Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Liberals behind close doors

Dear Prudence,
My brother, a Marine, recently left for his second deployment to Afghanistan. He is in a very dangerous area, and his unit has already lost a high number of members. I live in a politically liberal city, work in a liberal profession, attend a liberal graduate school, and have mostly liberal friends. (And I'm generally a liberal myself.) Only close friends and a few colleagues know that my brother is in Afghanistan. Most people I know oppose the war in Afghanistan and the military. People often say incredibly harsh things about deployed troops. One person implied that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing for soldiers to die and another said that almost all Marines were racist "war criminals" who delighted in killing children. I have to be around these people for school and work. I don't necessarily want to tell them about my brother. It's emotionally distressing to talk about his deployment—especially to unsympathetic people. Is there a graceful way to get them to shut up without having to bare my soul to them?

—A Hurt Sister

Dear Sister,
The ultimate irony is that these people don't have the insight to imagine what it would be like to live in a world in which there was no U.S. military. Let's just say it's unlikely they would be living in a lovely liberal enclave in which they would feel free to express whatever they disliked about the government. The people who are making these repugnant comments surely consider themselves the soul of sophisticated enlightenment, yet they chillingly shrug at the deaths of young Americans willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and malign our bravest men and women as baby killers. I understand you don't want to discuss your brother with them. Family members of deployed military have a hard enough job just getting through the day. But reluctant as you may be to engage with them, I think it is worth it for such self-righteous people to be brought up short. You don't have to allude to anything personal. If you were objecting to homophobic or anti-Semitic remarks, it wouldn't have to be because you had a gay brother or you were Jewish.

Maybe you can prepare yourself with some short responses so that you don't let these insults go unchallenged. For example: "Elected officials are the ones who make policy decisions, and the members of our armed forces carry them out. You don't have to agree with the policy to acknowledge the courage of our troops." "I'm sure you don't mean that you actually welcome the deaths of our men and women in uniform." "As with every organization, the military has some bad people. Fortunately, they are few, and those who commit an illegal act are arrested and prosecuted, just like civilians." Think of your remarks as conversation stoppers, not starters, and refuse to get drawn into a debate. If someone goes on to insist our troops are war criminals, reply that you'd prefer such sentiments be kept private. You can also authorize your colleagues to let people know that your brother is a Marine in Afghanistan. It would be good for some of these cosseted, smug blue-staters to realize that living among them are those whose dearest wish is that their beloved Marine comes home safe and sound.


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