Like many of you, I am glued to the television watching the Inauguration Day festivities. One of the things that has really stuck out to me today has been the theme of “togetherness.” That together we can move forward. That together we can solve problems. That together great things are possible.
Before you think that I’m about to go all Kumbaya and have us all hold hands, as I praise the power of togetherness, I’m not.
The more I watched the speeches, the prayers, and the swearing-ins, the more I began to think about how we often confuse togetherness with sameness.
Just look at the military community. We live in a constant state of togetherness. We live, work, and play together. But are we all the same?
No, we’re not.
But sometimes, we forget that. We forget that the military is one of the most diverse institutions in our country. We forget that, in the military, there is no one characteristic that defines a servicemember or a military family or a military spouse.
Even in our own community, we forget. Heck, I’m the editor here, and I totally overlooked the sexist title we’d given our “house and home” category dubbing it “Domestic Goddestry” because all milspouses are women, right?
We single-handedly isolated our male military spouses by our choice of words. Ouch.
So we fixed it. And apologized. And invited more people to the table so we can build this community together.
One of the reasons I felt so bad about not catching the “Domestic Goddestry” label had to do with the fact that I knew better.
When I got the feedback comment (which we really do read and respond to), from a concerned active duty member who’s spouse is a male milspouse, I read it and immediately felt sheepish.
How did I manage to not realize that on my own? I was so disappointed in myself.
I understand how frustrating it can be when you feel excluded or ignored just because you’re not the norm.
My husband is an Officer and we got married right out of college. During our first assignment, we had hard time making friends because, well, not a ton of Officers are married young and we were homebodies. Our neighbors, a young Enlisted servicemenber and his wife, were our age and shared our interests. I hung out with her quite a bit and when my husband went TDY, I spent Thanksgiving with them.
We were having a fun, light conversation that turned a little uncomfortable for me when the topic shifted to how stuck-up and rude Officers’ spouses were. One woman looked to me in affirmation and I was too taken aback to do much else except offer a small smile while I internally shrunk.
Or the time I was caught in a conversation about how anybody who was in the military that didn’t vote conservative wasn’t a real patriot.
Or the time I was told I couldn’t be a good milspouse if I worked outside the home.
Luckily, those experiences have taught me that my experiences aren’t the opinions of the whole, nor are they the opinions or experiences of the majority. They just happen to be part of the loudest dialogue out there.
We can all do our part to change the dialogue by taking the time to think before we speak, or in my case, type. We should all be mindful of our language, our audience, and our truest intentions.
The Shadow and the megaphone image by jepoirrier on Flickr.