Thursday, May 31, 2012

Heroes And Heavy-Breathers

This is a really difficult issue, rife with emotion, perfect for demagoguery.

Chris Hayes, a guy whose show I've never watched, got in hot water (to put it mildly) for saying, perhaps inartfully, something I've said here as recently as a few days ago: we love and idealize wars too much in this country, and too easily equate patriotism with fighting them. Calling the fallen soldiers heroic, while certainly true on many levels, also enables the overlooking of the horror of our own creation to which we send them; lets us ignore how terrible war is, how much we damage the people we send to fight them. And makes it too easy, I think, to shame people away from asking questions, which is probably the most dangerous aspect of all.

Whereas it's individually appropriate, and can't be overstated regarding those in the trenches (I served in Vietnam, in case you didn't know, was injured in a rocket attack, have run to tend to wounded as Cobra helicopters fired overhead: I've seen heroes, and I'm not one of them), promoting hero-worship is also an easy way for leaders to keep minds off what's going on. In some ways, weeping over heroism is a self-indulgent act of assuaging our own guilt. Worse, exploited cynically by those who benefit from war, politically and financially, it becomes an all-too-effortless substitute for the hard work of living in a democracy, an innoculation from criticism. Some pretty bad people know it all too well.

To bring that subject up is, as I see it, neither unpatriotic nor disrespectful. In an open and democratic society, it is, in fact, the opposite. Which, of course, is exactly why the RWS™, who have less love for democracy than they have for the black guy in the white house, have jumped on Chris Hayes (and, of course, on all liberals) like a Medal of Honor winner on a grenade. (Except none of them have ever served nor would have had the instincts to do it.) From their armchairs and sound studios, they loves them some war. Mitt Romney, looks like, loves him some war even more. In service of that proposition, they equate questioning with lack of patriotism, hating the troops, treason (a word tossed around by teabaggRs like frisbees by the hirsute). And, with far too many people, they've succeeded in over-eye-pulling the wool.

That it's nearly impossible to have such a discussion rationally doesn't mean Mr. Hayes shouldn't have tried. His apology was honest and heartfelt, I think; but his original words were meaningful. It's something we should be talking about. With our volunteer army and unpaid-for wars, it is too easy for us; saluting the flag with tears in our eyes as soldiers and veterans march by seems to fill the bill for many of us, and is a hell of a lot less difficult than paying for their care; or than setting aside selfishness and prejudice for the common good, sacrificing something real, compromising, as real patriots should do. If heroes are people who are sent (unprepared in the case of Iraq) to an unnecessary or unwinnable war and are killed or maimed fighting it, so, in these polarized and hateful times, are those willing to question it or try to prevent it in the first place. It should be harder to send kids to fight and die than it seems to be, less easy to ignore the realities by calling it heroism. And it should be easier to debate the wisdom of it all.

I think that's all Chris Hayes was trying to say.

[Thanks, Margy, for the link to the cartoon.]


Frank Drackman said...

Sid, first of all, I salute you for your Service, if you're(yay!)ever in the A-T-L lets have a beer at the local VFW.
I'm sure you know where it is...
My Dad's an American Legion guy, what a wild & crazy place..
Just kidding, but you've hit on something..
What Reasonable Intelligent young man/woman would join the military, even in Peace Time?
I mean unless they're(!) payin for your med school, or training you to fly F-35s or nuke-ul-ar subs.
Mediocre pay at best, those stupid Army Berets, Navy Bell Bottoms, and if you do get hurt its the VA Gulag, which really isn't fair..
To the Gulags.
It's up to our first Muslim, I mean 1/2 Black President to bring back the Draft, and I mean a real one, like WW2, when they drafted guy's like my Uncle Saul, with a glass eye and a club foot.
I still remember 1971 when my birthday was one of the first ones pulled out of the bowl.
OK, yeah, I was on my way to Canada until my Dad told me they didn't draft 9 yr olds(yet)...


Margy said...

I agree.

Thought of this Pat Bagley cartoon when I read your post:

He's one of our local heroes.

Sid Schwab said...

Thanks, Margy. I'm gonna stick that cartoon at the end of the post.

Anonymous said...

Was it not the defunct Soviet Union that created heroes out of street sweepers and steel workers; and did we not snicker at their compulsive hero naming?

Why did we laugh? Was it because we used to realize that heroic behavior was something special and not some mundane act we wanted to over-promote?

This desperate quest for heroes is typical of dictatorial governments that employ the political manipulation of images to promote ideological agendas. Think Orwell's 1984!

If everybody is a hero, then we are all heroes, and no one ever dare criticize or question our goals and actions; it's grade inflation written huge.

This is why we now have "Warriors" instead of the once honored term "Soldiers!”

I remember the sick feeling I got when the Bushies started going on about “Our Warriors!” They hyped and degraded military service men and women by transmogrifying them into posing action figures.

The Internet is bursting with rage at the shameful claims of phony heroes. Google “Stolen Valor;” then see how much you can find on “Manufactured Valor”

Remember Jessica Lynch and the whole dog and pony show the Army concocted in order to create support for the war? She was doing her job honorably; but the Army shamed and humiliated her effort for their cynical political purpose.

Remember Pat Tillman - shot three times in the head, by his own people – a tragedy restaged to heroism? Remember how all the evidence of his death disappeared, only to be replaced by lies? His real heroism was, that having seen the reality of Iraq, he changed his mind about supporting that war. That is why he is a hero to me.

So what shall we call people who actually do more - that behave selflessly, expose themselves to dangers or deliberately give their lives in acts that require more courage than simply showing up to do their jobs?

How about "She is a Plus Good Hero" or something awesome, like "He is a Double Plus Good Hero?" How’s that for spin?


Wild-Ivy said...

Simply....thank you. Again. I am heartened during disheartening times when I read your clear, concise, thoughtful commentary.

Sid Schwab said...

Thanks. But I think it's mostly pissing into the wind...

Anonymous said...

"But I think it's mostly pissing into the wind..."


Sid, you say it as it needs to be said; and if you were the only one talking, it would still need to be said and heard.

Never underrate the importance of what you say here. Without voices like yours evil people would carry the day.


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