Thursday, November 27, 2014


Settling in to watch a little football, I see a pre-game tribute to veterans. Guys speaking of their experiences as the camera pans back to reveal their wheelchairs and missing limbs. Moving music plays, the "connection" between Thanksgiving, football, and the military is made. And it puts me in mind of something I wrote a while back, and moves me to reprint it here:

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 likefrisbees 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.


  1. Amen, Sid. As you know, I was a veteran, served in Viet Nam (gunline destroyer), but never really felt I did anything that approaches what the guys in the mud and blood did on a daily basis.

    That said, I couldn't agree more with the point you and Chris Hayes make. It should be damned hard to send our sons and daughters off to war. And, having lost too many friends to war, I'll raise the ante on this topic.

    Whenever we decide to get involved in some godforsaken conflict in some hellhole on the other side of the world, conscription should begin immediately and, at the head of the draft notices, should be the eligible sons and daughters of those who deem it so important to start shooting again...and, I don't mean as REMF's either. Put them in units that are at the tip of the spear and let's see how quickly "our betters" vote or simply declare that we're off to the sounds of the guns again.

    One or two coffins with theirs inside would put quits to most of the stuff we now get involved in without adequate (or even real) thought, debate, or reason.

    Damn, I get worked up over this topic.


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