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Imagine my shock and awe* when, mere days

June 7, 2013
Imagine my shock and awe* when, mere days after that complete  trainwreck of an advice column on Spousebuzz, I’m once again hoodwinked into reading one of their posts…
And by gods, it’s good.
No, not good. It’s right on. Like high-five-the-wall kinds of right on**. Like slam some Jäger and shout obscenities and light off dangerous pyrotechnics while drunk kind of right on***.
Bushatz reports on a complete fu&*tard of a journalist, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, and his assertion that we milfams live high on the hog with our “15 types of ketchup.” No shit, he apparently counted how many different kinds of ketchup we have on the commissary shelf. Maybe (some of his other numbers are off, so who knows?). Because apparently this is a sign of how we are but piglets at the overburdened teats of the taxpayer sow. Oh, and our commissary prices are “near wholesale.” Ummm. No. Unless Kroger’s prices are near wholesale on about half of their products. Also, hello commissary fee.
ANYWAY. Bushatz reports on the fu**wittery and then points out that the discussion of whether America can afford to pay for service members’ benefits isn’t the issue. After all, discussion and debate is a good thing. The big issue is how journalist after journalist makes up numbers to support the idea that we’re sucking America dry, and one after another they assume a voice of outrage and condescension. They imply that only the stupid and unemployable join up. They imply service members don’t deserve pay equal to civilians and definitely don’t deserve all these extra benefits because they’re somehow less than.
 
Her post is totally right on, as I’ve mentioned, so grab some Jäger and go read it, and then come back and high five me digitally when you’re done. Because she covers it all well, but I have something to add.
Oh, #ketchupgate. You complete me.
Journalists like to point out that America is war-weary. You know what, America? GET IN LINE. And don’t mind the placeholders we’ve got in that line already since we’re also manning another line. Milfams, you see, are war-weary on a second front: the constant attacks and exploitation led by the media while power- and attention-hungry congresscritters jump on the  pile.
Articles like that written by Chandresekaran are problematic because they are borne of and tend to aggravate  the military-civilian divide. They pit us against the civilian world, portray us as having more than our share, and call for civilians to stand up and demand that our “excess” be tempered or removed entirely. The problem is twofold:
  1. These journalists and the readers to whom they issue this call to arms have no fu**ing clue what they’re talking about. Journalists are getting the facts wrong, and their perspective completely lacks experience to inform them. We’re certainly not asking our maids to vacuum the Porsche floorboards, and we’re not chillaxing at the polo event with our houseboy at the ready to serve us champagne. Hell, some of us are barely able to cover the electric bill right now because deployment gremlins drained our savings when the car lost its starter two months ago. And we’re really hoping Military One Source will cover another therapy session for our kid who’s having night terrors now that Dad’s left for Afghanistan for the fifth time. Meanwhile, we’re waiting three weeks for an appoint ment with our PCM for that pesky pneumonia we can’t shake.

  2. We are not responding appropriately. Today, I saw a call to action: send Chandresekaran a bottle of ketchup on National Ketchup Day (today) as a statement that we don’t  appreciate his tone. I don’t know if this is enough. It’s a good start, and the awesome jokes running around the Twitters right now via #ketchupgate, @MilFamKetchup, and @LavishMilFam are bringing attention to both the ketchup inundation and the issue at hand. But really, shit like this isn’t going to stop because the 1% is up in arms about The Man threatening to take our ketchup. It will only stop when there is understanding and real discussion. And that’s not going to happen until journalists stop writing Schlockety McCornPoo and start investigating the military family experience.
BUT LET ME BE  CLEAR. This reunion porn shit is NOT an investigation. It’s exploitation of military families to increase ratings (because who doesn’t love a good cry??), and meanwhile all you’re doing is painting military life in happy cries and introductions to new babies and shocks to kids at school in front of the whole fu**ing 5 o’clock news audience plus interweb voyeurs****. That shit? Adds to the civilian-military divide because it simplifies the complex emotional, physical, psychological, and
professional burdens and conflicts that fill the cracks between anchors aweigh and welcome home and anchors aweigh again.
A fair report, a fair national discussion, would look at the actual, real, factual numbers related to military personnel spending and would include actual, real, factual reporting on the experiences and the sacrifices milfams and service members make on a regular basis.
You know, the things that affect morale, readiness, and attrition. The things that must be offset with incentives in this wonderful capitalist society we live in. The things that, in the balance, don’t look so bad when you see at least there’s this program and that benefit, and also I get to serve my country and do some good when compared to the cushy civilian life with its roots and its stability and its better salaries and better hours and better benefits and its marked lack of IEDs and mines*****. Not to mention the improved opportunities for milspouses to have a fulfilling and potentially lucrative career s/he almost never can have when uprooted every two years.
 
In the end, it’s all tied together. Milfams have an image problem. We’re portrayed in endless videos of pride and love and reunion kisses and new babies and relief and joy…and then portrayed in endless articles as self-entitled harpies demanding All The Condiments. This is what I like to call exploitation. Every bit of it. It’s time we snatched that shit back and took our due control of the national debate over what our spouses really have earned, what more we can expect to sacrifice, and what those sacrifices will mean for our country’s ability to defend itself and to help allies and the oppressed.
So while we ship bottles of ketchup to the latest douchepuddle to wade into the Milfams Can Suck It debate, shall we also ship things to TV stations to encourage them to reconsider their approach to safe televising when it comes to reunion porn? Maybe…condoms?
* See what I did there?
** Because I work from home, and nobody is here to high five me.
*** I didn’t actually. This time.
**** Note the other blogs listed at the top of this one.
Feel Good? Fuzzy Feelings? See what they did there? They are using military families–exploiting military families–for ad money, and they’re enticing
civilians who want a nice feel-good moment. Result: civilians associate military with sadsauce deployments but ALL THE FEELS when the soldier returns
home and NONE of the icky squicky reality in between.
***** Yes, I said better, and I  stand by my improved well-being from my higher salary, better access to inexpensive healthcare, and low cost of living when we geo-bached for my job.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2013 10:05 am

    Funny thing. I actually tried to write a story about the families of a local Guard unit deployed to Afghanistan. It was going to be a regular series following them through the deployment, an effort to bring their real experiences into the consciousness of those who will never live it. The series never happened because the military spouse I was in contact with decided not to call back, and the service member who was going to put me in touch with other families to interview didn’t make any effort, either.

    As a military wife I can say this: if you (other spouses) want to help bridge that gap, you have to be willing to participate in the effort. Otherwise, don’t bitch about people not “understanding.” Part of that divide is your fault. It’s like not voting and then bitching about who ends up in office. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      June 7, 2013 10:45 am

      That’s a bummer that the story didn’t happen. It could have been really valuable. Unfortunately, I think we don’t see these stories in general because of a perceived lack of interest/ratings. The reunion shows and completely ridiculous dramatizations (e.g. Army Wives) are popular because they provide all the tingly feels. Who wants to spend 15 months being relentlessly afraid, alone, and overburdened with the everyday in a milspouse’s life? It’s not glamorous. It’s not sensational. It’s long drudgery with a low hum undercurrent of stress and occasional spikes of awful.

      I suspect there are some who just can’t deal with the assumed intrusion. But there are just as many who would step up…they’re just not asked. Also, don’t forget that we’re quickly learning that if we dare put up anything Negative Nelly in a public forum, we’re told to suck it up and look at the positive by other milspouses, and we’re told we signed up for this and knew what we were getting into by civilians. I have to wonder if some of our learned behavior isn’t driving some to close off even more…

    • libarmywife permalink*
      June 7, 2013 4:29 pm

      Kristen – your piece would have been thoughtful and balanced – but our community has become leery of trusting a journalist. We have seen what happens when a military family trusts a writer who then uses them to justify whatever agenda that journalist has. A family going into a deployment is a bundle of nerves – I’d say that when reality began to bite, they didn’t want to show that to anyone else. I’ll give you odds that the command (who they had to talk to before finalizing or beginning to take part) said something along the lines of “oh hell no”. Plus – what if. That may have been a consideration – what if the worst happened, what if the Guardsman was wounded or KIA – they sure didn’t want to think about having a writer watching them then.

      When we do invite the media to see our world, we get either the rosy flag waving strong jawed woman of the soil holding down the home front; or we get the slattern at the bar looking for another gullible soldier to be there while the spouse is downrange.

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