Friday, June 01, 2012

Holding on for a Hero

MSNBC's Chris Hayes touched off a predictable furor on the interwebs and Twitter last weekend when he struggled to express his discomfort with the words we use to describe our soldiers in combat. As part of a longer segment on Memorial Day, Hayes said,
I think it's interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words "heroes." Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word "hero"? I feel comfortable -- uncomfortable -- about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don't want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that's fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I'm wrong about that.
Hayes is one of the smartest, nuanced, and thoughtful commentators on the airwaves, which likely means his on-air career will be a short one in this awful era. His Memorial Day message was somewhat inartful, given that it seemed he was working out his own feelings on the fly, and the timing poor, but I didn't find the commentary particularly offensive. Still, he was compelled by the furor to apologize - in a manner both measured and appropriate.

There are any number of heroic acts committed by the impossibly brave, scared, stubborn, and proud men and women who fight our wars (like this dude - total badass). But blanket labels of 'hero' do disservice to true heroism. Almost to a man and woman, American soldiers are dedicated, patriotic, and professional. Their service should be celebrated. But 'hero' is lazy shorthand co-opted by too many on both sides of political arguments to avoid real, hard conversations.

My Dad is buried in a field of honor, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other men and women who did their jobs every day. He was a hero to me and my sister, but he'd be pissed if you called him that. He just did his part, and like thousands of dedicated american military personnel, he never saw combat first-hand.

In the heated rhetoric of our age, Chris Hayes is some kind of week-kneed America-hating proto-liberal. It says more than enough about our current society that we can't deal with the substance of his statement rationally. Hayes' show this weekend will also deal with the military/civilian divide - I hope people will watch and actually listen with open minds. But I'm not counting on it.


18 comments:

zman said...

Isaac Hayes is my hero. Is Chris Hayes related?

Danimal said...

how about willie mayes hayes?

rob said...

bullet bob?

TR said...

Chet Haze?

zman said...

Chet Baker.

rob said...

chet donnelly. i win.

rob said...

igor, you going to the first game of the calder cup finals tonight?

Danimal said...

Chet Donnelly

rob said...

oh fer fuck's sake, danimal

Igor said...

Rob, I am headed to Va Beach for two people's 40th bday throwdown all night. Up early tomorrow AM to go to Philly to watch the collegiate rugby sevens championship with 10 or so of the old dudes. Drinking all day/night Sat and Sun. Back Monday. Debating whether to hit the Tides baseball game Monday as well. Right now I am thinking I might as well because I just got off the course and have a snoot full.

Anybody who says rock stars have it easy is full of.crap.

Dave said...

it would be heroic if i went to war, because i am a coward.

Igor said...

Isn't it Holding OUT for a Hero?

rob said...

don't try your rhetorical chicanery on me, pal.

mr kq, are you headed to philly?

Mr KQ said...

Will miss you in Philly Igor, weren't we playing an old boys match?

Just back from a nine day Ryder Cup style golf bender in UK so not sure my liver could hang anyway.

zman said...

I need a bender.

TR said...

I have a 40 minute bender on my train home every night. Alone.

Danimal said...

Rip Orlando Woolridge

rob said...

i hope igor saw what just happened