I’m sharing this post, originally written on Blogspot on August 5, 2016, because I think it’s a really cool story that is relevant to my experience in Germany. Keep in mind that it appears here as/is, as I am certain General West has moved on from Fort Eustis. I will also share a follow up post written at the same time.
This morning, I was reading the Daily Press, which is the newspaper from my hometown community. I noticed an article about Lieutenant General Nadja Y. West, who recently gave a speech at Fort Eustis in honor of the 596th Transportation Brigade’s Women’s Equality Day observance. LTG West is the first black lieutenant general and the highest ranking female to ever graduate from West Point and she once commanded the hospital (now clinic) at Fort Eustis, an Army post that is near and dear to my heart because I grew up nearby. LTG West is a medical doctor who is currently the surgeon general of the Army. Her husband is retired COL Donald West. I see them as quite a power couple!
Anyway, as I was listening to LTG West speak on a video that was posted with the article I was reading, I realized that she appeared to be the product of a German and American partnership. She is clearly biracial and, in fact, has the sort of willowy look of so many German women I’ve seen. Also, her first name “Nadja” is a very German name.
I went looking to find out what her background is and learned that yes, indeed, her biological parents were a German woman and African American man who was posted to Germany with the Army. Sadly, LTG West was left orphaned when she was a baby. At nine months old, she was adopted by Oscar and Mabel Grammer. Oscar Grammer was a Chief Warrant Officer who worked with the Army in Germany and Mabel Grammer was a civil rights activist and journalist. The couple adopted twelve interracial children in Germany and arranged for the adoption of 500 more by families in the United States. LTG West was the youngest of the twelve children adopted by the Grammers.
Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met are biracial. LTG West is clearly very attractive, but she’s also incredibly accomplished. I’m sure the people who created her had no idea how far their daughter would eventually go in life.
Having grown up in the southern United States, I’ve seen my share of racism. Germany is not immune to racism, although it seems to be directed more toward Middle Eastern people than folks of African descent. One is much more likely to hear a German disparage someone from Turkey or Syria than a black person.
Many German women seem to really be attracted to black men. In fact, I remember when we moved to North Carolina, one of the movers was a very friendly black guy. When I mentioned that we’d once lived in Germany, he laughed and said with a big smile, “German women love black men!” I have since met a number of people who were born to German and African American parents. In fact, a lot of the people I’ve met have been affiliated with the United States military, especially the Army. The Army sends a lot more of its people to Germany than the other service branches do.
One of the things I have enjoyed about my years as an “Army wife” is the diversity of people affiliated with the military. Because servicemembers go all over the world, they often end up in relationships with people from other countries. Naturally, some places are more represented than others. For instance, there are a lot of Japanese and Korean women who have married American servicemen (and it is, more often than not, women who marry men, though there are certainly exceptions). I do know one Dutch guy whose wife is an Air Force officer. I’ve run into plenty of British folks, a couple of Italians and Greeks, and one or two Portuguese married to Americans, courtesy of the military. And I have several German friends who married Americans.
Someone has probably already done this, but I think it would be interesting to see the breakdown of international love matches that occur between American servicemembers and host country nationals. Naturally, not all of these “matches” work out. I have one friend who barely knows her father, a Puerto Rican/African American Army veteran. She grew up in Germany not really knowing her father, though she did eventually reconcile with him to some extent.
A lot of people who have no experience with military folks think that they are a bunch of knuckle dragging lunkheads. What I’ve found is that the military is full of people from diverse backgrounds and many are open-minded and intelligent. It’s true that a lot of veterans are people who come from small towns without much opportunity. Many people join the military to escape poverty or bankroll an education. But then they end up in faraway places where they meet and mingle with the locals. They collaborate to create another subset of diverse people.
The same thing happened in my Peace Corps group. About half a dozen people who went to Armenia with me ended their service married to host country nationals. Many people think of the Peace Corps as a very liberal group, and it’s true that a lot of Volunteers are pretty politically liberal. However, in some ways, the Peace Corps shares some similarities with the military. It’s very obviously a government agency. In fact, PCVs even take the same oath military servicemembers do. I have been surprised to find Bill working with at least one of my former Peace Corps colleagues, who went on to work for USAID.
I have an Italian friend who constantly disparages the military. He thinks it’s full of idiots who just want to destroy the world. As someone who grew up an Air Force brat and later married an Army officer, I have found that many people with experience in the military are well-traveled and open-minded. The ones who stay in the military tend to be pretty savvy about world affairs, and they often have opinions shaped by real life experiences outside of the United States. I know a lot of people think the US military should leave foreign postings, but I think these opportunities to live and work abroad are good for American society. Too many people in the United States never go anywhere and see anything. At least people in the military get the opportunity to look beyond the borders.
Hanging out on a military base can be an interesting cultural experience. Hell, just shopping at a commissary stateside is interesting, especially when you walk down the international food aisle. You’ll find a number of exotic products stocked for the spouses of servicemember Americans who came from somewhere else.
I think it’s really excellent that LTG Nadja West has done so well in her career. I enjoyed learning about her, and would probably find her fascinating to talk to. She’s quite a role model for all women.
ETA: I just read the obituary for West’s mother, Mabel Grammer, which I linked to earlier in this post. I highly recommend reading it if you’re intrigued. She was clearly an amazing woman.
You know those old sayings? “No good deed goes unpunished…” “The road to hell is paved with good intentions…” And I’m sure there are others. You get the point, right?
This morning, having successfully downloaded the COVPass app, I decided to write a post for my travel blog about how to get the COVID-19 vaccine certificates and load them into a smart phone. This may not seem like a particularly difficult thing to do, but for Americans in Germany, it can be a process. I spent a couple of solid hours on the post, laboriously writing out the story of how I achieved success and each step I took. Then, once I was finished I shared the post in a few limited Facebook groups. Why limited? Because I’ve been in enough Facebook groups– particularly those affiliated with the military– to know that some people can’t simply be appreciative.
The very first comment I got on my link was from some guy who apparently isn’t a very careful reader. He wrote that my post was “good, but…” and then he proceeded to write about a point I’d missed about not needing to include the banking info. Except I hadn’t missed it. He just hadn’t read the post carefully. And then, to add insult to injury, he cut and pasted someone else’s long ass Facebook post about getting the app on an iPhone and left it in a comment. I guess no one needs to read that post I worked hard on this morning, after all.
I was already in a bit of a mood, probably because of hormones, so his comment immediately pissed me off. And I know it shouldn’t have. Mansplainers are a fact of life, particularly in military circles. There’s always some guy waiting to issue criticism or correction or, in more than one case in my experience, insults. Still, I don’t get paid to write this shit. I genuinely was trying to be helpful to the community when I wrote about my experience. It really felt belittling and dismissive to get that thoughtless comment from some guy who felt the need to be critical instead of kind. He obviously didn’t consider how much work went into that post… or he just didn’t care.
I suppose I could have given in to the urge to be bitchy. I kind of felt like ripping the guy’s nuts off, but realized that wouldn’t be a good look for me. So instead, I wrote, “Right, and I included that information in the post…” I also didn’t add what I was thinking, which was “that you obviously didn’t take the time to read carefully before you criticized…” You see, I wrote my post in a story form, rather than a cut and dry technical way. Maybe it was just too many words for him. Oh well… I can’t please everyone.
Seriously, though. It’s been a long time since I last posted in that group. It’s mainly because it’s a travel group, and I haven’t been traveling. Today, it occurred to me that I had something to add, and this guy has to piss all over it by criticizing it. I wonder if he realizes how that kind of response may have a negative effect on other people. I know I’ll think twice about posting information, since there’s a risk that some jerk’s thoughtless comment will irritate me. That would be a shame, since I’m going on seven years living in Germany this time and I have a lot to add about the subject. But I don’t like feeling aggravated… and it’s just as easy for me to let people find the content on their own, rather than trying to share it in a group.
I’m sure the guy doesn’t realize how irritating his comment is to me… although I understand that maybe this is an overreaction. Like I said… no good deed goes unpunished… the road to hell is paved with good intentions… I should have known better… I need a vacation. And now that I finally have the credentials, perhaps I can travel somewhere. If others find value in the work I did this morning, so much the better. I just wish people would stop and think before they indulge the impulse to be corrective… and make sure they read carefully beforehand. Because I’m passive aggressive, coming off my period, and completely over it, I went back and bolded, italicized, and partially underlined the part where I clearly wrote you don’t have to add the banking info. I suppose I could have also added this…
Apologies in advance for this post, since I’ve written about Alan Osmond’s ego before. I’m sure some people wonder why I would write about his ego, given that he’s in his 70s now, is no longer “flavor of the month”, and hasn’t been for many years. It’s just that I recently stumbled on a video done by his eight sons, The Osmonds 2nd Generation, and I was struck by the egotism of the lyrics in their performance… Behold!
Maybe it was a combination of finding this video, Father’s Day, and the Donny Osmond birthday video my sister sent me that has me thinking about Alan Osmond this morning. No, he’s not “flavor of the month” anymore. He hasn’t been in many years. There’s no doubt that he has musical talent, as do his sons and other family members, like Donny. Maybe that talent makes them special. Actually, I think Donny is probably the most talented of all of them, in terms of his dance ability, singing voice, and enduring cuteness even in his 60s. I genuinely enjoyed the birthday video my sister sent and was amazed by how charismatic Donny still is, many years after having been “flavor of the month”. But it seems that at least one of Donny’s brothers is still a bit conceited, and thinks of himself as more special than the rest.
As I watched the video above, listening to Alan’s sons praise their dad for realizing his “dream”, I was reminded of a rant I wrote several years ago when I ran across a YouTube video featuring Alan Osmond. He was bragging about how he was a great soldier who was too important to send to Vietnam because he was a show business performer with connections. In the video below, Alan talks about how Heavenly Father basically intervened in keeping him out of a war zone, despite his superior abilities as a soldier.
The first time I watched the above video, I got pissed off. Why? Because my father went to Vietnam and suffered from PTSD for decades after he came home. I respect Alan Osmond for doing his bit as a clerk at Fort Ord. That is a valuable service to our country. But in this video, he acts like he was Rambo and was spared the war because he had a “higher calling” in show biz. That’s a bunch of crap.
My dad was forever haunted by his memories of Vietnam. Toward the end of his life, he used to have terrible nightmares. He’d jump out of bed while still sleeping, swinging his fists at imaginary assailants. One time, he hit the wall while fighting in his sleep. He damaged his middle finger so badly that there was talk that it might have to be amputated. My dad also had a serious drinking problem that was exacerbated by being at war, where booze was handed out freely. Nowadays, boozing isn’t promoted in the military like it was in my dad’s day. My dad, who came from a long line of drunks and was raised by a violent alcoholic, was a prime candidate for developing alcoholism himself. The stress of combat, along with the easy availability of booze, was devastating for him. And that devastation had ripple effects on everyone around him, as it profoundly affected him. So, when I hear Alan Osmond acting like Vietnam was a big adventure and he was this hot shot recruit who was deemed “too valuable” for combat, it smarts a bit.
My dad really suffered… and I, as his daughter, also suffered. My dad would have been a better father, husband, friend, and person if he hadn’t been an alcoholic with PTSD. My dad has been gone now for seven years, and I’m still haunted by him. I have some really good memories of him, but I also have a lot of traumatic ones. By the time he died in 2014, I had some complicated and confusing feelings about our relationship. I see all my friends sharing pictures of their dads on Father’s Day. I shared a couple of them, too. But the truth is, as much as I loved him, I didn’t like him very much. And a lot of the reason I didn’t like him was because he was abusive to me. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been less abusive if he hadn’t gone to war and come home with PTSD. I believe he would have been an alcoholic regardless, but maybe the PTSD wouldn’t have been as bad. Maybe we could have had a better relationship. I believe he had it in him to be kinder to me than he was.
I commented on the YouTube video about how “full of himself” Alan is. Some guy named David, who claimed to be a veteran himself, took me to task and told me to STFU. I ranted about that, too, on my old blog. Just because I am not a military veteran, that doesn’t mean I can’t make a comment about Alan Osmond’s service. I am so sick and tired of people trying to shut up people who express themselves. This attitude is especially prevalent in military circles, where it’s very common for veterans to ask anyone who says anything negative about the military if they’ve ever served. Whether or not a person has served should be irrelevant. As Americans, we should be able to express opinions about the military without someone demanding to know if we’ve ever served in the military. As someone who has been in the “military world” since birth, I certainly CAN have an opinion about it. Maybe my views about the military not as informed as Bill’s or another veteran’s would be, but it’s ridiculous and short-sighted to assume that someone who is exposed to the military world, even if they don’t wear a uniform, can’t form an opinion and express it.
If veterans who tell me to STFU really cared about real freedom and what putting on that uniform means, they would cherish the rights of people to share their views, regardless of how “offensive” they may be. I have spent my whole life around veterans, and I have tremendous respect for them and what they do. BUT– I have even more respect for veterans who understand that part of serving honorably is doing so with a pure, unselfish heart. Telling someone to STFU because you don’t think they have a right to an opinion is not particularly honorable. Why should I have more respect for someone who joined the military if they don’t have enough regard for me, as a fellow freedom loving American, to let me speak my mind?
Moreover, one can serve one’s country and NOT be a military veteran. I served my country in the Peace Corps. Others serve by being public servants or even being elected officials, although some elected officials have lost sight of being of “service” in their roles. I took the very same oath that every service member or government employee takes. Like my husband, I vowed to support and uphold the Constitution. Taking that oath as a military servicemember doesn’t make someone “special”. Peace Corps Volunteers also take that oath when they swear in, even though they don’t carry weapons or go into combat.
Someone called “Unknown” left me a comment on that old post about how I shouldn’t disparage Alan for being a clerk. The person wrote:
“There are a lot of soldiers that are on the clerk side. Without them the military would not be able to survive. So you are basically saying unless you were in a combat unit you didn’t serve. There are hundreds of thousands of soldiers that are in the offices as clerks. Doesn’t make them any less important.”
And this was my admittedly irritated response to “Unknown”, who obviously didn’t read very carefully:
It looks like you may have completely missed the point of this post.
I never said and don’t believe that clerks who serve in the military are “unimportant”. On the contrary, I have basic respect for anyone who serves, including Alan Osmond.
My point is that Alan Osmond’s comments about what he did during the Vietnam War are in poor taste. He admits that he only joined the Army because he didn’t want to go on a Mormon mission. He felt that he would have more impact for his church if he stayed home and continued performing with his brothers. So he got a connection in the entertainment business to see to it that he could stay in California and be a clerk.
Alan Osmond was never in any actual danger, but he brags about how “awesome” his military skills were. I would think that if his skills were so excellent, it would have been more honorable for him to use them in support of his country. But his attitude seems to be that he was too “special” to do that; his job was to be a pop star so that he could spread Mormonism to the masses.
I am fully aware that there are many “cogs in the wheel” who serve in the military. Each and every one of them has the right to be proud of their service. However, I think bragging about being a typist during the Vietnam War era, especially as you imply that God had bigger plans for you to be a singing star, is very tacky. Moreover, there is a huge difference in simply being proud of one’s service and blatantly bragging about it on YouTube.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with members of the military who serve in non-combat roles. My husband went to Iraq, but basically had a desk job. There is also nothing wrong with people in the military who never see combat, but perform important supporting roles back home. My issue with Alan Osmond is that it’s inappropriate for him to boast about what he did during the Vietnam War era when so many people, not lucky enough to have family connections, went off to war and either died or came home permanently changed for the worse.
Watching and hearing Alan Osmond talk about how he did his bit for the Army and apparently God saved him from the jungles of Vietnam is rather infuriating. There were lots of loving, sensitive, talented young men drafted and sent off to Vietnam to fight in the war. A lot of them didn’t come back, and a lot of them were never the same when they did come back. The same has happened to plenty of people who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, though fortunately those wars have not been as personally devastating to as many people as Vietnam was. We do, at least, have more of an understanding for PTSD. There is more help available now. But it’s still such a real and scary thing that has ripple effects that extend far beyond just the person who has it. When I was a child and a teenager, and my dad would go into drunken rages and lose control of himself, I wasn’t thinking about how PTSD was making him act like that. I was internalizing the idea that he was hurting me because I was a bad person and he hated me. You see?
But our relationship wasn’t always bad. Sometimes, it was lovely, and we could share positive things, such as the dance pictured above, captured at my wedding. We also often shared our mutual love for music. In 1986, my dad bought me a live cassette collection by Bruce Springsteen. Though I don’t remember being a big Springsteen fan before I got that collection for Christmas, I used to listen to it all the time and really got into Springsteen for awhile. One of the songs on it is a very poignant rendition of “The River”. Bruce introduces the song by telling his own story about not going to Vietnam… But his story is so much more respectful than Alan Osmond’s is…
When I was practicing social work, I had a client who was a veteran. He used to tell me war stories. I always got the sense that they were probably about 90% bullshit, as was a lot of the other stuff he told me (for instance, he lied to me about having cancer). I’ve been around veterans my whole life. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of them don’t want to talk about war. Even Bill, who only spent six months in Iraq behind a desk, was affected by his time there and what he was doing. The people who actually do things that warrant receiving awards that recognize their valor don’t usually want to talk about it.
When Bill visited my parents’ home the first time, he saw that my dad, who was an Air Force officer, had earned a Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam. It was before Bill had ever been deployed himself. Bill was impressed by my dad’s award, but my dad didn’t want to discuss it. He said that the reason he got the award was “bogus”. I have known my share of military folks. The ones who are brave and do things to legitimately earn those awards are usually very humble about it… because a lot of times, earning those awards involves doing things that they aren’t proud of or acting heroically in situations that end up haunting them for life.
And yet, there’s Alan Osmond talking about the “trophies” he won in basic training for being a great shot and fighting with bayonets so well because he could dance. It kind of makes me want to puke. If he was really that great, the military would have sent his ass to Vietnam, right? But no… he was a typist/clerk in California for a brief time. And he brags about it. Apparently, the Lord wanted him safely at home in the United States so he could be an entertainer and influence people to join his church. What self-important drivel! And Alan didn’t appreciate being called a “draft dodger”. He even commented on the video with more bullshit about promptings from “the spirit”. He was special because as a Mormon, God only speaks to and protects him and his ilk. The rest of the guys who went to Vietnam and came back damaged or dead were not special enough to be typists in California for “the cause”.
Ever since I heard that video with Alan Osmond talking about his military service during the Vietnam era, I’ve had a less than positive opinion of him as a person. But then, when I saw the video with his sons literally singing Alan’s praises in a song ripped off from Billy Joel, I wonder if they came up with the idea to honor Alan themselves. Or were they pressured to honor their father in such an egotistical and ostentatious way? Below is another video in which Alan’s sons “honor their father”, and ask the audience to do the same:
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Alan’s sons “honor their father” so conspicuously. I remember the original Osmond Brothers honored their father similarly, even though in later years, they’ve said he was abusive and demanding to a fault. In this 2003 era documentary about being Osmond, the brothers talk about how their hopes and dreams were thwarted by the desires and needs of their family of origin.
We kind of see the same “father centric” dynamic in the Duggar family, as Jim Bob Duggar is repeatedly described as “someone you don’t say ‘no’ to.” Personally, I think it’s kind of egotistical for people to have so many kids. What makes a person think the world needs so many people with their DNA running around? But I know people have their reasons for having so many kids. In the Duggars’ case, it’s that they believe God is “blessing” them and not that they’re just having sex at the right time of the month and farming their babies out for their older kids to raise. At least in the Osmonds’ case, it looks like Mother Osmond raised her children.
Anyway… I’ve got no qualms about stating that Alan Osmond and his brothers clearly have talent. And, as someone who comes from a musical family, I understand the joy of sharing that gift. I’m grateful to Alan for his military service, too. He did his part, which is more than a lot of people can say. However, I would be much more impressed with him if he showed some understanding of how fortunate he was not to have had to go into combat and potentially get injured or killed, or spend the rest of his life forever traumatized by war. I’d have more respect for him if he realized how lucky his family members are that he didn’t come home in a box or permanently changed by spending time in a war zone. And while I think Alan’s sons are also very talented performers, I think they would do well to realize that their dad has a long way to go before he reaches musical genius status. Hell, I think about Sting, who has also been called “conceited” by some… but I have seen Sting perform and watched him generously share the stage with others… and even remember students he had when he was a teacher.
Phew… I feel better now. Father’s Day is always an emotional time of year for me for so many reasons.
Well, it’s time to walk the dogs and get on with the rest of the day. If you made it through this rant, thanks. And please do me a favor and don’t miss the point. It’s not that I don’t respect Alan Osmond’s military service. I just think he’s an egotistical jerk. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.
First thing’s first. I hate the term “dependa”. Although many people use the word as a shortened version of the government/military term, “dependent”, it’s actually a shortened version of an insult. At some point, years ago, some genius started referring to a certain type of military wife as a “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus”, depending on the audience. Eventually, the terms “dependapotamus” or “dependasaurus” got shortened to “dependa”. And now, people use it all the time, sometimes even to define themselves.
Last night, I read an article in The New York Times about people who are getting married and being platonic. They see marriage as a business idea, rather than a romantic one. They find someone they can trust and with whom they can share marital benefits. The person may be more of a best friend than a mate.
I thought the article was very interesting and, for some people, the idea of marrying someone for practical purposes is useful. Most people need or just prefer having companionship in life, and it’s helpful to have someone share the load in terms of some of life’s bigger challenges. But then I went into the comment section and noticed one woman had mentioned people in the military and how the idea of a platonic marriage could be a boon for collecting “dependa” benefits.
I will admit, it was later in the evening and I was emboldened by evening libations, but I commented that people who disrespectfully refer to military family members/spouses as “dependas” are usually not worth listening to for long. The woman who wrote that “laughed” at me, then wrote that she is a “dependa” herself.
My response was something along the lines of, “Good for you. Maybe it’s time you stopped thinking of yourself in such a derogatory way and realized that you have value in and of yourself, rather than as just your spouse’s ‘dependent’.”
And although she “laughed” again, as did someone else, I decided not to read any other responses. I have learned my lesson with that type of person. It’s a beautiful Sunday, and I have better things to do… like pluck out and shape my own pubic hairs. 😉 I know that some people will defend their “right” to claim the term “dependa” with great vigor, much like some people consistently vote against their own interests. My experience comes from years of observation and fruitless discussions with people who love using degrading labels like “dependa” and its more offensive cousins, “dependapotamus” and “dependasaurus”.
Eight years ago, I fell into a very contentious argument on the WTF Army Moments! Facebook page. Someone had posted a photo that said FRG (family readiness group) spouses shouldn’t try to “wear their spouse’s rank”. I completely agree with that, by the way. Spouses who aren’t themselves in the military should not try to claim their spouse’s rank and bully other spouses. Surprisingly enough, there are some people who do that. It’s offensive, tacky, and wrong.
But then I made the mistake of commenting that I think the term “dependents” is demeaning and should be phased out. Well… the negative response I got was nothing short of astonishing! You would have thought I had insulted someone’s mother or something. The group owner demanded to know why I thought the term “dependents” was demeaning. I responded it’s because spouses are competent adults, and in most marriages, adults are supposed to depend on each other. Plenty of military spouses have careers of their own and are perfectly capable of supporting themselves. While it’s true that I, personally, do depend on my husband for some things, he depends on me for things, too. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. And as an educated woman who is fully capable, I don’t think it’s right that capable adults are being called “dependents” by the military.
Shit went down after that. I got accused of trying to “lord” my education over the women in the group. There was a tidal wave of insults, sarcasm, profanity, and sweeping assumptions about my character and life experiences. First, I was told that my education and experience mean nothing. That I’m the same as everyone else (Gosh, I sure hope not, judging by the moronic responses of some of them). Next, I was accused of being, “gasp”, a liberal (horrors)! When I explained that I don’t define myself as conservative or liberal and really couldn’t see where my politics come into this conversation, I was accused of not being experienced about military life.
The fact that I get health insurance from the government was repeatedly brought up as to why I’m a “dependent”. That’s funny. For over two years after I got married, I paid for my own health insurance. I reluctantly gave it up when it became clear that the constant moving we’d be doing would make hanging on to it difficult and needlessly expensive. When I explained that I’ve been around military folks my whole life, first as an Air Force brat and then as an Army wife, the group owner claimed that I would never see life as it really is in the military because I’m “just a dependent”. At that point, I told the rabid person who kept attacking me that she needed to make up her mind. I mean, am I “just like every other military spouse” regardless of my education, or am I someone hopelessly lost in an “ivory tower” and clueless about military life? Someone else added that the term “dependent” is a “fucking IRS term”. It is, but the IRS does not automatically consider spouses dependents, so that point was moot.
I should add that this isn’t an earth shattering issue for me. I know it will never change in my lifetime, and I’m not going to be sending any letters to Joe Biden or Congress, or anything like that. I just think the mindset that all spouses are “dependents” is antiquated, demoralizing, and yes, kind of demeaning. Particularly since it’s also devolved into the “dependa” insult. I don’t understand why people would laugh at me or begrudge me for thinking that. Why can’t we just respect someone’s differing opinions without immediately resorting to insults and character assassinations? Isn’t that why a lot of folks put on a military uniform in the first place? Freedom?
The woman I encountered last night openly calls herself a “dependa”. She may have a very healthy self-esteem. She probably hasn’t given the term much thought. But I have thought about it a lot over the years, mainly because I have the time and energy to do so. When a military wife calls herself a “dependa”, she’s basically lumping herself in with a class of women who are assumed to be fat, uneducated, fertile slobs who are perpetually pregnant, sit on their asses all day, eat bon bons, watch daytime TV, and blow their husband’s paychecks on makeup or Coach bags. They are rumored to have married simply for Tricare benefits and have a tendency to try to “wear their husband’s rank”. And again– it’s almost always women/wives who are called “dependas”, even though many female servicemembers are married to men.
In all my years of living around military folks– first as a “brat” (another term that has come under fire, although not one I have an issue with, personally) and then as a “spouse”– I have run into very few true examples of the “dependa” stereotype. A lot of the women who marry into the military lifestyle are very strong, capable, independent, creative and smart people. Quite a few have been to college or even graduate school, and some– gasp– even have good jobs while they raise children! And then there are also wives who don’t work for money, but do a lot of volunteer work, or homeschool their children… or whatever. How they spend their time or resources is really no one else’s business, anyway, is it? That’s between the married couple, not some random person observing them at AAFES or the commissary.
There are several social media groups that are dedicated to shaming and making fun of so-called “dependas”. While it may seem like good, clean fun to take part in these groups, the fact is, sometimes they do things that are pretty questionable and have real consequences for others. For example, a few years ago, I read an article about a military wife whose Facebook photos were ripped off from her personal page and shared in a Facebook group, where perfect strangers proceeded to make fun of them. I seem to remember in one situation, a plus sized wife was wearing a bikini and dared to post it on her Facebook page. That bikini pic ended up on Dear Dependa, where people were having a field day laughing about them. In another situation, a family’s photos were stolen and posted, where they were ridiculed. Some of the pictures included children.
It later came to light that the person who had stolen the photos was an Army colonel. He had to be asked, and later threatened with legal action, to take down the photos. Here he was– a man entrusted to lead troops, serve as an example to younger, less experienced servicemembers, and make sure missions are accomplished– and he’s hunting the personal Facebook pages of military spouses, copying photos that aren’t his, and sharing them to Facebook groups, where they can be ridiculed. No wonder so many civilians think the military is full of brain dead, uneducated thugs who get off on killing people. That’s not the actual case, by the way… I know plenty of smart, decent people in the military. But guys like that colonel, who engage in online bullying and harassment, don’t do a lot for the military’s image. How can a person like that be entrusted to be a good leader, responsible for expensive equipment and the lives of so many people?
While I know I won’t change anything by writing this post about why I think the term “dependent” and its derogatory bastardizations “dependapotamus”, “dependasaurus”, and “dependa” ought to go, I do think it’s sad that some people think it’s okay to refer to themselves in that way. I doubt many people think about it for long. I doubt the woman I ran into last night would have liked it if I had said something like, “So basically, you think of yourself as just a fat, unemployed, lazy, perpetually pregnant woman who leeches off her husband’s paycheck? Kudos to you for being able to read, at least.” Because, when she refers to herself as a “dependa”, she’s basically saying that the people who make fun of “dependas” should think of her in that way. Like it or not, “dependa” is a shortened version of insulting terms. It’s kind of like referring to oneself as a “bitch” or a “bastard” or something worse.
I want to ask some of these people what a so-called “dependa” could do to make themselves respectable… Would they qualify as fellow human beings worthy of a modicum of regard if they lost some weight and got jobs at AAFES? What about someone like me? I am now a retiree’s wife. Many would say I’m fat. I don’t have a regularly paying job, but I write blogs and earn some money from that endeavor. Am I worthy of respect? Or would they call me a “dependa” simply because of my lifestyle?
Ah, no matter. I know I am worthy of respect. Those who don’t want to give it to me aren’t worth the worry. And those who disrespect themselves by calling themselves “dependa” probably aren’t worth the worry, either. Particularly, when they don’t realize that they’re making things harder for themselves by seeing themselves in that way and emboldening bullies in the military community.
It IS true in my case that people who regularly use that term are not worth listening to for more than a minute. They’re usually the type of people who can’t stand smart, accomplished, intelligent, and articulate women, and they would just prefer it if anyone who doesn’t have a penis just shuts up and does what she’s told. I’m serious. There are some truly vile, misogynistic, abusive people in the military culture, and they don’t care about anyone or anything but themselves, despite the military “esprit de corps” ethos they are supposed to follow. They may seem alright on the surface, but once you spend any time talking to them, you find out they have little to no regard for anyone– particularly women.
And so, when a woman calls herself a “dependa” and actually defends her “right” to refer to herself in such a way, all I can do is shake my head in dismay. I just think it’s sad. Surely, she’s better than the “dependa” stereotype. Or, I would hope so… I would at least hope that, deep down, she thought of herself in kinder, more flattering terms. I would really hope she has more self-respect. The vast majority of military wives truly are worthy of, at the very least, self-respect and dignity. If you don’t have respect for yourself, it’s hard to ask others to have respect for you. Just something to think about… especially if you’re a military wife reading today’s post.
You’ve already lost the argument, as far as I’m concerned.
A couple of days ago, when riots were happening in Washington, D.C., a friend of mine named Chris posted this comment on Facebook.
From what I am seeing, President Trump has incited a riot where protestors have now breached and are inside the Capitol building. This is NOT the America I spent my life defending.
Chris is someone I knew in college. He’s spent most of his adult life as an Army officer. He’s offline friends with one of Bill’s former colleagues from the early days of his Army career. Although Bill hasn’t met my college friend himself, my college friend later friended Bill, because they have the Army and Bill’s former colleague in common, as well as some mutual friends. That old concept, Six Degrees of Separation, works especially well in the military.
Anyway, given my college friend’s military career, he has a lot of Facebook friends and they run the gamut in terms of their politics. Naturally, a lot of the military folks who are friends with Chris are politically conservative. Based on his public thread, which at this writing has over 300 comments, many of my college friend’s contacts are mostly Trump supporting Republicans.
After awhile, someone brought up the fact that Trump’s leadership style is an awful lot like Adolf Hitler’s. Personally, I agree with the similarities. But whenever Hitler comes into the conversation about Trump, many people vehemently deny the comparisons. They think it’s awful to even go there. I guess I can understand why comparing Trump to Hitler makes people squeamish. People don’t want to think they fell for electing a monster, and it’s true that Trump hasn’t committed atrocities on the same level that Hitler did. But I think if people stopped to think about it for a minute– cleared their minds of the obvious distaste most people have for Hitler and looked at the issue critically– they might see why some of us can see how Hitler and Trump have used the same playbook. And even if they still disagree with the comparison, they might have more respect for the opinions of others who do see things in that way.
So how is it that some people see comparisons to Hitler and others don’t? I’ve found that conservatives who don’t see the parallels tend to focus on nitty gritty details. For instance, one Trump supporter I’ve talked to about this brought up that Trump (supposedly) isn’t anti-semitic. Others say that comparing Trump to Hitler is hyperbole that is insulting to Jewish people. They all bring up the fact that Trump hasn’t murdered six million people (yet), and comparing Trump to Hitler diminishes Hitler’s evil deeds. They’re looking at specific policies and the actual things that were done during the Holocaust. They don’t consider how the German people got to the point of ignoring the barbaric treatment of Jews and others who were deemed “undesirable”, such as communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, and homosexuals, to name a few. Trump hasn’t yet managed what Hitler did. It would be difficult for him to do that in today’s world. But he motivates disenfranchised people in a way common to Hitler’s, and he has some very similar behaviors and mindsets to Hitler’s.
What these folks can’t seem to understand is that most people comparing Trump to Hitler have never said that Trump is *just like* Hitler, or that he believes in everything Hitler championed. What they’re saying is that he has a similar leadership style. Trump, like Hitler, was a mediocre person before he rose to power. Yes, Trump was wealthy and famous even before he became president, but most of his “accomplishments” came on the backs of other people. He’s definitely not a scholar, and if not for the family business, he probably never would have been regarded as a particularly brilliant businessperson. Trump made his money by screwing over and bullying other people. He is a taker. And although the role of POTUS is the ultimate government position, Trump never had an interest in government service. He had no experience as a politician and never would have been able to get a security clearance. What he is interested in is fame, power, self-gratification, and wealth, not being a leader. And those interests are what make him like Hitler, who was a similarly damaged, mentally ill person who was drunk on power.
Like Hitler, Donald Trump’s “gifts” are his charisma and ability to rile up people. Like all malignant narcissists, he knows what to say to motivate people. He knows how to get people energized and fool them into thinking that he’s working for them. But if you look beyond the surface, you can see there’s very little substance to what he says. And when it comes down to it, he really doesn’t care about anyone but himself and his obsession for power and money. He’s no different than a televangelist who talks people into sending him their grocery money on the promise that they’ll somehow be blessed by the Almighty. Trump ALWAYS blames other people when things go wrong, and he energizes other people, perhaps those who feel disenfranchised by virtue signaling liberals whom they think live in ivory towers, to think as he does. Of course, Trump wouldn’t deign to spend any time with most of the people who champion him. He looks down on the poor.
Hitler, likewise, was very good at riling people up and convincing ordinary Germans that his plan was what they needed to get out of their impoverished conditions. He convinced people to blame the Jews and, little by little, desensitized them to the cruelties and atrocities levied against Jewish people. Germans are, on the whole, very law abiding people, so he passed laws that enabled his campaign of hatred to go on unabated. He enlisted other people– power hungry, ambitious, cruel people– to join him in his campaign against Jews and others he deemed unacceptable or undesirable.
Take a look at Trump’s policies and you might see that he similarly dehumanizes people. In his case, it’s the “illegals”. And while the practice of “caging” people didn’t start with Trump, it definitely ramped up on his watch, especially as he insisted on going forward with his idea to build as massive wall to keep out “bad hombres”. Listen to what he says about other people. He views women as objects and values them only on their beauty. But even women he thinks of as “beautiful” are still just objects intended for his entertainment and enjoyment. They are less than human in his eyes. You only have to read some of his comments over the years to see that.
When people compare Trump to Hitler, it’s not because he’s been on a campaign of mass murder. It’s his behavior and his effect on his followers that they’re addressing. It’s Trump’s ability to motivate people to go to Washington, D.C. and attempt to derail democracy that makes him like Hitler. Sadly, a lot of people never think about this and won’t consider it. They only focus on what Hitler managed to do versus what Trump has done.
Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are easily impressed, particularly by those who make a lot of money. They are blinded by fame and wealth, and equate that to success. Many Americans are big believers in the “prosperity gospel”. They assume that a person’s power, thanks to wealth and fame, are a sign that they are favored by God. Most of them don’t think too hard about how someone would come into that much money, power, and fame. Sadly, a lot of people want to be in the orbit of fabulously rich and famous people. It doesn’t occur to them that a lot of really wealthy, famous people are shallow and selfish. Those qualities are often how they made their money and became powerful. They don’t care about others.
So anyway, a couple hundred comments into the contentious thread my friend Chris posted, another college friend joined the discussion. This friend is a woman I knew in school. She’s very bright and articulate, and she has a degree in history. Longwood University, particularly when we were students, has a very strong history department. Most of the people I know who got degrees in history at Longwood are very intelligent.
My friend brought up the Hitler connection, and she was immediately taken to task by one of Chris’s military buddies. This guy, name of Russ, is an author and a military officer. Sadly, based on his comments to my old friend from college, he’s not much of a gentleman. As the two sparred in Chris’s thread, I noticed that he started most of his comments with sarcasm, insults, and blatant rudeness. Meanwhile, my college friend, who like me, is an Air Force brat, responded to his comments with dignity and basic respect.
I was impressed by my friend’s comments. She’s definitely more patient than I am. I was tempted to jump into the fray myself, but I decided that I don’t like arguing with jerks, especially when I don’t know them and when it’s on social media. To me, it’s mostly a pointless exercise. Still, I was very proud of my friend for standing up to Russ and his obvious disrespect toward smart women. And then it occurred to me that Russ is not unlike a lot of people in the military– usually men– who look down on others. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of shit from people in the military community simply for daring to call my blog The Overeducated Housewife. These folks are usually the type who universally refer to military wives (and it’s always the wives, not the husbands) as “dependas”. A “dependa”, for those who don’t know, is a fat, lazy, parasitical woman who marries a military guy simply to drain his paycheck at AAFES and access Tricare benefits.
But even worse to the people who use the slur, dependa (which is short for dependapotamus), are smart women who feel emboldened to challenge them. Most of the men who act like Russ are the type of guys who can’t stand smart, outspoken, articulate women. And so, instead of treating them like equals, they do their best to try to diminish them with sarcasm, insults, and discounting. Here are a few of Russ’s comments:
He starts with this, after a third person called Trump a “Nazi” (which for the record, I don’t agree with– I don’t think Trump is a Nazi, but I do think many of his behaviors are like Hitler’s)…
Jesus, can we knock off the Nazi nonsense? Have you EVER stopped to think that such language is one of the reasons we’re so polarized? When someone invades the rest of Europe or kills 6 million people in systemic genocide, then maybe the Nazi comparison will be valid. Until then, it’s just a lazy way to tell everyone how much you hate those on the other side.
Then, a few comments later, Russ writes this:
no, it’s not like Hitler’s rise to power. Geez, when did our schools stop teaching actual history and start giving you whatever validates your personal political viewpoint? Hitler used a runaway inflationary crappy economy and hatred of Jews to rise to power and then systemically kill millions of people. Your over the top hyperbole isn’t helping; in fact, it’s part of what is inciting all of this.
You can sort feel his derisive mood in his words. He’s not responding to other posters with respect. He’s being insulting and rude and not even trying to see where the comparisons are coming from. And again, he’s focused on the “nitty gritty” of what fueled Hitler, not the behaviors themselves.
So my friend informed Russ about her background and wrote an explanation of why people compare Trump to Hitler. Below is what she wrote. The only thing potentially insulting to Russ is when she asks him not to question her education when he doesn’t even know her.
As someone who has a degree in history I feel that I have an accurate grasp on historical events and what leads to major historical events to parallel. Don’t question my education when you have no idea who I am or what I know.
Trump inflates the hatred of immigrants. There are camps with inhumane conditions that these immigrants are kept.
He uses the fallacy of America first to incite his followers to do his bidding. He can get a whole room of people to chant whatever party line he wants them to say. The nationalism he has evoked from people is blind to any thought other than America.
Having driven around this America during the pandemic I have seen many pockets of his followers and they are usually the very poor and the very rich. He preys on the insecurities of those who are scraping by and he protects his billionaire friends.
His actions are from a third world coup playbook. He does not have absolute power, there is a thing called checks and balances. He thinks he can tell congress what he wants and it will happen. He thinks he can determine how he wants the supreme court to make decisions. They all said, thank you, next and now he is pouting in the White House, on a twitter time out while people are still protesting in front of the Capitol building for a man who would easily thrust them in front of himself.
Your reluctance to see the parallels are because you just don’t want to be compared to an extreme government that exterminated 6 million souls and disenfranchised millions more. I can understand that, it hurts to have your belief system examined so thoroughly and compared to what has been declared monstrous.
Trumps actions are text book fascist, his hero is the leader of a dictatorship, how can you rationalize accepting this man as your leader?
He lost the election and now you are being asked to get over it like the democrats were told to in 2016.
This was a great opportunity for Russ to enter into a respectful and perhaps illuminating discussion about why some people are reminded of Hitler when they look at Trump. Even if my friend had failed to convince him, he might learn something from the exchange. Instead, he immediately insults and tries to bully her:
ooh, you have a pretty certificate? Well that just settles everything then, doesn’t it?
No, Trump is not inflaming hatred of immigrants. He does say we have a border that should be enforced, and I notice you left the word ILLEGAL out of your diatribe. BTW, remind me again when the cages went into service and who was President at that time…I kinda thought the American President was elected to look after America. Maybe I misunderstand the job.
If you’ve only seen very poor or very rich supporters, you need to get out more. I live among them, and they’re pretty much middle class. Or do you need to categorize them to justify your own opposition?
Which dictatorial actions has he taken? Has he arrested journalists and had their families followed? Oh, wait, that was Barack Obama…Hitler being appointed to the Chancellorship was a move aimed at appeasing his supporters by Hindenburg, so as to try and bring them into the governmental coalition. Hitler never won the Presidency on his own and only assumed it upon the death of Hindenburg. Moreover, he set about rounding up Jews inside Germany who were German citizens, and then he executed them. You conflating with Trump saying mean things is pretty comical.
BTW, remind me when democrats “got over” the election of 2016.
After I read this, I decided to take a look at Russ’s Facebook page. He evidently has a wife and daughters. I bet he speaks like this to them, too. I know the type. This is the same treatment I used to get from my father and my uncle, and other men in the family with military experience who have the erroneous idea that being rude and insulting is motivating. He probably treats the women in his family like trash. And this is a very typical attitude displayed by a lot of men in the military who can’t stand to be addressed by women.
So my friend continued with another comment, which I thought was pretty civilized.
Yes, I have a pretty piece of paper that states I put in the time to research my given field. It is where I met Chris, someone I greatly admire. I didn’t say it to brag, but to let you know I had the ability to read books, such as yours, to come up with my own educated opinion on matters.
And Russ comes up with this beaut…
so you continue your assertions based on your certificate and not on facts? I notice you failed to refute a SINGLE thing presented, instead relying on your degree to hopefully quell others into silence. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to dismiss you.
At this point, I’m pretty sure that Russ is just an asshole. But my friend addressed him again, I think quite respectfully, given Russ’s arrogant and dismissive tone toward her.
no, I don’t need to refute your position or points. This is not a debate. I am not required to defeat your ill informed assertions with a counterpoint to each point you make. My reference to my degree was presenting qualification to my argument like anyone would to demonstrate a mastery in a subject or skill. It wasn’t meant to put anyone down who does not have said “pretty paper” and I acknowledge there are many here more educated than me, some might even consider themselves overeducated.
At the end of the day, Congress ratified the electoral vote and Joe Biden will be the next President baring any actions taking place in Congress this week regarding Donald Trumps role in inciting violence.
It is easy for you, a male, to dismiss me because I don’t immediately defer to your superior opinion because, as a female, I must be stupid and not really understand how all of this works. Your bully tactics will not work on me.
As the daughter of a retired Air Force Colonel, I lived in a divided Germany and in school we were taught many things regarding international affairs, to include the responsibility of the people who fueled the ego of Hitler and how easy it was for him to rise to power.
We are in a poor economic situation. Trump is saying things that resonate in many hearts of like-minded people. Senators and congress-people of his own party support him at the cost of their own careers.
Four years go by fast. Instead of insurrection and sedition, why not form powerful election reform groups to ensure the next election is not “fraudulent.” Oh wait, if the presidential election was fraudulent, maybe the rest of the election was fraudulent and Mitch really isn’t the duly elected Senator from Kentucky? Shocker that the only election that is in question is the presidential election when every state had all offices on the same ballot. No one else on the ballot who lost are protesting like an angry dictator that there was voter fraud. They accepted the loss and said, get ’em next time.
And Russ couldn’t let it go, so he responded thusly:
I see, instead of taking on the points you quite obviously got wrong about rises to power, now it’s all about what is dangling between my legs. Why that’s not sexist at all!
I treated you the same way I treat everyone else. Stop acting all butt hurt b/c you got called out on your hyperbolic nonsense. It’s not about anyone bowing down to superiority – it’s about you being so full of rage and anger that it has tainted your judgment about how you pose historical context.
I went back, and golly gosh gee if I could find anywhere where I said Biden would not be the next President. Wouldn’t that simple fact, which everyone acknowledges, kinda undercut your Hitler assertion? Last I checked, Hitler was pretty unlikely to allow himself to be removed from power. But I get that you are wedded to overblown rhetoric that you somehow can’t see contributes to all the anger in our society today.
I see that you want to make this about the election in general instead of your Nazi reference bullshit. Biden won – shouldn’t that be enough for you to let go of this anger? Or are you intent on proving that it’s not Trump per se you dislike, but the Right in general, and Trump is merely a stand-in for that hatred?
He’s not even trying to understand where my friend is coming from. His attitude toward her was belligerent and insulting from the get go. But my friend stays on the high road and writes this:
If you felt any hatred from me toward Trump or the right I am quite surprised. He is not important enough to me to hate.
If there’s anything I hate, it’s when people try to tell me how I feel or what I think. Kudos to my friend for her even-handed response to a guy who did just that. But he couldn’t let it go. He had to lob one more missive.
your words tell a different story.
Nope, Russ. I don’t see it. But my friend offered these last thoughts, again, very classily stated.
I guess as an author you would know? Hate is something that is a visceral reaction. I don’t hate him any more than I hate you. I feel sorry for this country in being hoodwinked by the biggest con man to ever hold office and that is saying a lot because we have had quite a few in our history.
I can call someone a narcissist without hating them. I can describe behaviors as being childish without hating them. I can hold my ground on how I feel without being hateful toward you or anyone else who feels the same.
The feeling I feel is pity. I am unsure you understand why I feel pity without thinking that I am being condescending. This division is not the America I have been brought up to believe in so strongly. It is devolving into an us vs. them and I refuse to play into that role. So while you try to bait me with insults to get me to spew hate, it is not going to happen. I have many conservative friends who both support and don’t support Trump and I don’t treat them any different than any other friends. I will respectfully debate them when they want to debate and I will back off when it becomes uncivil.
What people don’t understand is the language of politics and how it is founded in civility. You explore the concept of hate in your book Schism as well as a fictionalized (which at the moment feels more non fiction given current political events) break of political parties where people are pitted against each other. You have some great reviews and I agree with one reviewer that this genre of literature (modern civil war) will be forthcoming more due to the political and civil unrest in the country. At some point, when courts, lawmakers, and other officials are saying there was no corruption, no fraud, when are the disenfranchised Trump supporters going to believe that? What do people have to do to make this be a settled matter?
I do hope my friend doesn’t mind that I posted about this… but this discussion is on a public thread and I was legitimately impressed by her intelligent and respectful responses to an apparently misogynistic bully (because I truly doubt he would have responded to a man in the way he responded to my friend). I already had a bee in my bonnet this morning on account of a couple of people insulting me on Gary Johnson’s Facebook page. One person called me “a special kind of stupid” and “selfish” because I wrote that the one good thing Trump has done is motivate people who ordinarily don’t vote to go to the polls and vote him out of office. I am delighted that Joe Biden won, simply because he’s a much more decent person than Trump is. But apparently, voting against Trump makes me “stupid” and “selfish” (looks like she deleted her comment after I called her out). Behold:
Anyway… it’s been a long four years and a long couple of days. Even if Trump isn’t entirely to blame for what happened in Washington, DC on Wednesday, he certainly had a hand in its fruition. The whole world is watching this, and Trump has not responded like a real leader should and would. It’s time for him to leave power before even more people get hurt or killed by his terrible policies. Maybe, with a leader who actually cares about others and sees them as more than just objects or weapons, America might be able to repair some of the damage. But I think we could all start by not immediately resorting to verbal abuse and insults, discounting other people’s opinions, and diminishing their accomplishments. That alone, would help make America much better… although we still have a long way to go before we’re “great”.
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