One of the more shocking things to learn about the white nationalists’ rally in Charlottesville this past week, was not that they blame the protestors for the death of Heather Heyer. As stupefying a statement as that is, you expect cowards like that to shift the blame away from themselves whenever possible. After all, the entire white power and neo-Nazi movement is based on blaming someone else for your problems.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Vice News’ Elle Reeve mentions that security for the neo-Nazis was not provided by the Charlottesville police, as one might expect, but by veterans of the Iraq/Afghan war.
To hear that these veterans claim they were ‘radicalized’ in Iraq and Afghanistan during their tours of duty is one of the more unfortunate things to come to light regarding the side-effects of serving your country.
By now, we’re all familiar with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and even with proper treatment, the debilitating state it can leave a returning soldier in, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
But to learn that these brave men and women over there return with a new-found hatred for those different from them, especially after their mission is one of liberation from those who kill and persecute anyone of different faiths/beliefs, is quite disturbing to say the least.
My uncle was a lieutenant in the NYPD for over 40 years. He was a kind and loving man. Unfortunately, patrolling the streets of The Bronx and Queens during the sixties and seventies, and seeing what human beings are capable of doing to each other, left him with a prejudice towards minorities. Not that he would say or do anything in public that would offend anyone. He was always a gentleman on the surface and treated everyone with respect.
In private, however, he would occasionally make off-handed comments when discussing politics, complete with a racial slur or two, that would catch me off-guard. As to hear someone of such intelligence and valor, someone who I respected and cared for immensely, have such a distorted view, and to speak in generalizations about an entire race of people, was sad.
I wouldn’t go as far as to characterize him as racist, however. But he was definitely prejudiced. Of course, I attributed it to his years of service in the worst parts of the city, and having to deal with such scum on a regular basis would put anyone’s faith in humanity to the test. And, of course, he was a Trump supporter.
I can’t even imagine the horror one sees serving their country in a shithole the likes of an Iraq or an Afghanistan. The brutality and terror these brave souls must face on a daily basis is incomprehensible. Not to mention, the constant threat of being blown to bits by a suicide bomber, possibly even at the hands of a woman or child, must make serving in the NYPD seem like a walk in the park.
But to think that even a small portion of them are returning from duty harboring feelings of such intense anger and disgust toward anyone who isn’t white, leads one to believe the military isn’t doing enough in the area of outreach, post-discharge. After all, not every soldier returns with a desire to protect and defend those with beliefs and convictions that stand in direct contrast to everything our military has fought against, and fights against as we speak. But, however small the percentage is, running security for white supremacists is quite a unique avenue regarding symptoms/display of PTSD, and these individuals obviously need help.
Most of us know someone, either a friend or relative, who’s returned home from the Middle East suffering from PTSD. And, tragically, most of us know someone who’s not been given the help and assistance they deserve from the country they’ve fought to defend.
The utter failure by our so-called Commander-in-Chief to condemn these hate groups has prompted the leaders of our armed forces to do the unthinkable, to step out of rank with the president and speak out against it, themselves. And, while their action is commendable, the military needs to focus their attention on treating this new type of expression of their trauma, as, although returning from battle steadfast in the “Us vs. Them” mentality is nothing new, taking a job as security guard for neo-nazis, is.
There is only one side to this fence, and to think we’re not only welcoming home members of the armed forces whose opinions and beliefs have been shattered and damaged due to their perilous environment, but who find solace in a President willing to condone those twisted beliefs, rather than make it his mission to do everything he can to help them, makes one worry about where the next Charlottesville will be, and who, exactly, we’ll be fighting.