Chris Hayes apologized for a "controversial" statement about war "heroes".
Hayes' statement follows here:
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.
I think that there was such a backlash to this honest statement shows American culture's inability to reconcile with reality. By and large, the average American, occupier, right wing, left wing, unless they're anarchists or radical pacifists would raise some questions about the statement by Hayes. They're uncomfortable without the backdrop of heroism, even among occupiers I talk with, there's the inherent idea that we need to respect veterans who are fighting for 'freedom.'
Freedom, that nebulous term that means nothing, has no definition and lingers everywhere. Orwellian doublethink embodies itself in words like freedom, heroes, honor, American.
My questions are the same I've been asking for years in regards to war and American exceptionalism: Why do we feel the need to qualify anyone who dies overseas in an illegitimate war as a hero? This isn't to raise questions about just war theory, but to analyze the language we marry to our discussions on war.
Why are soliders heroes while teachers are burdens? Why are the dead and fallen engaging in foreign occupations respected and regarded with honor while the very same war machine costs us peace, lives and global stability?
I'm not saying that we should be disrespectful of soldiers, I have friends that have deployed and fought overseas, and I have a deep and profound love for them as friends, and comrades, but not because of their service overseas. I respect them for who they are.
I was at the ceremony where veterans threw away their medals in opposition to NATO in Chicago. They longed not for recognition, but for humanity. Heroism and grandeur establish a pedestal, and isolation, instead of community, integration and love. Psychologically, heroism is dehumanizing and perpetuates a narrative in pop culture that soldiers are inhuman, either through being more than human (heroism) or less than human (radical pacifism). The best approach we can take is to humanize, to stand for real humanity, the ambiguities and tragedies of war are a reality.
The best way we can honor soldiers is not to call them heroes, in my experience those who return shirk the title anyways. The best way we can create real honor in this country is to undo the war-cult, and look at soldiers honestly, and really as a people apologize that we've let elected officials control the lives of our soldiers and send them wherever they please.
The best thing we can do as a society is radically oppose war, and call for a popular end to conflict, from the proxy wars and drone wars, to the combat troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Instead of tolerating the churning of America's imperial war-machine and the propaganda it puts out, we should instead unite behind the humanity of our soldiers, and attempt to make a serious place for them, in a world without war.