Serving the Nation and Everyday Microaggressions

On the way to lunch today I heard part of an NPR report where the broadcaster gave thanks to those who “were brave enough to serve.” This struck me and deserves some comments since he chose to not simply say “who served.” This comment was obviously made on Veterans Day but this comment is repeated in some way or another daily.

(And before going forward, the vast majority of content on NPR is realy great!)

My comments are not about those who elect to or not to join the army, navy, or so so. After all, teachers, parents, doctors, professors, daycare workers, judges, and postal workers, for example, all serve the nation. I am making this post now, in part, to emphasize my commitment to writing, thinking, and sharing those thoughts. I will not allow Trumpism to halt my critiques. I will continue being the blogger (and professor and student of life) that I have always been.

There are multiple and complex messages embodied in “were brave enough to serve.”

We’ll given them a pass on the exclusive use of the past tense.  

The rhetoric of “brave enough” embodies far too many notions of masculinity and delegitimizes the fear–before, after, and during service–we know soldiers have faced. What does it even mean to be brave? And brave enough? Where is this scale of bravery?

Additionally, this ignores those who were not allowed to serve because of their sex, gender, and/or sexuality. Why wasn’t their “bravery” good enough? 

It ignores the people with various medical conditions who might have wanted to serve.

It implies that those who did not make it out alive were somehow not quite brave enough.

Most importantly, it ignores the real, legitimate fear people and families have when it comes to war.

All of the explanations above relate to how and why this comment on NPR is a perfect example of a microaggression. It’s not directly discriminatory. It’s easy to “not see” how it’s hurtful or offensive, especially if you live in various demographics deemed “the majority,” but it’s harmful.

It reinforces harmful ideas about gender and reminds minorities that society has not fully welcomed them. 

Andrew Joseph Pegoda