Stories like this annoy the hell out of me. This type of thing happens every few years, where someone with a military affiliation (the article doesn’t mention whether this person is active, reserve, or separated) makes a big stink, demanding special and preferential treatment because of the fact that they’re connected to the military. They generate public outrage at school officials, who are accused of being stupid and unpatriotic because they dare to insist that the rules exist for a reason and should apply to everyone equally. They whine and complain and shame and bully until they get their way, demanding to be treated as an individual rather than as part of a group.
Is this the image that Marines really want to cultivate with the general public? That the rules don’t apply to them? That the public should bow down and worship the very ground they walk on? Doesn’t this directly contrast the image of recruits getting off a bus and arriving in basic training, where they will all receive identical clothes and haircuts? Where they will be stripped of all but their last name and social security number, and explicitly treated as expendable cogs in a vast and uncaring machine? Isn’t it surprising that people who receive that sort of training would then go on to demand that a school waive a rule that has been standing for over 20 years in order to accommodate their singular desire?
I don’t think it’s surprising at all. I think the secret to understanding this issue is to understand that the military produces a culture of entitlement. This might sound shocking or controversial, but it is also true. Our culture as a whole reinforces this theme. From the first time you see a recruiting commercial as a child, we are taught that people in the military are heroes, whose occupation alone gives them greater value than mere civilians. They don’t work, they “serve.” They are the best, the brightest, the bravest, and all that crap. This sort of propaganda isn’t just a tool to increase enlistments, it also seeps in to the mindset of active duty personnel. You learn to ask for a discount everywhere you go (and businesses who don’t engage in price discrimination based on military status are often ridiculed for the crime of treating everyone the same). You learn to expect preferential hiring status because of your “leadership experience.” You learn that you are entitled to “special” protections that others are not. Within your unit, you may be content with being a mere cog in a machine for the “greater good,” but as soon as you step foot off the base, you are taught to expect reverence from the common plebes. (In fairness, I’ll note that this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon…)
This post might not make me very popular with my former friends and co-workers, but the point needs to be made. This kind of outrageously selfish behavior on the part of veterans has to be stopped. It makes us all look like spoiled, selfish, children who demand that the entire world stop and cow-tow to our own desires. The school has a rule. The rule is long-standing. If you want to march in the ceremony, you wear a gown. Period. If you don’t like it, don’t march in the ceremony. There is nothing controversial here. There is only a fully grown adult acting like a child and attempting to use popular support for the military as a weapon against school officials in order to demand special treatment.