This afternoon The Players’ Tribune published a long, thoughtful post from Steph Curry, about Veterans Day, and the responsibility of people with prominent public platforms and voices to advocate on behalf of marginalized groups. It’s good! You should read the whole thing, in fact.
Curry’s main issue is how gesturing in the general direction of war veterans—like, for example, using them as a cudgel in order to punish NFL players who protest during the national anthem—is just that: an empty gesture that gives the impression of concern about the welfare and social standing of military veterans, without meaningfully improving the lives of veterans themselves. Real support for the troops requires more than strategically aligning oneself alongside their sacrifices in order to make political headway:
One of the most rewarding conversations that I’ve had this year was with a veteran — it was just the other night, actually. My wife, Ayesha, held the opening for her restaurant, and we all came out to eat dinner there and support her. And one of the guests who came in that night was a man named Michael, who was there with his wife. He came up and introduced himself, and we just got to talking.
He happened to have served in Afghanistan — and he told me about how much he had been through, both physically and mentally, just in trying to transition back into society, and into his daily life. He offered some advice to me, about how I could help to raise awareness about some of the serious issues that veterans are going through — for example, with the Veterans Affairs medical system, and how its administration is broken. And he educated me on demographics — telling me about how less than 1% of the population today serves in the military, which makes it a real struggle for veterans, as a political constituency, to get the representation that they need.
How come those issues never seem to be a trending topic?
We hear all the time on TV and social media about “supporting our troops.” But it’s not just about saluting them or thanking them for their service at the airport — and it’s definitely not just about how we observe the national anthem. Michael told me that our veterans need real action. They need real help with medical services, and access to jobs, and readjusting to society.
Curry is right: veterans have real issues that don’t come up a lot in arguments about this or that group showing or not showing appropriate respect for the troops. Curry’s point—that protests and demonstrations that aim for reconciliation of social inequalities are much more valuable to veterans than chest-pounding RESPECT THE TROOPS posturing—is a good one, and is articulated thoughtfully. Give the whole thing a read, this Veterans Day.