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Heroes are people who do heroic things. Sometimes they are soldiers.  Ironically, soldiers decorated as heroes are sometimes uncomfortable in the role, realizing that what they had done was done out of some animal instinct in a moment of sheer terror, with no intention of doing anything other than surviving.  I think that's why those folks often point to the dead and say "there lie the heroes."

But joining one of the armed services because you need a job, or because you need an education is not heroic, it is self-serving.  Many of these people never want to see combat, and many don't.  That's not to criticize people who join the service because its a job.  Lots of people take on potentially hazardous occupations out of necessity.

But when was the last time you heard a guy who slipped and fell to his death on a construction site referred to as a "hero?"  And yet, he took his hazardous job for the same purpose that many, if not most, take a job in the service.

I think it does a disservice to actual heroism to label everyone who joins the service a "hero."

It also contributes to the sort of "my country right or wrong" attitude that justifies any war our "heroes" fight in, regardless of whether those wars are really defending the security of the United States - as in World War II - or whether they are mere jousts at an imaginary windmill like the "Domino Theory" that entangled us in Vietnam, or whatever reasons George W. Bush and Dick Cheney insisted on attacking Iraq.  

That is not to say that heroic deeds did not occur in each of these conflicts, no matter how unjustified the reason for the conflict itself.  They did.  But those heroic deeds are not in themselves justification for the wars in which they occurred, and therein lies the rub.

The military-industrial complex loves the idea of universal heroism, as it plays right into its agenda of perpetual war for profit.

Sometimes heroism is publicly opposing a war, and subjecting oneself to the harassment and charges of cowardice that go along with anti-war protests in a country of flag-wrapping hypocrites.  That involves suffering, too, although the wounds may not be as visible.

How is saving lives by preventing a war not a greater heroism than heroic acts in a war that takes lives?

How can a nation that describes itself as "Christian" believe otherwise, if "Christian" means emulating the life of Jesus?  I say it can't, unless "Christian" means something else altogether.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    History merely repeats itself; it doesn't cure its own ills. That is the burden of the present.

    by ZedMont on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:18:29 PM PDT

  •  One must consider though (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZedMont, Renee, dirkster42, PSzymeczek

    that those who fight the wars did not cause them -- the credit (or blame) goes to the armchair warriors who decide where and when to send our military. In a sense, the military is like fire insurance -- you have it in hopes you never need it, but when you need it you're damn glad to have it. That being said, performing a heroic act in war shouldn't be diminished just because of the circumstances, but not every soldier is a "hero", most are just out there doing their jobs.

    My father, who served in the Navy in WWII, if he were alive today would probably not consider himself a "hero"; he just went and did his job, did it to the best of his ability, then came home, got married, raised 4 kids and died way too damn young.

    Mitt Romney: the Etch-A-Sketch candidate in the era of YouTube

    by Cali Scribe on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:26:09 PM PDT

  •  Zed - Every member of our armed forces (4+ / 0-)

    is not a hero although they all make tremendous sacrifices, have all volunteered to go in harms way if so ordered and there is no more noble profession than a career defending our country.

    Here is what makes a hero to me.

    In my view every member of our armed services who has been on the wrong side of an AK47, held their ground, established a field of fire, and protected themselves and the other members of their unit is a hero to the people who joined them in battle. Every member of my units who protected my flank, or the rear, is a hero to me. Unfortunately many of them are on The Wall and if not for them, I would be too.

    Soldiers do not start wars, that is done by politicians.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 11:47:17 PM PDT

  •  Heroes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jessical, quill, dirkster42
    Sometimes heroism is publicly opposing a war

    This cowardly old veteran who was the first to lose a war for America applauds those who tried to prevent it.

    The stirring speech of Joe Biden supporting funding of Dubya's wars during the debates leading up to the nomination of our current warrior president was repulsive to me.  Was Sen. Biden, a true family man with quite admirable qualities and a life of terrible tragedies, unable to figure he was threatening his military son's life and health rather than helping preserve them?

    The answer seems clearly and unambiguously no.  Joe Biden was unable to understand what he was about.

    Today the gruesome murders by Assad in Syria has peace-loving kossacks call for taking out Assad.

    By who might that be?

    Certainly not peaceniks like Sgt. York - oops, that was a long time ago.

    This hero business is mostly bull.  It is most obvious in the nonsensical admiration for celluloid heroes.  One even became president and did irreparable harm to America with his particular brand of heroics.

    Still I am uneasy with downing veterans for not being real heroes.  I guess being reviled kind of twists one.

    Best,  Terry

    •  I think Joe sold his son along with his soul (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      One must bow to the death industry if he's to become one of the major players. Joe knows that's part of the game - the price you pay to realize your ambition. His payoff is an extra footnote in history.
      I didn't get the impression the author was down on the vets really.
      The cheney regime was happy to corrupt the concept of heroism to support their agenda the same way they corrupted the rest of our cultural icons and touchstones - you know, concepts like freedom, democracy, president, etc.

      when I see a republican on tv, I always think of Monty Python: "Shut your festering gob you tit! Your type makes me puke!"

      by bunsk on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 09:03:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is one mild slap at veterans (0+ / 0-)
        How is saving lives by preventing a war not a greater heroism than heroic acts in a war that takes lives?
        I don't mean to aim any heavy artillery at the diarist but those who give up their lives for any reason, for one or a million lives, for a cause alone they think important even if they are dead wrong [ummm, no pun intended] cannot be compared on any sort of scale I am aware of.

        People may oppose violence of any kind for all sorts of reasons, including simple cowardice.  Didn't the Prince of Peace Himself get plumb violent with the moneychangers in the Temple?

        Is there some sort of virtue in standing by as others are beaten, raped, lose limbs, eyes, lives to aggressors?

        Could be actually.  An early Mormon community in the southwest was said to be so enamored of non-violence that husbands would stand by helplessly as their wives and daughters were raped by banditos who visited the community often for the fun.

        Heroic indeed but not everyone may be inclined to such heroism.  Even a Gandhi or King relied on the threat of future violence from the aggrieved as a bargaining chip in their non-violence.

        I am fully willing to admit that the threat of censure from the community may be more inhibiting than even threatened loss of life but I still am not enamored of any sort of belittling of veterans.

        Being one myself, of course, and thus biased in the matter.

        Best,  Terry

  •  May I suggest a better target? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, terryhallinan, PSzymeczek

    We've made a cult out of the uniformed, and rendered ourselves a chubby, television watching Sparta.  The fault is not in the people who wear those uniforms, for the most part, but in a culture which holds up submission to big, unbearably brutal and expedient machines an ideal of human accomplishment and expression.  From the first bit of news in the morning to CSI before bed.

    I agree with many of your points but am bothered a bit because I saw a very very young man -- not much more than a child -- in a suit, on the street, with two alumnum legs to the hip and a help a veteran sign a couple months ago and I can't get it out of my fucking head.  The biggest price for these wars is going to be in the young men and women who come home now, and many of them aren't going to be able to fit in and do a 9-5 no matter how we slice it.  Calling them all "heros" is absurd, a grotesque lie in a host of ways, but pointing out that they are not heros is a good way to forget them.  Which I think we are already working hard to do.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 06:35:55 AM PDT

    •  They're not heros, they're victims. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, dirkster42, PSzymeczek

      Calling all soldiers, wounded or intact, heros is ultimately just another form of exploitation and abuse. These people won't benefit from heroization, or be more likely remembered. In fact they are harmed as powerful jingoistic elements in society use this manufactured hero worship to justify and promote more, bigger, and more prolonged military adventures for their own greedy gain. Every new war and campaign puts soldiers back into harms way and further bankrupts the nation, inevitably defunding vet services and generating millions more recruits who can't make a living otherwise.

      •  agree (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dirkster42, quill

        but I'm not sure that your view or mine matter at all in the discourse of a dying empire.  

        On the upside, "hero" has already become absurd.  The military is way too big, applies it to everyone, and the word is obviously overused, even for Fox watchers I think.  The harder problem is that it is very very difficult to find a moral frame for the waves of "Johnny Get Your Gun" 20 year olds, so the word will continue to be used by the news and punditry in general, because every single one of these contains a truth too terrible to be said in public, on the air.  It is much easier -- indeed, the only acceptable and approved course -- to call them heros.

        ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

        by jessical on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:20:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The term "hero" is used much too loosely nowadays. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, PSzymeczek

    It sometimes feels that people are are called heroes for breathing in and out to serve some ulterior agenda that denigrates who true heroes are and do.

    Ou society must keep the level of true heroism sacred and not cheapen it by giving that name to commonplace acts either in the military or civilian life.

  •  I must admit that I'm a little perplexed that some (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dirkster42, terryhallinan, PSzymeczek

    commenters seem to think that what I've said about heroism somehow puts down soldiers.  

    Let me explain a couple of things.  During the Vietnam war I had a lottery number in the 300s, so high that even the Alamo wouldn't have called me up.  I volunteered and would have gone to Vietnam had I not failed the physical.  

    Do I consider that heroic?  No, it was stupid.  It was an emotional knee-jerk reaction to the death of my cousin Steve, a 2nd lieutenant in Vietnam.  You have no idea how thankful I am that I was spared that fate, and there was nothing "heroic" about what I tried to do.  In fact I often wonder whether, in the face of death, I would have been a coward.

    Steve was someone I had dug ditches with, eaten chicken fried steak with, listened to Roy Orbison with, sat in classes with.  We worried about Steve because he was in the artillery in a dangerous area and were relieved when he transferred to the MPs in Saigon.  We had no idea - nor did he - that he was going to the most dangerous place in Vietnam.

    At 6:30 a.m. on January 31, 1968, first day of the TET offensive, Steve's unit was dispatched to relieve another MP unit under fire near the horse race track.  MPs were at the forefront of the fighting, because the South Vietnamese government did not want combat troops in Saigon.  They were armed for the most part with the usual small arms carried by MPs.  

    At the time no one realized that the horse race track was being used as a VietCong staging area for the attacks in Saigon.  We were told at his funeral that Steve had said goodbye to one of his friends as he left his barracks and that  his last known words were, "Well, I guess this is it."

    Steve was hit in an ambush by .50 caliber machine gun fire.  His vehicle was then set fire with a satchel charge.  Another officer and two NCOs were wounded in an attempt to get Steve out of the vehicle.

    Now, I don't know if Steve was a hero.  I know Steve, though, and I know he was just a small town kid who thought of himself as someone doing what he was supposed to be doing.  He was following orders.  He didn't think of himself as a hero.

    That other officer and those two NCOs, though?  Those guys were heroes.  No question in my mind at all.  They risked their lives to try to save someone who by all appearances was beyond saving.  They were not under any orders to do so.  Yet they risked their lives for what little chance there might be.  That said a lot about Steve, too, that people would do that for him.

    Every time I am in Washington, I go visit Steve at that wall.  And I look at his name and cry bitter tears, knowing that I have lived all these 65 years and Steve's life was snuffed out at the age of 21.  And then I look down the wall at all those other names, and I realize what an absolute, unmitigated tragedy this ugly, completely unnecessary thing was.

    It doesn't matter to me whether or not Steve was a hero.  That would not have made his death one bit easier for me or his mom and dad.  But I have all the respect in the world for this soldier, even if he was just doing what any other soldier would have done under the circumstances. The fact that he may not have been any more heroic than the construction worker in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn't change that.

    So, please understand, I would never, ever, put down soldiers. This is about a word and how it loses its meaning when it is overused, it is not about the value of the human beings loved by their friends and families who are also soldiers - and who may be heroes.  

    History merely repeats itself; it doesn't cure its own ills. That is the burden of the present.

    by ZedMont on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:41:06 AM PDT

    •  And this I wish I could give several recommends (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      though I admitted some queasiness about the diary as a whole.

      Best,  Terry

      •  A hero to me is someone like (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the man in Hotel Rwanda.

        •  Another kind of hero are those developing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Rwanda's geothermal resources while we can't afford to.

          It is also true of Uganda and Nicaragua.  All these are very poor, battle-scarred countries that are doing what we have little interest in except to whine about the time and cost and risk for initiation of projects exploiting the most potent, greenest, cheapest energy source on earth.

          How do such people rise above the conditions to look to a grand vision of the future invisible to most.

          I met a Ph.D. math candidate studying at Syracuse University.  He was from the very heart of Colombia's drug wars with the most notorious of all named for his hometown.  We talked very briefly about the wonderful history of the place and the warmth and decency of the people living there.

          Bury Me Standing has mention of a Gypsy gold merchant who began his gold trading as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp.

          The very survival of the most despised people on earth (despite the romantic nonsense) is a wonder that exceeds even that of the Jews.

          Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier ever, had left Vietnam by the time I arrived.  From the gossip I heard (gossip is all it was, I make no claim as to truthfulness) he spent nearly all his free time from the movie he was making drinking alone in his hotel room.  I have wondered if that was the cause or result of rumors I had heard often before of wounds that made him impotent.

          One thing I am certain of is that no one will get out of this magical vale of tears and heroes alive but for some strange reason few of us are in a hurry to depart.

          Best,  Terry

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