The answer may surprise you.
Our National Anthem. Olympic athletes. Colin Kaepernick. Old glory. Our constitutional right to protest peacefully. The American military. It is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid these topics online or in the workplace, and there are no lukewarm opinions about any of them.
Our society is either passionately opposed to or in staunch support of the movement Colin Kaepernick ignited a few years back by taking a knee during the National Anthem at NFL football games. Those against it claim that Kaepernick's protest was a slap in the face to all who have served in the armed forces, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion. How do our veterans feel about it, though?
The simple answer: they feel a diverse range of things, because they are all different people.
There is something that the general public (especially those who have not served) needs to understand about the veteran community: Veterans are all unique individuals. Veterans are human beings with wide-ranging beliefs and backgrounds. We are not all the same. We are not some homogeneous hive mind. We have different thought processes and opinions. Making generalizations about what we think or how we feel is insensitive at the least and sometimes downright offensive.
Don’t touch that dial, folks -- this is what they called a bait-and-switch.
I have never seen diversity in the workplace or elsewhere like I saw during my time in the service. In my estimation, the military derives a majority of its strength from its diversity. I've seen people of every size, shape, color, gender, orientation, and origin in service to our great nation, working together to achieve a common goal. The American military is exceptionally diverse, and veterans need to be given the respect of being treated accordingly.
If you find yourself making sweeping statements like, "veterans think _____," "veterans feel _____," or (my least favorite personally), "veterans should feel _____," you should stop immediately, especially if you haven't served. This behavior constitutes what I like to call "civiliansplaining."
Granted, all veterans are united by the fact that they served, and by all means you should appreciate the qualities that most veterans embody by virtue of their service. Many of us do share traits and characteristics. But please don't make comments or assumptions about our opinions or thought processes.
If you find yourself making sweeping statements like, "veterans think _____," "veterans feel _____," or (my least favorite personally), "veterans should feel _____," you should stop immediately, especially if you haven't served.
If you did serve and have a strong opinion on the kneeling athlete controversy, that's great! Before you rant on Facebook, though, please consider how diverse our military members are and that you couldn't possibly represent all of us or our opinions. If you have a veteran friend that completely agrees with you on this matter, that's great, too! I'm glad you have found common ground, and I'm sure you have had some great dialogues about it. But your friend is not the Emperor of Veterans. He/she doesn't speak for all of us, and we don't need you to try to speak for us either.
Many in our community need your help, though. Instead of spending time getting into an argument about all of this online, why not try taking all of that energy and direct it towards volunteering for a veteran serving organization? And if you want to burn your Nikes, that is absolutely your prerogative, but do it because you want to, not on our behalf collectively. Before you do, though, I only ask you to consider that there are a lot of barefoot homeless veterans out there that would love a nice pair of shoes. Though I don’t want to make a generalization myself, I'm sure you could find some of them who won't care what brand they are.
This article is an appeal to those who spend time online "defending" veterans against what they perceive to be an insult to our service. We're good, thanks. Please stop.