Today, our country went crazy because a mentally ill man in the White House made a sweeping statement that was an attempt to divide the NFL, and ultimately, the country. It was also probably a distraction from current findings about Manafort and Russia, but it ignited and highlighted our polarized country’s differences nonetheless.
Before I give my opinion, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m a daughter of an Air Force Veteran – one who was stationed during the Korean War and also witnessed Black sisters and brothers being segregated, and then slowly and painfully, desegregated. I am also an Licensed Mental Health Counselor who can make an accurate and informed judgment (see above) about our POTUS. I’ve worked with and counseled some veterans, and I want to tell you something:
I SEE YOU.
I see the suffering you have endured. I’ve heard it through countless therapy sessions. I know you had to watch your friend die violently. I see that you’re paralyzed. I see that your war injury makes you limp and it will be a limp you endure until the day you die and you STILL show up and teach your daughter how to kick a soccer ball around. I know you had to give up seeing your family for months on end. I know that you had to keep horrible, horrible secrets from loved ones, ones about the safety of our country and its citizens. I know that all of this literal shit you’ve had to endure has caused some of you to turn to alcoholism, and drug addiction, because the pain of seeing a kid die in Afghanistan was too much for your brain to process. I see that. I hate that it did that to you.
I hate it so much, that I choose to challenge the way we’ve done things in our society. Historically, we have fought wars to manage problems. We have chosen a very stereotypical masculine way to address conflict. With force and division and might and colonialism and torture and death. Instead of unification and communication and art and growth and compassion. And every time I’ve disagreed with a vet on a thread, and he starts to spout out choruses of, “You snowflake cunt!”, I feel heartbroken underneath layers of pride. Why? Because I know the anger is a mask he’s been taught to wear to survive. Or he’s the victim of a traumatic brain injury. And it’s such a goddamn tragedy.
And I know it’s not simple, and I don’t have an immediate solution.
I still think the masculine system is bullshit, though.
I hate that you aren’t protected. That your healthcare sucks and you feel invisible. Undervalued.
Sort of like people of color.
You see, I see people of color too. I see that they are killed by our police and they do not get justice. I see biracial couples are still thought of as “different” in people’s minds. I see my best friend feeling as if she can’t be as angry as a white male because then she’ll be stereotyped as an “angry black girl”. I see thousands of white people not willing to have a conversation about two generations before who lynched people of color because they are plainly lazy. I see that they are seen as the “token black friend” by their white counterparts. I see the white wives, who so quickly rush to defend their policeman or navy husband, think not a thought about Philando Castile’s black daughter, who witnessed her father being shot multiple times. Even though their grandchild is a quarter black, they remain silent. I see it.
And as a mental health counselor, I know this: that there is enough love and compassion to go around. That it isn’t limited or afforded to one kind of group or people. That there’s space for everyone’s pain. Not just yours because you grew up poor, or yours because you were physically abused as a child. There is space for EVERYONE’S. And more importantly, I know that one kind of pain doesn’t trump another’s. Being gang-raped is about as fucking awful as watching your best friend die in battle.
Another thing I know from being a mental health counselor is that people tend to make martyrs out of people. And this is not helpful, especially when people have choice. And what I mean by that is:
Veterans today have a choice to be in service or not. People do NOT have a choice over what skin color they get.
So when you tell me taking a knee is disrespecting the flag, or that they should have used a different time to do it, I know that’s not true. I know that in some cases, it’s pure racism. I know that it’s mental laziness. I know that it’s emotions swaying you. I I know it’s possible to both honor those who fell, and let people of color exercise all rights of the constitution. At the same time.
So many people used the Constitution to argue that you can’t pick and choose free speech, but I choose emotions. Politics is PERSONAL, and FEELINGS, and PEOPLE, whether you choose to see the walls you’ve built up between them or not.
And us white people? We’re a fairly emotionally and mentally lazy lot.