The Rambo Stereotype

Obama’s new DHS attack dog, Janet Napolitano, is catching flak for suggesting that veterans are one insult away from going Rambo or at least joining a militia. 

From the internal memo asking law enforcement to be on watch:

“The return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

Today, she tried to clarify, saying something along the line that it’s not that veterans are more likely to go off the deep end, but are likely to be more effectively violent if they do. Fair point, but not the original point. They only came up with this point because they were challenged, not because they meant it originally.

There is a meme, actually an archetype, of the military veteran that was created by Hollywood from the Vietnam War. Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Rambo, on and on. Psychologically scarred, unable to adjust to civilian life, easily triggered into violent fugue states–veterans as victims, not heroes, but dangerous victims much like Old Yeller near the end.

Everyone has helped to perpetuate this stereotype, including veterans and veterans groups.  That’s how the game is played in America–the most pitiful victim wins the most money and attention, and many veterans and nearly all veterans advocacy groups have competed hard in this shitty game.

I’ve worked with a lot of veterans, many are in my extended family, and this veteran-as-victim stereotype is crap. I’m not saying that going to war is no big deal with no after-effects. I’m saying the men (and inreasing numbers of women) who serve come back stronger, smarter, more grown-up and they deal with their demons with admirable courage and mostly in private. Those who come back physically maimed more often than not rise to inspirational heights of maturity and achievement–they’re crippled, not cripples. I prefer hiring veterans because they’re more stable, work harder, are used to bad conditions and hard slogs and have excellent values. These people are heroes, not victims, for the most part. They’re far less likely to go off the deep end, more aware of the complexities of the world and far better Americans than careerist political hacks like Janet Napolitano.

Anyhow, most liberals take the ’70’s veteran stereotype very seriously. They are as skittish around veterans as I’d be hearing Old Yeller banging and barking in the shed. They think that veterans who aren’t crazy must have been on the Brute Squad.

This DHS report is pure establishment liberal worldview, with nobody in the office grokking how offensive it is because they swim in it. Same for the establishment reactions to the Tea Parties.

300,000 people (I think that’s a very low estimate) peacefully, respectfully protested and the mainstream liberals saw only violent, extremist yahoos on the verge of a shooting war. The TP I went to was cheerful, good-natured and calm, except for the few provocatuers who were screaming weird crap at normal people, deliberately trying to start a fight.  All the attempts to incite were in vain. Most of the people at the protest were veterans at dealing with provocative adolescents. There were cops everywhere when it started, on horseback, on foot–hell, there were more cops than protesters before start time. By the end of it, the cops were all relaxed and hanging out and many were engaged in casual conversation with people with signs.

If you didn’t go, you wouldn’t know. You’d think this was a bunch of right-wing, fringe nutjobs, the distaff side of the WTO protest movement. That crazy bitch Janeane Garofalo, who is unfortunately morphing into Rosanne, said that this was only about racism, that we were a lynch mob for the new president.  Sure, there were plenty of right-wing nutjobs. About 10%, judging by the signs. But most people there were middle-aged middle class people who pay their bills online, know how to use Excel, and can do math. Thus, they are scared to death, as am I, watching an American government that is aggressively innumerate.

The bottom line here is there are too many Americans who need to believe that veterans and people who pay their bills and demand that others do the same are irrelevant nutjobs.  These people want you to call the police and wait instead of owning a gun and acting. They think the system can survive any insult they can throw at it. They are all moral and spiritual adolescents, as is our new President. I blame the Republicans. Had they not screwed the pooch so blatantly and frequently the last 8 years, we would have never rolled the dice like this, given these teens the car keys and now be watching them floor it at the cliff.

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