I find myself somewhere in between, which may surprise some of you. I do think that Carl makes some valid points, both in this article and the previous one that caused such a stir, about a certain attitude of entitlement in today’s military community. I also vehemently disagree with some of the points he has made. At the end of the day, I support his right to express his views through his writing.
Let me start with the words with which I don’t have a major difference of opinion.
Carl is right. There is a sense of entitlement in the military community. It took me a while to see this. Every single day I see the very best that the military community has to offer; I am surrounded by the most influential leaders in the military spouse world and the service members and veterans I know are incredible individuals. But in order to truly advocate for any community, you must also be willing to listen to those who have not had positive experiences. We have all heard the stories, many of us have experienced them first hand. Yes, there are those in the military community who behave poorly or have an elevated sense of entitlement.
I also agree with Carl when he says, “Just because veterans have served doesn’t make them or their families perfect.” Absolutely. Veterans and their family members are human, and therefore not perfect.
He also makes an important point that “the military community faces bonfire, serious issues.” He is right, again. Those are the things we should be focused on.
Unfortunately those important points he makes are lost in a sea of sentiments that many feel are just plain wrong and presented in a way that I find to be somewhat angry.
Mr. Forsling states, “Policing our own begins with correcting those embarrassing the military community.” The problem with this is two-fold. First of all, who is going to define these acts of embarrassment? The military community is diverse. What I may find embarrassing, is quite normal and acceptable to the next person. Secondly, the concept that we should “police our own” sounds a whole lot like expecting people to be responsible for the behaviors of others, simply because they share an affiliation.
It is only my job to police myself, my children and perhaps close friends or family on occasion. If I know someone well and they are acting a fool, it might be appropriate for me to talk to them about it… and I might appreciate that in return. But, in no way, is it my job, or Mr. Forsling’s job, to police strangers behavior simply because he happens to be in the same community. Our military and their families have just as much right to not be perfect human beings as everyone else in this country. Frankly, I find the concept that any of us should police our neighbor to be the very definition of entitlement.
Let’s talk about entitlement for a moment.
Is there a sense of entitlement in the military community? Sure. But why? Carl argues that “Today, we’ve overcorrected, and now just being critical of anyone or anything military is regarded as practically taboo.” I disagree. Entitlement is a problem across the board in ALL facets of American culture, and I believe that absolutely extends to our military community. We are no more overly sensitive than any other group around. We are expecting a correction of behavior from the military that we are not demanding across the board.
Actually, it has been my experience that the majority of veterans and their families are incredibly hard working, service-oriented individuals. A bit opposite of entitled. It is also my experience that the civilian community does not see our military community as having a sense of “overactive entitlement.” That seems to be a label we have created among ourselves.
But there are those few bad apples, right?
This is where I think I disagree with Mr. Forsling the most. He claims that those military affiliated folks who are behaving badly are making the entire military community look bad. “The individuals acting like jackasses in public are truly the individuals harming the community at large, not those who talk about them.”
Actually… most people wouldn’t have a clue about these “jackasses” if writers were not writing articles in an attempt to police them. If there were not facebook groups dedicated to “publicly shaming” people who behave in an unsavory manner by calling them out for an audience of thousands.
And when these folks are called out, people claim that their behavior is somehow proof that stereotypes are based in some kind of reality. No. Stereotyping says everything about the person doing it and NOTHING about the group that is being placed into one box because of the behavior of a few. If I look at a person and assume they will act a certain way based on the color or their skin, for example, that only shows my unwillingness to look at people as individuals. And that says a whole lot about me. Again, we should not place any blame or responsibility on anyone other than the person behaving badly. Period.
But there is one last thing I do finding myself agreeing with. “As a community, we need to focus on actual issues, not perceived slights.” Absolutely. I suspect that I read that sentence a little differently than Mr. Forsling intended. With all of the many problems facing our community, why would writers or individuals continue to focus on the bad behavior, sense of entitlement, or jackassery of a few people? Why wouldn’t we focus on supporting our veterans and their families with our vote? Why wouldn’t we focus on providing resources to help those with serious issues? Why wouldn’t we focus on starting conversations about how we can navigate the military life from start to finish and beyond? Why wouldn’t we respond to a narrative that turns people off because it sounds angry and a bit on the bitter side?
Mr. Forsling, I submit to you that all of this IS happening and happening in a big way. I submit to you that you might be contributing to the larger image issue of the military you are convinced we are faced with, by using your platform to try and police the "problem." Many of the “critics” that made you feel like you couldn’t speak on this subject have dedicated their lives to advocating for the military community. They care for it deeply, as I am sure you do too. We are not blind to the few bad apples, but choose to focus on the many, many good people in our community. We may disagree with some of what you say, but still appreciate your service to this nation and your willingness to engage in conversation by sharing your views.
Dear Carl Fosling: I may disagree with many of your words… but I fully support your freedom to say them. You are right, our veterans are not “delicate flowers” who need to “be protected from even imaginary slights.” As a soon to be veteran yourself, I have no doubt that the same applies to you. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to support and advocate for the real and serious issues within the military community.
Many Kind Regards,