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veteran culture of civility

Listen, I’m human.  And human beings feel emotion.  When I get the run around from the VA in one of my clients’ cases….or when some VA employee spouts off some unadulterated bulls**t…..or when I see another client die while the VA is playing bureaucratic “footsie” with their claims and appeals….I get mad.

I’ve been known to let loose a few choice words on VA employees from time to time.

I’m not proud of it, but I’m human, so I’m stuck with it.

What I will tell you is that every single time I respond to the VA in a less than civil manner, I regret it.

Every. Single. Time.

There is a Civility Crisis in our World Today.

I’m not a political person – and the last thing I want is for politics to come between me and my brother/sister Veterans.  So we are not going to talk politics.

But I have noticed that on Facebook, social media, and in the real world, people are more and more un-civil and rude to each other.

Someone expresses a competing viewpoint, and one person calls the other a libt**rd.

[This is a foul and most offensive word that is a variant on the “R Word” that I despise with a passion…if I catch you using it on or around the Veterans Law Blog, we’re done. You’re blocked. Over. No Refund. No questions. Sayonara. Asta la vista. Adios.  Peace out. Buh-Bye. Capisce?]

Someone expresses an understanding outside the cultural mainstream, and they are called stupid or ignorant.

The word stupid, sad, bad, idiot, moron, dumba**, a**hole, etc, are become the most popular words on the internet …. and in my emails and voicemail inboxes.

The NY Times Magazine – one of the best Sunday magazines, published every Sunday since 1897 – calls this the “Age of Rudeness”. Click here to read the NY Times Magazine article ….it’s long, to be sure, but thought provoking.

I don’t profess to know why, and I don’t really care why, but here’s what I do think.

I believe it is  time to return to a Culture of Civility.

And I think Veterans are best-situated to lead that March to Civility.

Listen to the story I tell in this video – about how General George Washington encouraged his fellow Veterans (who were also getting screwed out of pensions by Congress in the 1780s) to behave in the face of what they perceived to be a betrayal by the Nation they served so selflessly.



After you hear that story, consider these thoughts:

  1.  We, as Veterans, experienced more hardship in our military lives than most Americans experience in their entire life.   We have carried our friends bodies – or body parts – to safety. We have crawled on our bellies through mud and shit and fire and explosions to stay alive.  We have jumped out of airplanes, helicopters. We have driven – or road-marched – through streets or jungles or mountain paths laced with mines and booby-traps.  More than any other group of Americans, we probably have more understanding of the value of human life than most civilians. We should be the group least “frazzled” by some nonsense thing that someone writes on Facebook.  We need only remember those hardships the next time someone says something wrong, incorrect, different, ignorant, etc., online….shrug our shoulders, politely correct the error, and move on.
  2. There is nothing more unbecoming than a Veteran playing the “victim card”.  You know the types…everyone else is at fault.  The military let me down.  The VA let me down. The private sector let me down. This or that president or congressional representative is to blame for my problems. Veterans are weak, and need protection from others. Veterans should get a free-lunch just because they served. Now, individually, in some circumstances, any one or more of those things might be true. The Veterans I am talking about, however, are the “perpetually victimized” who lash out in anger at everyone else. If  you see another Veteran playing the victim card – online or in the real world – see if you can steer them to help. They are in a bad spot, and may or may not accept your help.  Whatever you do, remind them – if you can survive the s**t you survived in the military, you can conquer anything the civilian world can throw at you – We Veterans are Not Victims.
  3. Let’s lead by example.  Let’s remind our civilian counter-parts that “Big Boys and Girls Can Disagree, Politely”.  Let’s show them by our actions that we WANT diversity in the country, we WANT free speech, and we WANT equality for everyone, but more than anything, we didn’t spend years in the military to come home to a bunch of civilians who take for granted what they have and squander this great nation by bickering and fighting over whose viewpoint on gay marriage is right or wrong, smart or dumb, better or worse.
  4. Life is too short, folks…and we, more than any other group of people, know that it can be taken away in the blink of an eye, the splash of a mortar, the crack of a rifle. Let’s remind our civilian counterparts to count our blessings each day, to be polite and civil in our discourse, and where we can, gently steer them on the right track.

Whatever you do, though, fiercely guard your tongue to avoid lashing out in anger or hatred, or using rude or un-civil language, when talking to VA employees.

We may not like much of what they do (or don’t do in most cases), but we can say that politely, civilly, and if our self-esteem is high enough, we can even say “thank you” for their time, even if we don’t like the outcome of our case.

Sorry for the “rant”…just wanted to put these thoughts out there.  I’m no angel, by any stretch.

I do believe, however, that Veterans can lead our culture back to what made it great: civil and polite discourse, reasonable language, and treating others with respect and dignity, regardless what we think of their opinions.

Let me know your thoughts by posting in the comments, below.


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