America’s Failure to Support Troops…Economically

“Support our troops.” People in the United States frequently hear and see this phrase in a variety of settings: on cars, from politicians, and from friends posting on social media, to name a few.

And I agree. We should support our troops. While my personal opinion is that we should avoid war except in the most extreme of circumstances (example: if our own nation is attacked, like with Pearl Harbor), people who risk their own lives on behalf of the entire country should be supported. Since people in the military serve our country, our country should in return serve our military veterans. It’s the least we can do in the United States.

And yet, economically, we don’t support our troops.

There are numerous damning statistics on this fact. As of 2014, 25% of military families sought some sort of assistance with food.[1] There are about 40,000 homeless veterans, and that number actually rose between 2016 and 2017.[2] There were nearly 1.5 million veterans in the United States living below the poverty line as of 2012.[3]

And we haven’t even gotten to wages, which are abysmal. For example, a starting salary for someone starting in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier, according to the Houston Chronicle, is $1,491 a month ($17,892 a year). While that number goes up after several years of experience, an enlisted soldier with several years of experience can still earn under $30,000 a year.[4] Some of these salaries are below the minimum wage of some states, and they are certainly not living wages.

These are just a few statistics that show how this nation literally does not put its money where its mouth is. This nation talks a big game about supporting troops, yet fails to do so by paying living wages to troops and making sure that veterans aren’t homeless or in poverty. Shame on the United States for not giving back to people who have given so much to this country. Many of our troops have risked their lives to protect this country, and yet the government is risking the livelihoods of troops and their families through providing many of them with inadequate pay. This country does not truly support its troops.

However, we, as individuals, could raise our voices on this issue. We, as individuals, could contact our representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to make sure that all members of the military earn a living wage. Oh, and it would help if this problem gained national attention.


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/hungry-heroes-25-percent-military-families-seek-food-aid-n180236

[2] https://www.npr.org/2017/12/06/568755985/the-number-of-homeless-veterans-rises

[3] https://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/specialreports/veteran_poverty_trends.pdf

[4] http://work.chron.com/salaries-us-army-soldiers-6496.html

Our Judgement of People on Based on Religion

I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was only a second grader at the time, but I was there, and I remember many details about that fateful day. I remember seeing the terrorist attacks on television. I remember my coming home from school really early and not really understanding why that was the case. And I remember the grief my parents felt that day.

However, today, September 12, marks the anniversary of the start of another tragedy, a tragedy that became evident by September 12, 2001, and continues today. The tragedy is that Muslims are marginalized, or even attacked, because people associate that religion with terrorism, and Sikhs are marginalized or attacked because various head coverings make others think that Sikhs look Muslim. It’s a tragedy that started when people first found out that the hijackers committed terrorism in the name of a very warped version of Islam.

Now I trust that none of us are the ones directly committing these tragedies against Muslims and Sikhs. But I worry that many of us, myself included at times, are enablers of hatred against Muslims and people who look like Muslims.

I hear this enabling all the time.

Every time someone talks about Islam being a barbarous religion, that person is enabling hatred of Islam. Every time someone talks about Islam is a religion of hate, that person is enabling hatred of Islam. Every time someone talks about all Muslims as if they’re all on a quest to destroy the United States, that person is enabling hatred of Islam.

I could continue the list, but by now I think my readers get the point. The point is that, while none of us may be directly behind the anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence, anti-Muslim rhetoric, or even silence in the face of others’ anti-Muslim rhetoric, can create motivation for people to commit violence against Muslims and people who are mistaken as being Muslim (often Sikhs).

So at this point, maybe some of you are expecting me to tell everyone to be careful with the words all of us say. Now yes, I agree that we should generally be careful with the words we say, because the last thing that any of us wants to do is to somehow give fuel to violence.

But I am calling for something more. Namely, I am calling for everybody to stop judging people based on what religion they are, and instead look at how individuals live out the religion (or lack of religion) they have. If someone is a Muslim who advocates for basic human rights around the world, then that’s great! If someone is a Christian who is big into war, that’s not so great, even if I share the same religion as the other Christian.

Martin Luther King, Jr. tells us “not to judge by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In the context of judging people based on religion, I suggest a quote similar to Dr. King’s: we should not judge people by the name of their religion, but by the content of their character.

A Call to Reflect on LGBTQ+ Issues

This week, I am yet again writing in the aftermath of a very public and visible injustice.

Last week, I wrote on how many of us considered the suicide from Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, and suicide in general, selfish. This week, I am writing in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s banning of transgender people from the military.

There are many things which are wrong and unjust about the transgender military ban. For starters, he is factually wrong on the claim that transgender people are medically costly for the military; in the absolute worst-case scenario envisioned by a Rand Corporation study of the cost of transgender health care, there would be “a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.” He was also factually wrong on the claim that transgender military cause disruption—just ask the United Kingdom military chiefs who praised transgender troops or the Israeli military people saying that transgender troops are not a disruption. And then there is the fact that active transgender members of the military are left in limbo as a result of Trump’s tweets. There were other wrongs and injustices that Trump committed with the transgender military ban, but those are just a few that come to my mind.

But I don’t want to spend this entire post bashing Trump for this action, because quite honestly, there are probably hundreds of blog posts which do that job already. Instead, I want to use Trump’s action as an opportunity for self-reflection among all of us.

Namely, for those of us who claim to be pro-LGBTQ+ (like Trump did in his convention speech last summer), we should reflect on whether our actions back up any pro-LGBTQ+ words.

There are a few questions I want to ask, in order to help others reflect:

  1. Do you actually do anything to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals?
  2. Do you speak out against anti-LGBTQ+ injustices in public, on social media, at home, the homes of other family or friends, or anywhere else?
  3. Do you go beyond the level of having a “gay friend” or “trans friend” (akin to the “black friend” idea), and actually do something to stand up for the best interests of that LGBTQ+ friend?
  4. Are you just welcoming of LGBTQ+ friends, or are you actually affirming of their identities?
  5. Do you really believe that LGBTQ+ people deserve the same opportunities as straight people, or do you believe that there are limitations on what they can do?
  6. What do you say to others when you talk about your LGBTQ+ friends?

I urge every one of you, as my readers, to honestly reflect on these questions, and do some reflection outside of the scope of these questions. Reflecting on questions like these helped me realize that there is more I could do, and maybe will help some of you realize that there is more you can do. If you reflect on these questions and realize that some of your actions might not support your words on LGBTQ+ issues, then at least you can make positive changes. But if you don’t reflect on questions like these, you run the risk of being like President Trump—claiming to be pro-LGBTQ+, but performing actions which show the opposite.

Author’s Note: This was written at the last minute as a response to President Trump banning transgender people from the military. As such, there may be mistakes in this post. I apologize in advance for those mistakes.