“Hello is this thing on, are you listening to me; I need roughly a million people to help assemble a brilliant rebel army.”- The Spill Canvas
I was out at my school’s weekly “bar review” (law school speak for “going out and drinking”) and I was speaking with a few upperclassmen about Kinetic Syndicate and being a veteran of the GWOT in general. I had apparently somehow created a safe environment and they began to share things with me regarding their view of the veterans they knew.
They told me of these puffed-up assholes who were running around demanding reverence and respect from everyone they met. They told me, albeit reluctantly and apologetically, of their views of a lot of veterans. The word that came up the most was “entitled.” If it had been from anyone else, I’d have discounted a majority of what they said. However, they were hesitant to tell me any of this. They prefaced everything with a disclaimer that they aren’t anti-veterans and this is just what they’ve experienced at work, at school, and in their private lives. It was sad to hear. But, it got me thinking again about how the “outside world” views our community. A lot of you will say “who cares?” and I commend that attitude. However, there are a lot of problems in the veteran community, namely stemming from our isolationist behavior, that could be cleared up if we only extended a hand to our civilian neighbors.
In political theory, there is a concept known as “social tyranny.” This is normally seen as a negative, with the majority or collective drowning out the voices of the individual or minority. However, social tyranny, or the employment of it, has recently brought about a new kind of justice in America. Essentially, social tyranny is used to police a community in order to keep the government and law from meddling in the affairs of said community. I explain it around the notion of neighborhood rules. Breaking them doesn’t necessarily entail doing anything illegal, but you aren’t going to get invited to the next potluck and Todd certainly isn’t going to beckon you over to his “man cave” for a few “crispy boys.” Undesired behavior is “shamed” out of existence by condemnation from the community, not from legislature or law enforcement. I think we ought to apply this to our own community.
I know all the freedom fighters out there are pulling out their Gadsden flags and pitchforks and coming to protest in front of my place, but hear me out. The veteran community IS a neighborhood. I’d dare to say it’s pretty damn diverse as well. We have people of all races, backgrounds, jobs, etc. We connect with each other by virtue of us sharing the experience of living in the neighborhood and we value our sense of community.
We need to start policing the bad behavior in our neighborhood. Aside from pointing at it on social media, we need to step up and say something out in the world when we see it. There are a ton of ways to make sure that acting like an entitled asshole isn’t the cool thing to do anymore. There are many ways to say that the victim persona, the “broken warrior,” isn’t how we as a collective want to be portrayed. We also shouldn’t be afraid to show our civilian neighbors that we aren’t Captain America. We’re human. We fuck up, do sketchy shit, and get in trouble. We need to not only set examples of how we want the world to see us, but we need to step up and show civilians why we find certain behaviors to be abhorrent and anomalous.
Personally, I’ll be spending the next few months working to take the legal hammer to shady veteran charities. I want to shame that shit out of existence. We would love to see those of you with the same mission taking up a cause of your own.
If we clean up our own backyard, eventually it’ll make it easier for us to invite the neighbors over; Ideally, the civilian neighbors. If we get rid of the broken-down Buicks, beer cans, and old toilets in our yards, it’ll be much easier to bridge the gap and increase understanding with our neighbors. This understanding will show them that we can be civil assets. We can help them understand the veteran experience without coming off as dickheads and they can help us understand the nuances of this place we call the “civilian world” thus, improving our ability to transition out of the military in a meaningful way…and we get to hang out and watch the “big game” on Todd’s new “screen.” *eye roll
Note: I don’t want to come off as someone who wants to encourage people to follow blindly and do as I do. However, I DO implore those of you with clout in the community to take up the reins and lead. If we at KS have demonstrated anything, it’s that creating and enabling meaningful change is hard. Those of us still standing at Kinetic Syndicate have dealt with a ton of negativity, pushback, threats, and have lost support because apparently, some of us were expecting an easier time in challenging and changing the status quo. Rest assured though, we are back. We are going to be bringing on new blood and are always extending our hands to leaders in the community to join the conversation.