By: Peter Sessum
Every veteran has heard this in some way, shape or form. Usually by some uninformed individual that is in no way qualified to make that diagnosis. One reason why it is one of the more powerful ways it contributes to Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is that is that it hits other PTS triggers like bringing in the million dollar question and diminishes service. There are a few reasons to call a vet crazy, to bully the vet, to try and win an argument and just plain ignorance.
Don’t bully vets
Our anti-bully culture has taken things too far. It seems that we consider anyone big and strong, either literally or metaphorically, to be the bully and anyone smaller to be the victim. It totally skips over psychological attacks and what we call “Little brother bullying.” Anyone that has siblings will know what little brother bullying is. It is when he puts his finger in front of your face and says, “Not touching you, can’t say nothing” over and over. It is any kind of repeated annoyance with the intent of angering the other person.
No amount of talking or asking the person to stop will work. The only way to get it to stop is to physically push the person away. Then what happens? The little brother goes and tells the parents “I wasn’t touching him and he hit me for no reason at all!”
That is what many people do to vets. They harass the vets hoping to invoke a response. Of course they are not prepared for that response to be physical, they just want an outburst or maybe be pushed so they can justify their harassment but if they were right and the vet really was a psychopath, they are not prepared to respond to a real physical threat.
In our culture you can’t make fun of someone’s race, it is a hate crime to harass someone about their sexual orientation and sexist to harass a woman for what she is wearing but it is perfectly acceptable to harass a vet. Many veteran supports will say that we shouldn’t harass someone that defended our freedom but I say we shouldn’t harass anyone for any reason based on race, sexual orientation, gender or veteran status.
Wining an argument
This is the same as telling someone that is yelling at you that swearing or yelling is the mark of someone low class. The intent is to throw the person off by making them think that they are coming off as stupid. The best response, in the Army anyway, is to yell “FUCK YOU” and carry on. The person is trying to use a psychological trick to throw the other person off.
In the case of calling a vet crazy, it is usually because the other person is losing the argument and wants to make it personal. If the discussion is heated, it is meant to make the vet think that he or she is looking crazy and so contributing to the negative perception of veterans. I have experienced this first hand by a person that had called all military service members baby killers in front of our college class. When I engaged him in debate he tried to make it personal and eventually said, “You are just getting upset because you were in the military and have PTSD.”
I understand that my response was supposed to be a feeling of shame but instead I turned it back on him. I told him I wasn’t mad at the world, I was mad at him specifically because he was a douchebag. He was saying things that were making me specifically mad at him and him alone. Needless to say this didn’t fit his idea of what was supposed to happen and after losing every point of his argument he never engaged me again. The lesson is to never let people manipulate veterans with such underhanded manipulation.
Unfortunately, this is not as rare as one might think. Unfortunately, even on a college campus where people are supposed to be expanding their minds, many still don’t know anything about the military experience. Most college students know more Airsoft “Operators” than actual vets. The military experience is so far outside their realm of understanding that they can only go by what they hear. The news never talks about the millions of service members or veterans that live completely normal lives, but they do hear about the ones that go crazy. More civilians know about Bowe Bergdahl than Chris Kyle and they might only know who Kyle is because of Jesse Ventura.
It is sad but many people do not understand. Senator Diane Feinstein thought that PTS was a recent thing only because she hadn’t heard about it in the news before. She didn’t know it was what was called shell shock in WWI and it was the Vietnam Vets that really brought PTS as it is understood today out of the shadows.
I think that the connection of veterans to PTS isn’t just ignorance but is a reaction by civilians to put it in terms they are comfortable with. They have to believe that there is something wrong with a person to want to fight for their country. And if there isn’t something wrong with them there will be by the time they are done. There is also a gross ignorance of what happens overseas. The news only covers the worst of what happens. Even when reporting on heroic acts, the situation is the worst possible situation a person can be in.
So most civilians don’t know about the reconstruction efforts or all the positive things that the military does. Even when media crews accompanied a unit as they set up a medical clinic for the day in a needy Afghan village, they ignored the positive mission and looked for something sensational to report. The man that accused me of being a baby killer had no idea that I had personally handed out about 1,000 stuffed animals to Afghan kids. He had no idea that without me, an Afghan orphanage without power would not have received the blankets they so desperately needed before winter hit or that I was one of the people that selected which village would get a medical clinic that week and every Thursday I would accompany that unit on the mission of mercy. It was easier for him to believe that I had received special training to shoot kids than I helped them out.
Treating veterans like they are all powder kegs about to explode will only further alienate them. It teaches us to hide who we are and suppress the feelings that we really should vent out. I started this piece prior to the death of Robin Williams. He made multiple trips overseas to entertain troops and it is sad that his death will also be his final act of kindness for military service members and veterans. A week ago, if we talked about our feelings we would be suspected of being on the verge of a killing spree. Now if all we have to say is, “When I think about my service I feel sad” and we will get attention. It is tragic that the death of a good man is what it took for civilians to care about those that sacrificed so much for them. Unfortunately, like many, I have seen this before and know it will be short lived.
So remember, we are not all crazy and treating us like we are will make you look stupid, it won’t help you win an argument and it just a form of bullying. Don’t be that guy. We have enough things to deal with without having to put up with your bullshit.