but a lot of the time the advocacy is done under the banner of raising awareness.
But lets look at that. The very nature of awareness-raising is to lead to a future step. Raise awareness and then X. The truth is, however, thatX is rarely defined. Usually we just end up seeing more of the same pleas (and occasionally a prompt to buy a related beanie or sports bottle). Awareness has been raised, if that is what you want to still call it. 'Traumatized' and 'Veteran' are practically synonymous these days, and many young combat vets with enough uphill battles still in front of them are more than tired of all the stigmas.
What we are seeing now is a return to accountability. Serious problems deserve equally serious methods to address them. Being afraid to face facts, and avoiding the tougher conversations, are a disservice to those in need. Civilians can’t initiate this. They're too intimidated, it’s too socially taboo, and most just don’t know where to begin.
It must come from us. It is coming from us. Ending this phenomenon of veterans being treated like some protected and endangered species is the most pro-veteran gesture out there. These articles and videos—from different personalities via entirely different mediums—are quite likely just the beginning.