Not long after my husband returned from Afghanistan, a woman tried to engage him in an overtly political discussion. It was clear that she equated the war with politics and she felt that it was perfectly reasonable to approach a member of the military, offer her opinions and solicit his. My husband was respectful, but wouldn't bite. At the time, I was the one willing to discuss politics, but my husband rarely engages in political dialogue, even with me. And he's certainly not about to do so with strangers or casual acquaintances. This doesn't stop people from trying, though.
Recently, we had a contractor come over to give us an estimate. It was a week night and my husband arrived home wearing his uniform. After introductions, the contractor asked my husband if he missed President Bush. I jumped in and said that my husband serves whomever is Commander in Chief to the best of his ability, feeling the need to shield him from yet another uncomfortable conversation. The contractor was pleasant and didn't push any further, but I knew that thisquestion would not have been posed if my husband had arrived home in a suit and a tie.
Why is it that when some people find out your're a military family, they feel they are entitled to inform you as to their political views, or grill you with respect to yours?
As one woman so informed us, taxpayers do pay our salaries (never mind the fact that we're taxpayers, too). But there is a distinction at play and it bothers me each time we experience one of these situations. And to be fair, this is not a weekly occurrence. Our encounters with strangers have been overwhelmingly positive and there have been many, many occasions when people have expressed their genuine gratitude to my husband for his service, not caring if his political views matched theirs. But when it does happen, it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Part of this is personal for me. I know that my husband would rather have a root canal than talk about politics. With anyone. He has his views and expresses them at the ballot box, and that's that. The other part is that so many people strive to politicize the military and want it to fit within their view of what its function should and should not be, and some of them seek a passionate discussion with someone in uniform, whether or not the desire to have such a discussion is reciprocal. Taxpayer money funds a variety of professions. Some members of our family are in the law enforcement field. I've never heard anyone, upon finding out they are police officers, push their politics on them or demand to know where they stand on certain issues.
My husband and I went on vacation a few years ago and decided to check out the hotel's happy hour. A couple sat down beside us, and they seemed nice enough. After engaging in the usual "where are you from, what do you do" conversation, the gentleman began telling us that he's studied the evidence and that 9/11 was quite possibly an inside job. Talk about uncomfortable.... The rest of the week when we met new people, my husband's profession switched from soldier to high school football coach. We laugh about it now, but "awkward" doesn't begin to describe the evening.
As I said in the opening paragraph, I used to be comfortable discussing politics with strangers, or just about anyone. Not anymore. Largely due to the fact that politics have become so polarizing, and often uncivilized. I've seen it erode trust and friendships within and outside of the military community. And at SpouseBUZZ, politics are clearly outside our focus and we never touch the subject. So, this post isn't about left or right, or any politician - it's simply about how odd it is to me that some people feel the urge to push political discussions on those who serve admirably under multiple Commanders in Chief, regardless of political affiliation.
Part II Coming Soon: Ripped from the Headlines.