An Autistic Veteran’s take on Veteran’s day

Hopefully for once I will keep this reasonably short, today is Veterans day and I often think about those who came before, those I have served with, and sadly those who have forgotten how to work as a team despite substantial differences.  The US Armed Forces are a phenomenal force for breaking down and integrating difference together to work as a team. Though one may argue, that my autistic ass should never have even served, and that may not be wholly unfair, I really was not able to hack it in the long run, my mind and body began to fail me, but that was not the service, that was too many hyper-sensory functions that I could not explain, articulate, and thought mostly made me a whiny lil wimp.  But even still, while I served I was wielded, those above me recognized my unique skill sets and utilized them, and though I broke and broke badly, I still accomplished great things with great people, because that teamwork dynamic meant we were all working together towards the same goal.

So right now, I am a bit annoyed with my fellow Veterans of any specific political orientation, see today our civic and political discourse is about attacking the person not the ideas (nothing like modeling bullying for the nation while giving lip service to stopping bullying for example). I see many Veterans or still active but due to retire in the not so distant future as bitter, angry, and mad, labeling the other side of the political spectrum as trying to attack and destroy them, instead of understanding what is actually going on, which is failing to debate the key issues and understand that for team America to work, we need to get past that difference.  I want to believe that our greatest generations are not just behind us, but also ahead of us as well, we must return to attacking bad ideas, debating the value, and stop this mass paranoid notion based on fear-mongering and willful ignorance that the other side, which ever it is, specifically wants to destroy your way of life.  Neither side wants that, they want to preserve their comfort zones, or make life better for others, or offer more chances, or ensure the government does not overstep it’s bounds anymore in creating more and more laws that inhibit personal liberty and self-determination.  But this is not a Republican vs Democrat thing, if I could share my Facebook feed you would see tons of military and dirty hippy post’s all favoring a more libertarian ideal, the idea that we need to be more free than we are today, because guys, our freedom is more illusion than it has ever been. We still have more in common than not, but if we continue to attack each other based on difference, instead of utilizing that difference to rebuild our nation into something great, then it is we, not some external enemy that has dropped the torch.  It is we, who have fought over the words of our founding fathers, when even they did not always agree, but they attacked the ideas they thought were bad and vetted them, what they did not do was call out to a mass of angry constituents to do everything they could to personally inhibit the goals of other free willed free thinking people.

Finally, I want to again refresh our memories then on the notions of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness.  For many, life in this age is a misery, the expectations for almost all of us to fill some productive slot in the economic machinery is not fulfilling, there are so many damaged great thinkers, nurturers, and artists now, that we have forgotten that living life is more than continuing to breath and continuing to pull a pay check, we are forced to specialize to survive, when many of us are more generalists.  Low income families need to work man and woman alike, but if they move up the social ladder, the woman who is then working is devalued for not spending more time at home, double standards exist everywhere, and this system saps the joy of life for many of the people who do not live in the here and now, but instead try to live and anticipate the future, to think and plan and not just do, but right now the system demands do’ers everywhere and demeans people who can only teach, not much of a life when your great nation disdains you just for being born and thinking different.  So, connecting the limitations of Life to Liberty, we then realize that we lack a great many freedoms, we have confused the ability to say whatever the fuck we please with freedom, not realizing fully that we cannot simply move, explore, or adventure, due to property taxes someone who wants to subsistence farm, can’t.  See, if we all must be productive members of society as it is currently designed, then a large chunk of the population forced into roles best fit for automatons are going to be miserable, when you are miserable or depressed, parts of the brain used in problem solving and utility start working on what is wrong with you for not being happy, that in turn hijacks the problem solving circuitry of the brain to work on itself, resulting in poor decision making, poor performance, and if one wants quantitative efficiency, then unhappy people are absolutely not the best approach, we must make room for all folks, poorest to richest to find joy in their endeavors, and then we have a freaking chance. But to continue to insist we break ourselves, that it is ok to be miserable in this life when some say there are rewards in another that we cannot prove, and since we cannot prove it, then we should ensure this life is not suffering either, and to stop that we must start talking about difference, how best to help people find their joy and meaning in life, and then human endeavor, not profits and wealth that has only value because we subjectively agree it does, can drive our economy, our society, and our species into a future than has greater Liberty, and a better life, because we remember how important the Pursuit of Happiness is, and right now so many people cannot, and will not find joy in the current system.

So I call on the Veterans of today, those brave service members who worked with people of so many different background to get an unpleasant job done, and I ask us all to model civility, civics, honesty, and principles in our discourses, to show everyone that there are those who still remember how to get past difference to get the mission done, and we need to hold our politicians and pundits to task, to stop sullying the name of our Founding Fathers through petty bickering and personal attack.  The greatest generations will remain behind us if we cannot walk in their footsteps, if we cannot engage those who oppose our personal views and way of thinking in productive dialogue.  When I see Veterans on either side of the political spectrum attacking each other over political differences, I have to ask, have we become so damaged, has our Armed services become so biased in the last decade since I left, that we can no longer tolerate differences? And if we cannot tolerate these differences now, with a current military skewed more towards the conservative than ever, then how long does it take for them to begin to see themselves as a solution to a perceived problem of nothing more than needing to understand how folks think, approach, and value things differently.  We need to talk, we need to communicate, we need liberals and conservatives alike to serve together, with honor and pride, for we are supposed to represent the best of this country, and right now many of my fellow Veterans are dropping the ball, letting bitterness, anger, and hate to defeat them, Team America is broken when our Veterans can no longer see how to achieve a goal by working together with difference instead of needing to destroy it, and that is a sad day for everyone, worldwide, our ego has surpassed our humility, our desires and wants have become more important than someone else’s need, and that is decadence, not asserting individuality, but valuing it over the suffering of others, and even a cold rational mind should be able to see that for us to move forward and be greater than the sum of our parts, we need to allow difference to find it’s way so we can all flourish and truly enjoy Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

On a final note, I am pretty pissed actually, see…I have had to fight tooth and nail every day of my life to effectively communicate with others, and I may be too verbose and love run on sentences, but I have never stopped fighting to just be able to talk with others. Something neurotypical people take for granted is communicating and right now we are not doing it, so when a verbal autistic man is able to communicate more effectively than your average citizen, something is right screwed up.  The burden of communication is on all of us, it is the sacrifice we all make to be more than just an individual, but a great people and a great nation, and if my constantly worried, timid, afraid autistic ass can sit here and type something I know might offend other Veteran’s by calling bullshit, then damn well the neurotypical’s can do the same, this shit is supposed to come naturally to you, how far have we fallen when we cannot communicate, even those who have served and learned the value of communication to meet an objective, so yeah, some of you should feel ashamed, you dropped the fucking ball and instead of forgiving yourself and being accountable, you now blame the other side, the other view, hilarious that when one lives in poverty it is their fault, but when one dislikes the way public discourse is going it is the other side’s fault, we don’t get to cherry pick accountability, we don’t get to demean others because we cannot stand to look at the perceived fault within ourselves, when the internalized fault is bullshit that stems from social bullying and failure to accept, understand, and utilize the great amount of difference than pushes us forward, that allows us to innovate through the clash of ideas, but during this process, we must never forget who we served for, who we were willing to fight for, and that is the citizens of the United States of America, be they Christian, White, Black, Gay, Straight, Male, or Female, we serve all American’s even the ones so many claim to hate, that so many would threaten, just because you disagree with their ideas and words, stop threatening and start fucking talking, or else all of this is for naught, and we will dig our own graves with our own shovels and lie down in that hole, roll over and die, because we did not have the self identity, the principles, or the character to not yell and scream because someone’s idea of what will make this country great is different than yours. No party, no economic block of special interests, no one person can make this nation great again, it takes all of us, with all of differences working together, even when it is hard, to make us the best we can be, and right now we fall so short, right now we shame our forefathers not for failing to view the world the same way they did, the world changes and we cannot prevent it, but because we have failed to engage in conversations based on principle and high ideals, instead of attacking, demeaning, threatening, hating, harming, devaluing, and a host of other things that we do to each other every single day.

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