Colin Kaepernick. The NFL. Nike. Old glory. The American military. It is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid these topics online or in the workplace, and there are no lukewarm opinions about them. Our society is either passionately opposed to or in staunch support of the movement Colin Kaepernick began a few years back by taking a knee during the National Anthem. Those against it claim that Kaepernick’s protest is a slap in the face to all those who have served in the armed forces. How do our veterans really feel, though?
The simple answer: they feel a diverse range of things, because they are all different.
There is something that people (especially those that have not served) need to understand about the veteran community: Veterans are all unique individuals. Veterans are human beings with wide-ranging beliefs and backgrounds. We are not all the same. We are not some homogenous hive-mind. We have different thought processes and opinions. Making generalizations about what we think or how we feel is insensitive at the least and sometimes downright offensive.
We are not all the same. We are not some homogenous hive–mind. We have different thought processes and opinions.
I have never seen diversity in the workplace or anywhere like I saw during my time in the service. I’ve seen people of every size, shape, color, gender, and origin in service to our great nation. The American military is exceptionally diverse, and veterans need to be given the respect of being treated accordingly.
If you find yourself making sweeping statements like, “Veterans think _____,” “Veterans feel _____,” or (my least favorite personally), “Veterans should feel _____,” you should stop immediately, especially if you haven’t served. Granted, all veterans are united by the fact that they served, and by all means you should appreciate the qualities that most veterans embody by virtue of their service. Many of us do share traits and characteristics. But please don’t make comments or assumptions about our beliefs or thought processes.
If you did serve and have a strong opinion (positive or negative) on the Kaepernick/Nike controversy, that’s great! Before you rant on Facebook, though, please consider how diverse our military members are and that you couldn’t possibly represent all of us or our convictions. If you have a veteran friend that completely agrees with you on this matter, that’s great, too! I’m glad you have found common ground, and I’m sure you have had some great dialogues about it. But your friend is not the Emperor of Veterans. He/she doesn’t speak for all of us, and we don’t need you to try to speak for us either.
Your friend is not the Emperor of Veterans. He/she doesn’t speak for all of us, and we don’t need you to try to speak for us either.
Many of us do need your support or help, though. Instead of spending time getting into an argument about all of this online, why not try taking all of that energy and direct it towards volunteering for a veteran–serving organization? And if you want to burn your Nikes, that is absolutely your prerogative, but do it because you want to, not on our behalf collectively. Before you do, I only ask you to consider that there are a lot of barefoot homeless veterans out there that would love a nice pair of shoes. Though I don’t want to make a generalization myself, I’m confident you could find some of them who won’t care what brand they are.
This post is not political. I will not make any public comment about my personal beliefs regarding the Colin Kaepernick/NFL/Nike issue. Rather, this article is an appeal to those that spend time online “defending” veterans against what they perceive is an insult to our service. We’re good, thanks. Please stop.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page.