Washington, D.C. — The United States has an anger problem, its moral compass is broken and is dangerously close to being smashed beyond repair. The divisiveness is at the greatest it has been since 1960’s. And now there is a narrative beginning to take hold across the divisive socio-political battleground that the American flag is actually a symbol of fascist hate, loving one’s country is actually a white privilege construct designed to mask racial oppression, and that patriotism is actually white nationalism.
Racial inequality and injustice exists. I will not debate that nor be told to check my “white privilege.” I am well aware that the color of my skin has afforded me many things that some minorities do not. Yet, how would anyone know these thoughts and ideals I share, I am judged immediately before I even speak.
I am white, and a veteran.
Now before I am pelted with “Nazi, check your white male privilege!” or be told that I am being a whiny liberal for upsetting the status quo of the established echo chambers, hear me out. I, as an individual, am afforded the right to express my own opinion, this isn’t Oceania where we as a population fear being renditioned by agents of the Ministry of Truth for “thoughtcrimes.”
Judgment and prejudice are all-encompassing, I am judged immediately by the color of my skin and my love for the United States and having served in its armed forces. And in some far Left circles that’s enough to label me a ‘white supremacist’ and a Trump supporter. And in the far Right circles, when they find out that I believe there is racial injustice and I do not blindly support a president due to party affiliation. I am labeled a communist and a disgrace to my service to this great nation.
The hardest thing I have ever done in my life wasn’t challenging the monumental task of being selected to become a Green Beret, or even the war on terror. It was transitioning back into American society.
I was horrified at what I saw and still see. As a Green Beret our mantra was “De Oppresso Liber,” to free the oppressed, yet all I saw was oppression within this great country. Wage gap disparity, homelessness, suffering, young Americans with no direction and angry, militarization of law enforcement, the war zone-like conditions in some of our nations African-American population, bodies in the street.
I felt this wasn’t right, I wanted to help in some way. I wanted to bring awareness to my brothers and sisters in the service who were still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, or coming home maimed and broken while also desperately trying to help heal and organize with my community.
Hopeful in my endeavor to bridge this civilian-veteran divide, I attempted to build rapport with Americans in college. Which for the most part, failed miserably. Women’s rights and equality was a hot-button issue at the time on campus in Portland, Oregon where I was attending classes. I was making my way across campus when a young woman stopped me and asked if I felt that women should have equal rights, equal pay as their male counter-parts. To which of course I agreed with her that yes, women should be afforded the same opportunities and pay as men. She was pleased with my answer and I felt triumphant that I had possibly begun breaking barriers.
This interaction was brief but cordial until I was asked if I would be willing to affix a large button to my person that was emblazoned with the giant word of “RAPIST” across it with a circle and red slash through it. As she handed the button to me she said, “We need you to wear this while you are on campus so the women here know you are a safe male and not a rapist.” I was stunned.
First, let me just say that I agreed with her initial statement, rape is wrong. People, I know this. But I just didn’t understand why I needed to wear something denoting that. “I’m not a rapist,” I replied. “Well, this button will prove it and mark you as a safe male.” She retorted, as her smile disappeared off her face. I was so confused at this point, this young woman didn’t even know me and I felt like she immediately thought of me as a danger, a predator to her.
Then I said something that I would later regret, “You know who else made people they were afraid of or didn’t like wear something on their clothes marking them who they were, the Nazi’s.” With her eyes wide she snatched the button from my hand and shouted “rape apologist!” I quickly turned heel and left with her and a posse of furious feminists following me shouting, “RAPIST!” “Misogynist rape apologist!!” and the abbreviated version of that, “MRA!! MRA!!”
I attempted several other times throughout my college experience to bridge the gap, but the last straw came towards the winter of that year where I saw a woman with her hands full of textbooks and struggling along with an overloaded backpack walking towards a door. I dashed out and swiftly opened said door and she stopped, looked at me and said, “I can open my own door, I don’t need your white male privilege!”
I quit trying to build bridges after that, retreating back into my own word and went back to an age-old military phrase, “it is what it is.”
Fast forward to the current micro-aggression that has become the NFL and the whole taking of the knee during the National Anthem. That is their right as free Americans to execute this type of protest, regardless of how much anger either the Right or the Left spew forth from their collective echo chambers. I will not address it any further, however celebrities and sports figures have always been the leitmotif of the current socio-political climate within the United States. And when these individuals rally their fan base or take a knee to bring awareness to the call for change, whether you agree with it or not, pop-culture is the blaring window into society.
However, when I see a picture of a young boy kneeling at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington during the playing of taps, it enrages and saddens me to my core. You see I don’t blame this young man for his uneducated act, I blame pop-culture and the Left and Right for politicizing veterans and military service members. We as a society have allowed basic common decency and respect to willingly disappear from the very fabric of one another’s humanity.
Arlington National Cemetery, where I have friends buried, isn’t the proper venue for this type of subversive, political act. This is the final resting place for the men and women who fought and died for this country and with their caskets draped in the American flag are ensconced to be honored by our Nation for their ultimate sacrifice.
These types of political acts being perpetrated within the hallowed grounds of Arlington will enrage all veterans from all the wars Americans have fought for. I, along with most all current veterans have lost friends in the service of this country. We have loaded our brothers and sisters American flag-draped caskets onto C-17 troop transport aircraft for their final trip home. It weighs heavy on all of us, that loss.
Myself and my Green Beret brothers lined the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport to salute 4 caskets of American soldiers as they were carried by their brothers in arms, with tears streaming down their faces unabated. I have lost very good friends myself, soldiers like Jason Pringle who was my senior medic and best friend when we were paratroopers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Southern European Task Force (SETAF) together. Pringle was killed after his parachute failed to open during a real combat parachute assault into Vitnia, Kosovo to help stop that bloody civil war and end the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. Or Green Beret, Wyatt Goldsmith who was killed by an RPG round impacting next to his face in Afghanistan while he was providing medical treatment to a wounded Afghani solider.
All these soldiers, friends came home draped in the American flag. And these are but a few of my friends that I have lost. When I was in Mosul apart of a Special Forces task force there, I along with my team accepted the hazards of our chosen profession. And I, along with some of my teammates carried an American flag with us that on the real chance that we were to be killed, it was to be used to cover our body with for the ride home.
The Right and the Left have decided to politicize veterans and service members and wrap them up into these current NFL micro-agression. To which I ask you all to stop, because right now we as a sub-group of Americans are split 50/50 on this the issue of taking a knee. Yet, I will tell you this, if these displays of disrespect at Arlington or any other military memorial site become a major movement and increase in frequency. You will lose 100% of the veteran vote and their patience and I truly feel that America will not like the result.
Feature image courtesy of: Twitter.