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The Problem with Stereotypes

 

We often make the mistake of using a particular expression to categorize an entire group of people.  It’s called stereotyping, or prejudice. This is a universal trait.  It’s not unique to any particular group. It’s something we are all capable of and often do.

For example, Vietnam had its My Lai massacre. Nothing can excuse that behavior.  It was a terrible thing and was made more so, because it was kept secret for so long.  The problem for Vietnam veterans was that those back home, who were against the war, often used My Lai as an example to argue that all, or most of those who fought in Vietnam were guilty of the same kind of behavior.  There have been stories from Iraq and Afghanistan that make our hair stand on end as well.  These things, unfortunately, happen in every war.  But these acts were always isolated acts and do not stand for the norm.  Indeed, that’s why they horrify us so much.

Those events and the soldiers involved in them are the 1%, to use a current metaphor.  They are not the 99% of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that go to war.  The vast majority of soldiers know their duties, understand their roles, and are morally centered individuals, who like so many of us, want to make a difference in the world.  The fact of the matter is that the stories about our military building hospitals and schools, repairing or building infrastructures like electricity and water supplies, who care for the ill and wounded locals as much as their own, just don’t get told as much, or as readily as the horror stories do.  It seems that for the 24/7 cable news cycle, good doesn’t sell as well as evil. 

Our active duty servicemen and women are us.  They come from our neighborhoods, have the same dreams for the future and the same desires to live, to love, and to make a difference.  That’s why it is so important that we not make the mistake of stereotyping them by the bad news we hear and see on the T.V.  That is why, too, that we must do whatever we can to welcome them home, to care for their injuries, and to get the economy back on track so that jobs will be available to them and all others in need of work.  That is our job.  They have done and are doing theirs.  We need to do ours.

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