Why are service members making it a point to create hateful, misogynistic jargon online about military spouses? And what makes military spouses turn on each other creating the same?
By now you’ve probably seen the op-eds in Task & Purpose, and the Washington Post, declaring a ban on ‘entitled’ veterans, active duty service members, and their families. I’m sure you’ve read the counterparts to these articles in the Huffington Post, and on Military.com.
Anti-bullying campaigns have been around for quite some time, and an overwhelming number of them just don’t work. They aim to ‘fix’ the bully, and ‘teach’ the victim with an overarching theme reminding us we’re just doing it wrong–we’re just existing wrong. (Read: when we don’t stand up for ourselves, we become victims. When we stand up for ourselves, bullies emerge to fight back.)
Bullying stops when an environment is positive, supportive, and enriching, and when character and value are promoted.
I think that’s where the mess happened; our environment shifted, and we had to fight back.
Since September 11, 2001, 2.5 million military families have seen a loved one deploy, 600,000 service members have been wounded, and nearly 7,000 lives in our all-volunteer force have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Those who once supported our nation, and this military, have quieted. Flags that used to be as bright as the sun that shone upon them, are now torn, faded, and walked upon in protest.
The bigger picture is this: military families don’t feel entitled.
We feel unappreciated, ignored, stuck between a rock and a hard place, not supported, and now, hated. With nowhere to turn, our community has imploded, finding acceptance and support by picking apart each other, and the network that has long supported our service members: military spouses.
The internet is full of viral videos of veterans and active duty service members calling out others who illegally impersonate a military member in uniform, and controversial Facebook groups which exist to target unsuspecting military spouses by making fun of them.
The viral videos and hateful social media groups have given others a pass to rip into anyone who ‘impersonates’ anything. Ask the Washington Post and Task & Force op-ed authors what they think of military spouses, like me, they’d say we’re ‘impersonating’ service members in our own way: by declaring our own sacrifices, demanding support from our government, and by wearing our husbands’ rank for power.
In such a climate of hatred, it’s hard to see the ones who are trying to clean up the mess. We ignore the spouses who are receiving death threats for asking people to stop the tormenting. We mock the spouses who are trying to disbar the ‘Dependapotamus’ stereotype by pursuing higher education, getting their own insurance (gasp!) through full time employment, and who are being recognized by the White House as Champions for Change.
Yet, nothing seems to be good enough to make the cyber-bullying stop.
What we need are positive, supportive, enriching communities who are steadfast with their loyalty, and encouraging even in times of stillness. Our military and their families need to be reassured that we are accepted, wanted, and appreciated.
That’s not ‘entitled,’ or high-maintenance. It’s human nature. Calling us entitled is adding fuel to the fire. We ferociously defend ourselves, only to be met by more hate, name-calling, and follow up articles putting us in our place.
Instead of making a military spouse feel ostracized for not knowing the TRICARE handbook, respond positively, and share a resource. Rather than laughing when a young spouse admits they’re having trouble making friends, be their mentor. And for those service members who call us ‘Dependas,’ ask yourself where that hate is coming from and remember that we are here to support you.
It’s up to us to clean up the mess, military community. If we don’t provide ourselves with the environment we want to live in, how will anyone else?