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Why do my co-workers insult soldiers?

Why do my co-workers insult soldiers?

Q. My husband is in the Army. I work in an office where many people oppose the war. They seem to think all members of the military are violent thugs. I am hurt when I hear anti-military comments – what can I do?

A.You’re to be commended for your loyalty, both to your husband and to his colleagues in arms who defend our nation. The hurt that you feel is provoked not by mere ego sensitivity, but by noble sentiments. You hurt for right reasons and this speaks well of you.

You identify two different issues. The first is opposition to a military engagement. This is a political position on which reasonable people will have strong disagreements. You’re as likely to change their views as them changing yours. So I would leave it alone.

The second issue is quite different – an ill-informed, sweeping stereotype: “All members of the military are violent thugs.”  If your co-workers really hold this view, it’s much easier to address. So obviously distorted, it’s easy to counter. Very few would hold to it. Therefore, it’s also unpopular.

You ask, “What can I do?” So, I assume you want to take action. I’ll also assume your motive is not merely to avoid feeling hurt, but chiefly to defend the truth, as well as the honor, of the honorable. Tactically, you might consider the proverb:

Never deny. Seldom affirm. Always distinguish.

Never deny. To directly deny another’s opinion fails to persuade. It raises hackles and strengthens their position. As my Grandfather Curry often said: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

Seldom affirm. You’re already doing this by rejecting an ignorant stereotype. Many strongly held views are simply wrong, so we need to discriminate according to the truth. This is the virtue of prudence.

Always distinguish. You can help others examine their thinking by asking simple questions. “Do you really think that all of the men and women in uniform are violent types? Do you have firsthand knowledge or evidence? Have you served in the military? If so, were you a violent thug?” (Better hold on that one). You get the point. Questions help us make distinctions and better understand our thinking.

You also might want to share one of the studies that affirm that the U.S. military is one of the most trusted institutions for ethical standards and conduct.  The various honor codes (quite compelling) also can be good fodder for discussion.

Good luck. Sometimes a person is so bound to his opinion that contrary facts won’t budge him (indomitable ignorance). But most people will be open, if approached in a tactful and kind way.