“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cultural Competence and the Growing Split

There is a short but good article here on the challenges faced by non-military mental health providers in dealing with military patients. This certainly reflects things I've found in my own experience.

But it also reflects a change in our society as a whole. One that I think will lead to many other problems as time goes by.

There is a growing rift between the military and veterans and the rest of American society.

I don't mean this in terms of beliefs, or politics, or social mores (though all of those are certainly a factor). I mean simply in terms of common ground and the ability to relate, empathize and interact.

Without doing more research than I'm inclined to, I'll only take my observations back to the World War II generation - though my gut and history classes would lead me to think you could certainly take it further. When discussing the "Greatest Generation" it was not at all uncommon for a family to have one or more members who had served in the military in some fashion; and if they hadn't than there was certainly a neighbor or friend in the community who had. Which leads to shared experiences and common ground. To kids hearing war stories from a favorite uncle, young men asking for advice before embarking on their own journeys, or business transactions lubricated through veteran's conversations. It led to politicians, whether local or national, who had served in the uniform of the troops they were then going to order into harm's way. In short, "veterans" were a part of the communities they lived in, rather than something unusual. And, whether for a tour or a career, military service was seen as something to be proud of (and as a SERVICE) rather than something to hide.

Vietnam, the end of the draft, and the transition to a volunteer military force started to change that. An unpopular war, a shift in national outlook and other factors led to soldiers being viewed as "different" somehow. Whether labeled as misfits, killers, or rejects who weren't "smart enough" for the regular world, those who entered the military were no longer seen as serving the nation as a whole, but as tools of some nebulous political/industrial complex, as proxies for profit rather than protectors of the oppressed.

Fast forward to the modern age. The military, while still all-volunteer has become a truly separate entity in most people's lives. Fewer than 1% of the population are veterans these days, and even the Pentagon states that 70% of modern American youth would be ineligible for military service due to health, education, or criminal convictions. The political class? Completely disconnected - the barest fraction of our representatives have any military service, much less in time of war. And we have thus entered the era where to be a veteran is a strange thing, where the men and women who go into harm's way for our nation are seen as being an "unusual" group, and where our medical system needs special training in order to even relate to them as a whole.

Some of you may be disputing this - "My friends and I are all veterans," "There are plenty of people in my family/town/job who served," and the like. But these are clusters (I know, because I'm in one of them). Certain professions, rural communities, and yes, even family traditions are represented more heavily amongst veterans than others. In some cases this is because a tradition of service remains, in others it is due to an affinity between career paths. But, I challenge you to go to a major city and conduct the same survey - you'll find the percentages reflect what I am discussing.

This is sad and this is dangerous. It is sad because we have a complete disconnect - the men and women who are sacrificing their years, their bodies and their lives for a nation come home to a place which they no longer relate to. And the communities which receive them are challenged to interact with a group they cannot understand. The politicians spend the lives of these troops, they cut back on equipment, training and benefits for the people who protect our nation, all without the slightest concept of who these service members are.

And it is dangerous, because a military which sees itself as separate from the people, as unappreciated or unwanted, is a military capable of acts against the society they are meant to preserve. Capable of being exploited by generals or politicians or internal drives to "make things right." Which also goes against the very foundations of our nation, and holds the potential for vast abuse.

Do I have the perfect solution? Of course not. But Heinlein's thoughts on service connected to citizenship certainly provide an option.

Either way we owe it to our warriors and to ourselves to find the common ground again, to bring these men and women home and let them truly feel at home. To understand the concept of sacrifice for a greater good, and a chance at peace when it is done.


Centurions were the guardians of Rome. At the height of the Roman Republic there were over five thousand qualified Roman Centurions in the Legions. To be a Centurion required that, in a mostly illiterate society, one be able to read and write clearly, to be able to convey and create orders, to be capable of not only performing every skill of a Roman soldier but teach every skill of a Roman soldier.

Becoming a Centurion required intense physical ability, courage beyond the norm, years of sacrifice and a total devotion to the philosophy which was Rome.

When Rome fell to barbarian invaders, there were less than five hundred qualified Centurions. Not because Rome had fewer people but because it had fewer willing to make the sacrifices. And the last Centurions left their shields in the heather and took a barbarian bride…

- John Ringo


Jon said...

The Last Centurion is one of my favorite Ringo books - and thats one of his better quotes from the book.

You bring up a good point and I'm not sure if there's a good answer. RAH's concepts have merit but would require a rather radical shift in the view of the average American.

I'm pretty sure it'd be a *good* shift - but I don't know how you'd go about it.

Sean D Sorrentino said...

Interesting how they discuss "cultural competency" as the skill they are looking for. Can these counsellors effectively communicate with military men? I wonder if the average head shrinker can talk to men in general, much less the smaller subset of "veteran" men.

That's the real problem. Psychs tend to be female. I've often felt like they viewed life through the lens of "typical female behavior = good, typical male behavior = bad." How many times have we seen psychology used as a way to weaponize women's complaints about their spouse's difference of opinion?

I sometimes wonder if the majority of psychs can effectively counsel men at all, so veteran men are totally screwed if they end up under the care of a lot of psychs.

Old NFO said...

Well said, and that 'disconnect' started REALLY being apparent after Nam... BTDT... The average public doesn't 'care' about the military or veterans, because they personally have never been impacted. And the new touchy/feely political correctness doesn't fit with the military at all. We are so far outside their 'perception' of right, they cannot get their heads around it, so they push us further away.

Old NFO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
STxAR said...

Thank you for this thread. My uncles and my best friend's dad were WW2 vets. I heard no stories, and they still don't like to talk about it.

My son was in for 6 years, Combat Medic. Pulled an Afghanistan tour and got out a year later. He views his time in like your comment "as tools of some nebulous political/industrial complex, as proxies for profit rather than protectors of the oppressed."

I'm proud of what he did, he saved a lot of lives, but it's taken several years for him to wrap his head around things. He sacrificed his body, mind and soul. And there are few he can relate to. I listen when he talks and try my best to support him.

Thanks for this.