If you’ve read the news lately, you’ve probably learned a lot of interesting things about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
You know that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan largely have PTSD (which if you haven’t heard, is super scary). They commit terrible acts of violence all across the country. And most recently, they are more susceptible to joining hate groups and being white supremacists.
The Huffington Post rightfully this week removed an infographic called “This Map Shows The Deadly Aftermath Of War Right Here At Home.”
The graphic showed scary red dots for every murder allegedly committed by a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan. All 194 of them. Despite the fact that that is a dramatically lower rate of violent crime than the rest of the population.
Then, some idiot in an opinion piece for the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., wrote that military training leads to aggressive and violent behavior.
Most recently, the New York Times ran an op-ed that said that veterans were more susceptible to joining hate groups.
And so in the last several days, modern vets have been attacked on digital news websites, local papers, and the most prominent newspaper in the country.
As a Marine Corps veteran who deployed to Afghanistan, I felt a bit behind the power curve with regard to the whole white supremacist thing. I guess I had never really considered the possibility as I am both African American and also a proud resident of Harlem in New York City.
Ignorance about post traumatic stress is perhaps the greatest stigma facing modern veterans, but after this month’s shooting at Fort Hood, it’s gotten out of control.
Irrational acts of violence or hate are by their very nature difficult to understand. And issues of mental health are thoroughly misunderstood by the general population. But when a civilian like Adam Lanza or Jared Lee Loughner does it, there’s nothing for people to latch onto when they guess about their motivations.
When a veteran commits a violent act, it’s easy to assign their military service as a root cause for their behavior. But it’s silly and it’s harmful.
Perhaps the silliest thing about this stereotype is the remarkable diversity of the U.S. military. People from every ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, and cultural perspective within the United States sign up for military service.
Consider the injustice here — men and women volunteered to serve their country in pursuit and in defense of the American dream. They fought two long, sloppy, costly wars as part of that commitment to serve, only to come home and be typecast by the public and media for their decision to wear the uniform.