Media attention to the birthers and others engaging as histrionic culture warriors overshadows coverage of America's real warriors -- our servicemembers -- who are fighting and experiencing great needs and purposeful strides abroad and at home.
What's new for our veterans? Two online developments this weekend tell the tale. On the positive side, the 111th Congress has passed historic legislation giving unprecedented health and education benefits to our veterans, and the Obama administration VA just launched its Post-9/11 GI Bill Web site http://www.gibill.va.gov describing the resources funded through appropriations and the stimulus package. On the negative side, we have today's New York Times expose "After Combat, Victims of an Inner War," which demonstrates the acute need for more mental health screenings and suicide prevention work at the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to help our servicemembers deal with the pressures of combat. It should be a wake-up call and teachable moment for all -- but can it compete with the media's preferred topics?
Why the disconnect in coverage?
Part of it is America's civilian-military divide. As young Iraq veteran Phil Carter told me in an interview for my book Campaign Boot Camp:
With less than 1% of Americans and less than 3% of our draft-age population serving in uniform, 'there is a deep civilian-military divide, which is dangerous for the heath and future of our democracy.'
Grassroots efforts to bridge the divide, and to help military families, and returning veterans receive information about resources from peer counseling to education to employment, are strengthened by groups like Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America http://www.iava.org and Welcome Back Veterans Welcome Back Veterans.
Part of the disconnect may also be that while it took Democrats to pass and sign the Post-9/11 GI Bill, many military family issues receive broad bipartisan support -- which blows the professional punditry's preferred "partisan bickering" argument.
Unless there is a conscious decision to drive coverage of these issues, the American civilian-military divide remains. If the cable bosses can order Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly to stand down in their public relations fight, can they order their on-air staff to stand up for our military families in their actual fight?