On April 15th, 2014 Kathleen Belew, a postdoctoral fellow in history at Northwestern University, wrote an OP-ED piece for the New York Times titled “Veterans and White Supremacy”. The article was mostly focused on racism, and the recent hate crime committed by known the white supremacist Glenn Miller. Mr. Miller however, it also casts an uneccessary dark shadow on America veterans past and present.

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Photo: Kathleen Belew courtesy of Northwestern University

“That Mr. Miller was able to carry out an act of domestic terror at two locations despite his history of violent behavior should alarm anyone concerned about public safety. Would he have received greater scrutiny had he been a Muslim, a foreigner, not white, not a veteran? The answer is clear, and alarming.” -From the New York Times “Veterans and White Supremacy

The same conclusion could be said of the two Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev who detonated bombs at the Boston marathon. How could two Chechen brothers who actively sought out bomb making material on known Al Qaeda websites possibly carry out this act of terror and not be intercepted by the FBI beforehand?

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Photo: Featured image from “Veterans and White Supremacy courtesy of the New York Times

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Perception is Reality

How do you define truth? Philosophers continue to debate the definition of truth. I’ll argue that the “truth” is a majority of shared observations or conclusions made by a society or social group. Therefore, perception is indeed reality if you can convince enough people.

The problem today is that many in the media and academia routinely stereotype, and mis-characterize  veterans as damaged goods. PTSD is their buzz word of choice.

Kathleen Belew is obviously an intelligent woman but she would be smart to “check fire” when casting a wide stereo-type on the veterans of America past or present. The seeds of racism were likely planted long before Glenn Miller joined the Army, and we should remember, as Belew herself points out, that the veterans mentioned in the article represent a tiny minority.  Any psychologist will tell you that the character traits in men like Glenn (and others mentioned in Belew’s article) aren’t learned in the Army or any other branch of service, they are learned long beforehand.

One of the greatest gifts of military service is being thrown into a melting pot of different cultures and classes of all types. Human beings adapt to their environments, and in military boot camp (or officer candidate school) you are forced to put aside prejudices and to work as a team with your new family.

As a combat veteran myself, I can tell you that most of my friends who’ve seen combat up close (not on TV in the FOB) come back home with a greater appreciation for life, and cultural diversity in the world.

We need to remember that post World War II saw one of the largest veteran to civilian transition periods in our country’s history. Many of these war veterans went on to helm some of the most successful American companies of our generation.

Conclusion

I’ll be the first one to point out that the leadership of this country has led us astray when it comes to foreign policy, and sending troops needlessly into harms way. America has lost its way in the world, and few inside or outside our borders know what our leadership in Washington stands for these days other then self interest. It’s a sad reality, I still have faith that our system of government can fix itself if the people stand up and take action.

I wish we didn’t live in a world where we are forced to wage war and violence to protect the freedom of ourselves and others but we do.  War is ugly, ugliest most to the people who swore an oath to defend and protect it.

The men and women who have served this country honorably, and sacrificed greatly need Americas support more than ever right now. They are trying to find jobs, and re-integrate back into society. Belew needs to understand that casting a dark shadow on veterans does not move us in the right direction, and it does more harm than good to a majority of veterans.

As for Kathleen’s comments on public safety, our civil liberties come with a price. We will indefinitely be exposed to acts of terror at home and abroad as long as we choose to live outside of the Orwellian society, this is risk I’ll take, and a price I’ll gladly pay to live free.