For as many years as I can remember now, I have proudly been an advocate for the military family; most prominently the military spouse community. Not only have I been a member of the community for almost 16 years, but I truly believe that our community as a whole is an incredible group of resilient individuals who, given some unique challenges, have thrived during over a decade of war. The community is dear to me and I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.
Most of the time.
This week, I must admit I have found myself having a really hard time loving my community.
On the Military Spouse Facebook feed, an article was posted from Glamour magazine, featuring the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and two celebrities who are hoping to bring awareness to female veterans, active duty members and military spouses. As I clicked on the article I was skeptical. We have reason to be wary of celebrities or political figures who champion military causes in an attempt to gain publicity. We have all seen it. But as I read the article, I was pleasantly surprised to find that all three of the women featured in the article seemed to have really done their research, talked to members of the community, and had a pretty great grasp on some of the issues.
One of the celebrities, Sarah Jessica Parker, had this to say: “It’s important that when they go to meet a potential employer, this person knows they are capable. And that any issues they have are the same ones any of us might have—whether we lose a family member or have a period of sadness. We want to talk about the public health challenges. But we also don’t want to put so much focus on these issues that veterans seem like they are made of glass. You don’t want to meet them and you’re like, “Are you OK?”
Impressive. This is not something she came up with on her own without taking the time to speak with veterans. This message is one that I personally believe to be incredibly important. A celebrity that is using her influence to bring awareness to a serious problem faced by a group of people she does not have a personal connection with, but wants to help because, as she put it, “I feel intimidated by their service; I feel ashamed that I haven’t served. So I almost feel like I’m patronizing by inquiring how to help.” I can’t help feeling like she is speaking for a whole lot of Americans with those words.
And then, I read the comments on the article.
From the start, the vitriol took my breath away. I always read comments. As a writer and as someone who makes a living largely because of the influence of social media…I find it essential. But I really wish I hadn’t read them that day.
There were some comments supporting this effort. But a large number of commenters were downright hateful. I did not vote for Obama. I do not agree with most of his policies. But I do recognize that Michelle Obama has done a lot for the military spouse community. Even if she had done nothing up to this point, this effort is valid. The hatred was astounding.
Then last night I read an article on SpouseBuzz by a fellow military spouse and dear friend titled “9 Reasons the Obama Girls are Like Military Kids.” I don’t agree with a lot of what the article says. But it is an opinion piece and makes some valid points. The Obama Girls did not choose the life they are living, they are along for the ride. I don’t really care if that ride is in a secret service vehicle or not.
The comments on this article? I am embarrassed and ashamed. I have said, on multiple occasions, that the “bad apple” theory does not hold water in my book. No one can ever, with any certainty, say that an entire community has a set of traits. The stereotyping of military spouses, and those who insist on bashing a community because of them, disgusts me. I will never support it, ever.
That being said… I had to dig deep today to remember my own words.
Many of the comments were not only rude and disrespectful, but now they have crossed the line into harassment as the article and my friend who wrote it have now been targeted by bullying sites. People wrote scathing blog posts dispelling the validity of her points and have even attacked her. A fellow military spouse who has children of her own and has done more for the community than any of them realize.
Are we allowed to disagree? Absolutely. But there is a way to do that without becoming a part of a “mean girls” crowd. Over an article that compares the lives of CHILDREN and in NO WAY disrespects military kids.
I pride myself on being able to tackle a hard subject and offering up a solution when I write. But I can honestly tell you that I am at a loss today.
The military spouse community, I still believe in my heart of hearts, is a diverse, incredible group of individuals. We come from all walks of life, we have many different opinions… but we are all still joined by one common denominator: we have chosen to share our lives with those who put on the uniform every day to defend our rights to say or believe whatever we choose.
That should not give us a free pass to be hateful and ugly to those who are either giving their best effort to help our community or to those within our community who may see things differently than we do.
We are better than this, military spouse community. Let’s prove it.
Read Next: The Inside Scoop: Life Insurance Q&A