13 May 2008

The New Problem Set For Today's Vets: Apathy

A vet that got treated like shit

Pretty interesting article and comments thread from Professor Hilzoy over at Obsidian Wings on Obama's recent speech where he said Vietnam Vets were "shunned and demonized" and how that must not happen again. There seems to be a lot of denial that vets were treated poorly after Vietnam from those left-of-center boomers, where they often cite this Jerry Lembcke research that says returning Vietnam vets were never really spit on. This purported debunking of the "spit-on" vet myth serves as a moral cleansing tool to eradicate the guilt of some anti-war liberals treating their fellow man poorly. I'm still working on my time machine and flux capacitor to go back to the 60s/70s to get the real scoop, but judging by movies like "Born on the Fourth of July" (directed by a Vietnam vet based on the life of a Vietnam vet ) and the alarming number of homeless veterans I saw growing up, it can probably be surmised that those who proudly served our country got served up a steaming bag of dog ass by many fellow Americans. There seems to be a certain level of collective guilt from lefties of that generation in regards to that issue (see the ObWi post), and I don't want to play off people's fears like some demagogue, but it is certainly positive as many of those people are in DC running policy on how veterans benefits are allocated. Plus, the Vietnam vets had to fight tooth and nail for these types of benefits to exist and for cultural awareness, so props to them from yours truly.

If perception of veterans is an issue based on the paradigm of a generation, it's only natural for us to try and predict what we are going to face. Judging by the twitter habits and self-involved trends that spread like wildfire through people born post-Vietnam, I'd have to say the vet perception problem is that there is no perception. I have griped about Gen Y like some nutty curmudgeon extensively on this blog, but the fact that war remains a volunteer effort in America could cause some serious negative ramifications. Primarily, that the cost incurred will be blamed on those who volunteered, and that our small minority/token status will only make disturbing realities (PTSD, disability) a "fringe" issue in politics. At best we can hope to be relegated to some pathetic underclass status that gets "sympathy" from the general public, if we don't do anything about this quandary.

Because of all this, it's probably best to be outspoken in various forms of media to make sure that marginalization doesn't occur. So if you came upon this rambling blog post, you have my respect for caring about this issue and not being apathetic, but there's a lot more work to do from my end.
Update: Thanks to OCSteve (an ObWi regular) who points out this analysis on Just One Minute that pretty much says Lembcke is full of shit.