I’m delighted to share a guest blog from a fellow Air Force member. This person is posting under a pen name because they are still active duty. Of note: the examples with Senior NCOs are particularly troubling – a SNCO is a person who has significant influence and authority over younger Airmen, and this power can easily be used for inappropriate means. I hope you enjoy this article!
A couple weeks ago I was perusing my YouTube subscription feed checking out the latest videos posted. One of my favorite channels is Vice, the investigative news/culture/music/food media outlet. They had posted a new piece titled, “How the KKK preys on American Veterans,” and it caught my immediate attention.
I am currently serving in the U.S. military and have struggled with my participation within the organization since Basic Military Training (BMT). I won’t go in-depth as to the specifics but a major conflict for me is being amongst many who espouse ignorant beliefs and ideas all day, everyday.
Working in a public affairs office as a photojournalist, one would think that the atmosphere would be one of the utmost professionalism, but what I’ve experienced has been quite the opposite.
As I watched the Vice piece I was in utter shock that the words of hatred, ignorance and bigotry being preached from these Ku Klux Klan members were some of the exact words and phrases that have come to be a part of my surrounding life since I joined the military.
Here are some recent examples:
Two days prior to finding this Vice piece, a Senior Non-commissioned Officer in my office voiced strong words of resentment towards those of the Muslim faith — going as far as to say that if he were the president he “…would not let one Muslim into the country.” He proceeded to share his feelings with a fellow co-worker and I (the only people in the office at the time), looking for validation and agreement from us.
Unfortunately for him, I did not join in his hatred. Instead I found his comments quite infuriating. I was frustrated, shocked and quite fearful that people actually could feel this way in this day and age.
This same SNCO has also freely shared with us his feelings and ideas regarding immigrants. He tells us that the reason why Obama is giving everyone citizenship is so that the Democrats can get more voters and that letting all these people in is going to ruin this country. He knows I’m from California and he’ll express his disgust with that state and how there are so many immigrants there — he’ll label me a “Liberal” even though I find myself becoming more and more of an Anarchist, and he’ll lay into California and how its filled with illegals.
An NCO in my office also chimes in with his two cents on these issues — he has gone even further, saying how we should be exterminating any and all people who do not agree with what the United States government is doing. I’ve argued with him several times saying how that is a very dangerous perspective, but he says I’m naive to think people are good because, as he says, people are “…inherently evil.”
Just a few days ago, a story was published regarding an Airman who has a rainbow-striped flag hanging from his home on an Air Force base. Our office was alerted of this situation due to the fact that their Public Affairs Office has been bombarded with calls and that we need to be aware and ready in case calls should come our way — even though it is not happening at our base.
Instead of just relaying the information, our “benevolent” SNCO decided to share his thoughts on the issue. He said that “…there is no room for people like that in the military,” and how “those types of people should live with their own kind … they should go to places like San Francisco.” He went on and on for about 20 minutes until an officer walked in and then he went back to his desk.
I’ve noticed how some of the younger Airmen, most not well-informed about the issues, are starting to share the same perspectives as the higher ranking individuals in our office. It has always bothered me, but it wasn’t until I viewed the Vice piece that I realized that I’m seriously surrounded by potential white supremacists. The daily statements about not only Muslims but also immigrants, those of the LGBTQ community, liberals, women and even our Commander in Chief are really inappropriate – pure ignorant prejudice and fostered in hatred.
I understand that propaganda is used to deceive our minds and feelings that the violence enacted upon others in the name of “defense” and “protection of our country” is good, however, does this system permeate deeper, instilling massive hate within its members?
Overall, the Vice piece was interesting — it has made me aware of how easily veterans actually could be more susceptible to becoming members of hate groups, and has made me question how the military system psychologically affects its members.
Is the military system a breeding ground for bigotry?