Monday, September 27, 2010

An Information Crisis

I had an interesting conversation with a veteran yesterday.  He was studying to finish his Bachelor's.  After high school, he joined the Army and subsequently spent a year in Iraq.  Now he's finishing his degree because he's found many (most) employers seem to think vets are unstable and not a good risk for the company.  He said he's found only a few companies who value military service, but most think vets are riddled with mental problems, PTSS, various worrisome disabilities, and cause more problems than they're worth.

This is a far cry from when my dad returned home from the service 40+ years ago.  At the time, employers considered military experience to mean a candidate had discipline, determination, honor, and respect.  The vet was generally preferred over non-military candidates.  What happened?  Is this man's experience unique to him or is it characteristic of what's happening across the board?  If it is happening across the board, then why?

Is the issue that statistically so few employers actually have military experience and therefore have no concept of what it takes to earn an "honorable discharge" at the end of their contract?  Is it that the media has made the military seem like a hotbed of discontents and miscreants, a la Abu Ghraib?  Is it that the media has carefully created a scenario that makes it appear as if every prisoner at Gitmo was waterboarded, as opposed to three top-level operatives?  Is it that many employers buy into the notion that all military personnel are loose-cannons with a bent toward torture?  Are they envisioning walking by the water cooler only to find new employee Jones waterboarding the guy who took his stapler?  Why and how have vets become less desirable to employers?

As we discussed this, he said he was conservative, but not ultra-conservative like the Tea Party Patriots.  Ha!  I informed him that I was a Tea Party Patriot and that again, like the military, the Tea Party Patriots have been maligned by the press.  I sweetly (really, I was very calm and gentle) explained that Tea Party Patriots are probably the calmest, more thoughtful, well-informed people out there.  Ask any one of us about details of Congress, bills before Congress, how the government works and what the Constitution says and we'll probably get most of the answers correct.

It didn't occur to me to tell him that most of us are more "libertarian" than "conservative."  But, I'm a writer, not a litigator.  I don't think well on my feet.  Give me some paper and pen or a good word processor and I'll craft an awesome decent argument.  In person, not so much.  Anyway, it was rather shocking to hear a conservative guy declare Tea Party Patriots are far-right.

I guess the over-arching lesson here is that you can not trust what you get from the news.  It is vital to search multiple news sources, understand who is behind the source, and then think for yourself.  If a conservative vet who can't find a job because employers think all vets are a bad risk is under the impression Tea Party Patriots are ultra-conservative and have a few screws loose, we are indeed in an information crisis in our country.

~ G

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