Two sides of the coin ...
I was in a support situation not long ago sitting in and listening to other veterans. One of the guys was very vocal about the 'Argies'. The british forces slang for the Argentinians. It was clear that his experiences in the Falkland Islands had scarred him and that there was much unresolved anger within his core ... but there was also some deep seated racism.
Whenever I encounter such things in a 'supportive environment' that is offering me some treatment it makes me very uneasy, especially when I consider the fact that as far as ethnic appearances go, after a photoshoot in a place like Egypt, my skin tone is the same as an Iraqi or an Afghan. To the ignorant we're all the same. It doesn't matter that I'm a veteran and served my country; they don't even like me referring to England as my country.
I'd sit and wonder how long it would be before someone had a reaction to my presence and how the organisation concerned would deal with it.
I often wondered what other ethnic groups would come under attack in that room or even if words were said about me in my absence. It underlined one of the realities of serving in Her Majesty's Armed Forces as a British Asian. 'British Asian' seems to be the most comfortable way for me to describe myself, when I look at all of the different ways that all the different organisations try to describe us. Of all the different ethnic groups it felt as if we were the least trusted by some areas of the heirarchy.
I served 2 years in Northern Ireland but I have never stepped over the line while carrying out my duties ... and even though some of the terrorists are now politicians and a major global power involved in the 'war on terror' actually funded terrorism in Northern Ireland ... I can shrug that off. My duty was to keep the peace; nothing more - nothing less. The world keeps turning. I would say that my problems were mostly due to my side not looking after me properly; bad equipment, a bad CO and possible some collusion with the local bad boys which compounded the incidents I was involved in.
There's an important element missing out of all of this though: the majority of civillians in the various conflicts had nothing to do with the various conflicts. In my experience it's always the minority causing problems. The civillains are the ones that have to live in the communities, walking the knife's edge between obeying the law and doing as they were told to by the terrorists on pain of death.
I feel that serving personnel need to have this knowledge reinforced ... and Veterans too because when I see images like this http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/07/in-the-midst-of-a-horrific-scene-tears/ - as a caring human, I have to ask the racists how they can't feel compassion for the innocents caught up in our battles. When I saw those images I didn't see the ethnicity of the people, I saw victims around a bomb blast, a toddler, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters ... just like the victims of a blast in Belfast while out shopping one day.
The job was to fight when the situation called for it ... but not to hate.
Hatred doesn't belong in the treatment centre ... neither does racism - especially if becomes a barrier as to why a veteran from a different ethnic group can't access treatment there, even though the 'Argie' may have shot and killed the other veteran's friend. The Argentinians were soldiers too. Many of them young conscripts. The anger belongs at the door of the politicans that start wars. The rest of us are collatoral damage.