This week started off on both a somber and a proud note. On Sunday, our nation celebrated the 99th anniversary of Veterans Day. It actually began as “Armistice Day” on the first anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926 Congress passed a resolution to make this day an annual observance and Veterans Day became a national holiday in 1938. But long before we came together as a nation to honor our veterans, millions of brave citizens fought and died for our freedom. This courage and dedication to stand up and fight for your country can come at a big cost and sacrifice. It is a decision that can have tragic consequences that can ripple and rip through the lives, families and communities of those who serve. Over the last few weeks a high profile story straight from the TMZ-ADHD-PC obsessed media brings this point home.
From Insult to Insight
I am what you might call an old soul. I don’t have cable TV and I don’t stay up late. So, the fact that this post is centered around a Saturday Night Live skit might be a bit surprising to those who know me. SNL has spent decades entertaining the young and hip in our country. I’d like to think that included me at one point in time. Today is no different and SNL exists to push the envelop and make us laugh. Sometimes they hit the nail on the head and we laugh until we cry. (I will never forget how hard I laughed when Dana Carvey attended a cocktail party as Massive Headwound Harry. I just watched it again and it is still disgustingly awesome).
SNL’s best skits are their impersonations of our politicians. I don’t think it matters what side of the political isle you are on, sometimes they just nail it! As often is the case when you push the envelop you can cross the line from time to time. Recently Pete Davidson hit a sour note as he made fun of veteran Dan Crenshaw a decorated Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. A soldier wounded in Afghanistan by an IED after serving his third combat tour. The public was quick to rain down their disapproval and just a week later Pete made amends by publicly apologizing to Lt. Com. Crenshaw and having him in the skit with him.
There were two moments during this skit that made me take pause and want to respond. One was Lt. Com. Crenshaw’s amazing speech about forgiveness and what brings us all together.
“There’s a lot of lessons to learn here. Not just that the left and right can agree on some things, but also this: Americans can forgive one another. We can remember what brings us together as a country and still see the good in each other. This is veteran’s day weekend. Which means that it is a good time for every American to connect with a veteran. Maybe say, ‘Thanks for your service.’ I would actually encourage you to say something else. Tell a veteran, ‘Never forget.’ When you say ‘never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them. Not separated by some imaginary barrier between civilians and veterans, who will never forget the sacrifices made by veterans past and present, and never forget those we lost on 911, heroes like Pete’s father.” -Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw
The second moment was the subtle reference in Dan’s speech to Pete’s father. Not knowing anything about Pete Davidson I decided to look into his history a little more. It turns out that Pete’s father, Scott Matthew Davidson, was a New York City firefighter who lost his life on September 11, 2001 rushing into the World Trade Center just before the buildings came crashing down. Pete was just 7 years old. I can not imagine the loss and grief Pete has suffered with these last 17 years. He has admitted publicly that he struggled with pulling his hair out and suicidal thoughts before he eventually turned to comedy. Even today he has his pain and struggles. Service and sacrifice of our military and first responders impact the families and loved ones of these brave souls, and they don’t get to choose. Pete is one of the millions of loved one’s left behind after an American hero gives his or her life in the service of others. This is the often invisible ripple effect that spreads throughout this country.
As a counselor I try my best to meet people where they are, as they are. I find that compassion starts with understanding. In the safety and comfort of my office, I learn about the inner lives, deep suffering, regrets, dreams and desire of my clients. It is often not the face they show the world. Instead, like most of us, no ALL of us, they put on a protective coating that shields our vulnerability and shame. I like to call it our “Facebook” face. It is perfect version of ourself that we want everyone to believe is the true self, the whole self and nothing but the self. But the reality is our “Facebook” face isn’t real. We are all full of complexity and simplicity, dreams and hurt, joy and anger, regret and hope, yen and yang. We all have layers and scars, especially our Veterans and their families.
Lt. Com. Crenshaw bears the visible scars of combat, but Pete Davidson bears the scars of loss as well. It may be easy to look at Pete today and get angry with his insensitive remarks thinking he is a spoiled millennial detached from real life and suffering… we would be wrong. So very wrong. Pete Davidson has known what the profound consequences are when good men and women put their lives on the line for the sake of others. Lt. Com. Crenshaw knows that sacrifices as well. It is up to all of us as Americans to look deeper into the lives of those around us and to seek to understand each other on a deeper level.
To honor Lt. Com. Crenshaw, Pete Davidson, the brave Veterans in this country and their families–I will never forget.
If you are struggling with your own scars from pain and loss, there is help available. You do not have to suffer alone or in silence.