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July 6, 2009

As we moved through the pre-dinner ceremony that’s standard for a formal Army function, it struck me that for the first time, I’d be toasting someone I’d voted for. A small thing, but it made me happy.

The buzz didn’t last long. When it came time to raise our glasses – to the commander in chief, to the troops, to the fallen – there was audible derision from more than one Army wife at my table when we toasted the president.

This was plain bad manners, in my view. Either you follow the protocol at these events, silly as it may be, or you don’t attend. And given their age and their husbands’ ranks, those women should have had enough time around the military, not to mention basic life experience, to know how to act.

I had no great affection for the previous commander in chief, but no one at any military function I’ve attended would ever have known that. I may have been biting my tongue behind the smile, but I stayed neutral and pleasant, as any polite guest would.

The incident was soon behind us, and the rest of the evening was nice. But something has been bothering me since then. I used to think the milspouse sisterhood could trump all – rank, religion, race, social stratus, politics. I had the idea that I could call on any Army spouse if I really needed help, and it would be given ungrudgingly, because we are all in the same boat. After hearing the casual vitriol directed toward Obama, though, I’m wondering if these women would just as soon toss me over the side if they knew how I voted. And more to the point, I’m wondering if their husbands could eventually make my husband’s career harder than it needs to be.

So, readers, I have a few questions for you.

  • Have you have seen this sort of thing happen in what should have been a neutral military setting?
  • How were attitudes during Clinton’s presidency, especially early on? I know he had his share of detractors in the military; did people bother to hide their distaste for him? I don’t think I need to ask, but just in case: Did you ever hear any Bush-bashing at a military function?
  • Do you wonder how different your support from milspouses would be if they knew your politics first, before getting to know the whole you?
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 6, 2009 7:19 pm

    I try to gauge the company before I engage in political talk at squadron gatherings. I simply assume that my husband and I are the only liberals in the room. If it’s a big, formal thing, like the one you recently attended, I’ll (try to) keep my mouth shut. If it’s more informal, I may speak (a bit) of my mind.

    What kills me is that if we EVER spoke badly about the previous president, we would risk getting reprimanded for criticizing the CIC. But the vitriolic language with which some active duty military folks use in discussing the current president is so completely disrespectful and down-right racist that I can’t believe they can get away with it.

    I wish that the milspouse sisterhood would trump politics. In a few RARE cases in my life, it has. But in my experience, if one is not a politically conservative Christian, you don’t rate. And I am totally convinced that this has negatively affected my husband’s career.

    So, I’m signing this as “anonymous.” Because, even though some major damage has been done, they can still throw an remote assignment or 365 day deployment at us.

  2. FOW permalink
    July 7, 2009 1:57 am

    I believe the Navy is a lot more liberal. I know just as many Conservatives as Liberals. I’ve never noticed being treated differently after we’ve talked politics. I’ve also heard no one say anything negative based on race about the current administration. I voted for him and I complain so of course they jump on that bandwagon with me. Sure they wonder if someone with no military expereince can lead but they also wondered that about the previous 2 Administrations. Is this also divided along lines of Enlisted and Officer? I hear the anti liberal worries coming more from Officer’s wives than Enlisted. I was at a nearby Army Post and saw several (3)Pro-Obama bumper stickers in Enlisted Quarters and in FL during the campaigns there were many Pro Obama stickers on Base. I also believe that because of my race people assume that I’m a Democrat so they’re never really shocked when they find out I’m more Liberal when it comes to politics.

  3. LAW permalink
    July 7, 2009 6:10 am

    When I went to MilBlog conference, I heard it all. Vitriolic is a nice way to put the bile that was spewed. Many of those that I heard were and are actively serving. Previously, when I said something against the former administration, I was reprimanded and told I wasn’t showing respect by the same people who were now saying some very disrespectful things about the new administration. A serving officer in the Guard, who was a speaker on a panel, began ranting about the current President, and a fellow liberal sitting with me left the room, she was so angry. Luckily, a fellow panelist and rising star in the military blogosphere, reprimanded him beautifully – and there was applause for her for doing so.

    I haven’t gone to any official functions, other than an occasional BBQ since we moved here, and none since Chief deployed a couple of days before the inauguration, so I haven’t had to confront this attitude at one of them. The venomous crap we are fed here online is bad enough! I’ve been told, by an actively serving officer (but NOT a gentleman) that if something happens to my husband during this deployment, it will be my fault for voting Dem – and that was the nicest thing that has been directed my way.

    We were Guard during the Clinton years, but that was bad enough. We didn’t attend many functions, but the attitude was pretty evident from other members of the Guard – all negative. The people that knew me, would poke at me for my politics, but it was usually not brought up or when it was, would be dropped pretty quickly.

    The milspouse sorority – oh pardon me while I laugh. I used to think it would trump all – in the last few months I have had that illusion shattered into lots of little pieces. As you remember, we’ve been splattered with the angry vomit of various milspouses, I’ve been told that I am no longer a friend by various former associates – and it all started after the election. As I was told by one conservative commenter at another site, some milspouses will throw you under the bus at the first opportunity. Sad, isn’t it?

    Those who know who LAW is, know my politics. And I know it’s not hard to figure it out. She has the right to say what she wants to.


  4. Michelle permalink
    July 7, 2009 9:12 pm

    I’ve found something weird – the older Mil wives at least up here in MA that I know, all tend to be liberal dems. Being that I happen to fall south of 40…I’ll include myself. So my mil wive friends – the ones I’ve known since our early mil days and (dare I say it) since Ronald Reagan was in office and I was barely legal, those women all seem to fall a little more dem and those are the ones who voted Obama and also the ones who know enough to keep their mouths shut when they don’t agree at a mil event.

    But the younger girls, those are the ones who I see mouthing off a lot at some recent events I’ve been to. It’s almost like this past election gave them their first taste of politics – a good thing- but they skipped the etiquette lesson that goes along with it.

    Again, just my opinion, and reflective on the group of wives I’ve had the pleasure to hang with for so so so many years. 🙂 Oh and for most of us our spouses vote Republican.. go figure.

  5. kimba permalink
    July 10, 2009 11:13 am

    I wasn’t a milspouse for Clinton, Bush I, Reagan or Carter, but I was a military kid in the 70’s and had enough dinners with my conservative mom and stepdad during the Clinton administration to know there’s a double standard at play here. Many Republicans don’t know how to play nice unless they’re winning.

    • July 10, 2009 10:23 pm

      “Many Republicans don’t know how to play nice unless they’re winning.”
      Yes. This. Exactly.

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