Are You a Hyphen-American?

By Rocco Dryfka, USAF (Ret)

On December 9, 1992, the U.S. Marines landed in Mogadishu, Somalia without resistance.  The next day I arrived with a senior NCO and an American of Somalia descent acting as our interpreter. 

The scene upon my arrival was right out of a Mad Max movie.  There was no infrastructure – no electrical power, running water, grocery stores, hospitals, trash collection, law and order – nothing.  What factors drove Somalia to fall apart?  The conclusion is intuitive to most of us Veterans – that when there is no overarching national identity to relate to i.e, no integration, no shared public opinion, no common bond, nothing to promote social cohesion, etc, then society reverts to subnational allegiances when things get tough.  Somalis thought of themselves first and foremost along clan lines.  When fractures in their society occurred, they reverted to being a collection of clans.

Today I wonder how solid our national cohesion is.  Don’t we have areas in some cities that appear like failed states due to gangs, crime, and violence – places where you’d be targeted based on your outward appearance.  Aren’t tribal flags being celebrated while the Stars and Stripes is deemed a trigger.  Don’t we now see clan bias in governmental agencies and in the application of law?   

For us Veterans, our common bond is our military service which among other things ties us to the national identity of being an American.  If you’ve served, you’ve likely no use for the hyphen; you’re an American, period.

As the national election approaches, we can either get involved or stay on the sidelines and hope for the best. For those of us who think our national identity is worth fighting for, American Veterans Vote is a place to join with other like-minded individuals to fire the politicians who divide us.  Come join us in getting out the vote, volunteering, or leading the way forward to a brighter future for our society.