Controversy indicative of Growing Disconnect Between Civilians and Veterans
Gary L. Fry
AMVETS National Commander
Dec. 15, 2011
A Suffolk University law professor resigned recently in response to a colleague making negative remarks about a university-wide push to put together care packages for troops stationed overseas.
Robert Roughsedge, an Army Reserve major currently serving in Afghanistan, told Fox News that fellow attorney and Suffolk University professor Michael Avery’s widely circulated e-mail saying it was “Shameful,” to solicit donations for troops overseas was “…like a 5 year old throwing a temper tantrum.” Avery also suggested that a large American flag displayed on University property was an unacceptable display of politically-motivated nationalism. The University defended Avery’s right to his opinion while also expressing support for American troops and the program to assemble care packages.
Robert Roughsedge -- American Hero
Michael Avery -- Out-of-touch academic
Michael Avery has enjoyed a great deal of opportunity and success throughout his life. The fact that he criticizes an effort to send soap and flashlights to men and women charged with protecting his way of life is as misplaced as it is ungrateful. It is both arrogant and ignorant to feel entitled to the gifts of democracy while condemning the military that guards that democracy. To target troops and not policy makers suggests that Avery doesn’t make the distinction, further illustrating the tiny scope of his worldview. It’s clear after reading his comments that he believes the military to be an arcane, barbaric institution comprised of bloodthirsty criminals and rogues.
It would be tempting for one to dismiss this as the misguided tirade of one man, or perhaps one university, or even an entire elite, academic community. But the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Avery’s comments is that it depicts a widening chasm between the American veteran, and the American citizen. More detrimental than the occasional outspoken left-wing professor, are the masses of uninformed and uninterested citizens, accustomed to comfort and security. Their interests lie in the pursuit of entertainment, luxury and success, so notions of sacrifice or duty not only seem antiquated, but silly. Many high school students cannot point to Iraq or Afghanistan on a map. Many don’t even know we are at war. As women and men in uniform make life or death decisions, fight for each other, and change history, their civilian peers watch reality television and tweet.
It is within this climate of ignorance that even educated people like Mr. Avery stop differentiating between the civilians who set policies and the service members who enact them. It then becomes easier to dehumanize them. To say that it is “…not particularly rational in today’s world” to sympathize with troops in harms way, as Mr. Avery did, illustrates this disconnect.
A disconnected and unaware American public holds a quiet and shameful discomfort with its men and women who have served that won’t show up on any surveys or in political discourse. Where it is seen best is in soup kitchens and unemployment lines. Uncomfortable issues such as veteran joblessness, homelessness and suicide are pushed to the side and ignored at the expense of the bravest people this country produces.
Politicians engage in the worst of this hypocrisy when they claim to support the troops to court votes, and then fail to address these pressing issues once in office. Fewer and fewer politicians have ever served in uniform (some of them intentionally avoiding military service) further distancing them from veterans issues.
The one percent of American men and women shouldering 100 percent of the burden of the Global War on Terrorism largely do it for selfless reasons. Regardless of the campaign or the mission, these people sign up to protect civilians here at home. Respect and gratitude cost nothing, and are the least we can afford them. In a country where one is allowed to speak one’s mind freely in a public forum, a right the military helps protect, Mr. Avery can and should be allowed to say whatever he wants. But in this instance, Avery’s comments only serve to illustrate the distorted worldview of one pampered, coddled academic elitist with a perilously loose grip on reality -- a worldview that, tragically, is increasingly common in American society.