So today, Twitter and the media are all up in arms about comments Gen McCrystal made to a Rolling Stone reporter. Watching the commentary on MSNBC today, you would have thought Gen McCrystal had committed high treason.
Here’s the thing and it is universally true regardless of what profession you are in: Watch what you say and who you say it to.
Early in my military career as a young private and specialist, I made an off hand remark to a sergeant about one of the key leaders in my platoon, never dreaming he would go back and tell said key leader. What followed was a significant emotional event for me in learning the lesson that a, I was wrong for the comment and said key leader turned into a true mentor for me, but b (and more importantly) watch what you say.
It’s a lesson that has stuck with me over the years and one that I have internalized strongly. People around you are probably not your friends and even if they are, their loyalty may be to someone else. Over the years, I have made many aquaintances and few true friends. The friends I do have, however, I trust implicitly. Even then, I sometimes censor myself.
Call it distrust, I call it prudence. When I was having trouble with my former agent, there were two people I talked to about how I felt and what I was going through and I trust those two individuals to keep it between us, not shared on message boards and other writing groups. Everyone else got a censored version and that’s the way it should be. I shouldn’t be posting on my blog all the dirty details and I won’t, because its unprofessional.
When I was having problems with my previous commander, I posted things here that I knew might get back to him. I never posted anything that I would be uncomfortable explaining and, there too, the thoughts and emotions were self censored. On PBS, there are so many things I said in real life that I never would post online.
In developing my public persona, I am highly aware that everything I say and do will be held against me. This is a key thing to remember as I head off to the RWA National conference next month. There will be gossip and drinking. There will be private conversations, but during all of that, in the back of my mind, will be the reminder that I am ‘on’. Even there, when I’m going as a writer and not as a soldier, I am still a soldier and I am still being scrutinized as such.
So I will watch what I say and who I say it to. Just like always, because I would hate for an offhand remark or six to be turned into a public spectacle.