Chris Hayes: Glamorizing and Justifying War with the Term ‘Hero’

Decoration DayVia Alternet:

It’s sure to be a little bit controversial but it’s an extremely salient point: Chris Hayes, when discussing the meaning of Memorial Day, admitted that he feels “uncomfortable” calling deceased soldiers heroes. Not because they’re not heroes, but because the term lionizes and glamorizes war. Hayes discussed how he feels “uncomfortable” with the term:

I feel … 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, you know, 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.

28 Comments on "Chris Hayes: Glamorizing and Justifying War with the Term ‘Hero’"

  1. “We decide collectively that we’re going to go to war”? I don’t remember being asked.

    • I’ll clear it up for you, Simpleton (Jon). We live in a representative democracy where our elected officials make decisions based on (ostensibly) what is best for the majority. I can’t recall a single time I’ve been called by any of my representatives and given the power to veto a policy, action or law because I didn’t personally agree with it (as you seem to expect). I think it’s time for you to re-take GOV 098B again at your local community college.

      • Then it is not collective, is the decision of a small minority, and can easily go against the country’s population, the same as against the country’s best interest, especially if there is bribing, I mean lobbying involved.

      • Unfortunately, one cannot find a party dedicated to not starting dumb wars. If there was such a thing, electing representatives who campaign on the platform of opposing dumb wars would be possible, and so we could argue that it’s the result of a collective decision to enter a dumb war when we enter a dumb war upon an act of congress whose majority is from one of the parties that supports dumb wars. Of course, both major parties (and many of the minor parties) are entirely in support of dumb wars.

        Furthermore, the recent wars have not been wars as such but police actions. A police action is not decided collectively by a body of representatives. It’s decided by one dude, who himself is not actually chosen by voters. Instead, this one dude is chosen by a body of electors who may or may not choose to side with the majority in the state they represent (although so far as I know they typically have except in situations wherein the numbers were close enough for recount requests to be filed). Even if one dude were chosen by majority vote by individual citizens (rather than by majority vote by a much smaller number of electors), that does not imply consent to allow him to do whatever he wants, which is why the office of the presidency has historically been a fairly weak one.

        This is not to even begin to address the issue of implied consent to a social contract, of course. Minors below the age of consent are not legally allowed to consent to sex, and yet they are not only legally allowed but legally required to give consent to the social contract, upon punishment of any of the punishments allowed by the social contract to which they did not consent. One cannot withdraw one’s consent to the social contract and have that withdrawl recognized. Groups cannot withdraw from the social contract (as the American Civil War showed, regardless of the other factors involved in its genesis).

        In other words, sure, you can argue that it’s a collective decision to go to war, and that’s the official position of the government, but there are major logical, logistical, and philosophical problems with such an assertion. It is no more sensible to say that the united states collectively decided to go to war than it is to say that the united states collectively decided to raise the cost of postage stamps by ten cents.

  2. ThinkHarder | May 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    Dear Soldiers: No, you are not heroes…you are murderers and war criminals. Just following orders? Incapable of doing otherwise? Then you are already as good as dead. 

    • Jin The Ninja | May 29, 2012 at 5:19 pm |

      think harder. soldiers are people. people with flaws, good/bad intentions, differing ideologies, races, cultures and ideas about morality. the US gov’t is the guilty party- to blame the people who get caught up in the neo-imperial missions of a few white men at the pentagon is really quite wrong. the US has a great system of propaganda. few can blame another for getting lost within a system you’re raised from birth to believe to support.

      • ThinkHarder | May 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm |

        We are all flawed beings…absolutely. But that does not absolve you or me or anyone else from the karmic ramifications of Individual Choice. When a soldier is given a direct order which is blatantly illegal and/or immoral, it is their choice – and theirs alone – whether or not to follow said command. If they have been so thoroughly brainwashed that they are incapable of making that decision, then they are mindless zombie killing machines and deserve no pity from you or me or anyone else. 

        • Jin The Ninja | May 30, 2012 at 11:06 am |

          if all human morality including the pseudo-buddhist implications you made could be alchemically reduced to ‘individual choice’ the history of the world would be completely different. you are being myopic in scope. people have potential for good and evil, but it is society that engenders the values we hold. you can’t pretend that soldiers are all equally as complicit in the sins of the states. just as you cannot say all citizens are equally complicit in the sins of the state.

          • ThinkHarder | May 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

            “people have potential for good and evil…you can’t pretend that soldiers are all equally as complicit in the sins of the states” Yes, I can…because they still have the ability to think and feel and choose, just as you and I do. I am a homosexual who was raised by frothing apocalyptic fundamentalists and guess what? I bucked their fucking system! So please do not tell me that it cannot be done because I am living proof that it can. But then I found myself in the “real world” and realized that it is just as fucked-up and dysfunctional as the cult which had tried to brainwash me. But I still have hope that things can change for the better (a system which is completely transparent and fair for ALL) because that initial burst of freedom was like a rush…the highest of highs…and I believe – whether ignorantly or not – that it can be reproduced on a much grander scale. After all, society is nothing more than a glorified construct which is comprised of ever-shifting ideas and beliefs…you just have to get enough momentum to cause a shift in a given direction. If more soldiers were to conscientiously object than not, then guess what? That would force our society to take notice and I guarantee you that a shift would occur…   

          • Jin The Ninja | Jun 4, 2012 at 10:00 am |

            i’m as opposed to neo-imperialism, war, environmental destruction and genocide and in favour of human rights, social justice and anti capitalism as much as the next radicalised queer person of colour- but i don’t ascribe to schoolyard morality. imagine if the right did that ? (well dont they) to glbtq people? or people of colour? it is unfair and illogical to name all (former and current) military people as ‘murderers.’ Is war senseless? yes, is the nation-state a corrupt ideology? perhaps. Is representative democracy broken? probably. Is capitalism unsustainable? Irrefutably. Does that immedietely condemn all human beings to mindless resource extracting consumers and war mongers? no. Fortunetly the world is a lot more nuanced than that. I think anti-war/anti fascist movements are of great importance, but let us not lose sight of the fact that soldiers- whatever violence may be perpatrated in the name of the state or capitalism are people too. The state is not a person, capitalism is not a person, corporations (contrary to some opinion) are not people- however they have deeply ingrained within us, certain ideological constructs that allow and promote military violence. They engage in it deliberatly. education helps deconstruct these myths, but it also allows people to have a more complete understanding of the history of the world. The world and history as we know it- is comprised of multiple layers of ethics and morality. If we did not allow for redemption, for evolution- what would that mean for the future? A shift will happen, but condemning those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to engage new ideas is without merit. a soldier is only a title- it can change. It is not nessacerily a layer of identity- and if it is- it can be shed. There are many diverse courses in philosophy that allow for multiple perspectives on the human condition- it is not singular.

  3. The only thing to get is money | May 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    Where’s the controversy? Call it for what it is. Soldiers are murderers, killers, rapists, sadists, cultist (group/clan mentality). The commanders who send them to war are also of the same ilk.

    • Jin The Ninja | May 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

      i’d rather call out the true perpetrators of these crimes, the economic and bullet imperialist agenda of anglo saxon american exceptionalism codified into law from america’s inception. people may do bad things in war, but only nation-states can declare war, or rather over seas ‘missions’ to perpetuate the economic and geo-strategic ideologies of the state. the dulles bros saw to a gleaming nationalist culture that constantly fears a threat from without. it’s not the fault of a citizenship to believe the mechanistic and well-plotted system that sees very little criticism from mainstream sources. it’s the state, stupid, not the soldiers.

      • ThinkHarder | May 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm |

        “i’d rather call out the true perpetrators of these crimes” The soldiers ARE the perpetrators…they are the ones carrying out the orders! The politicians and business owners and financiers sit back and watch it all unfold…they are not responsible for pulling a single trigger or firing a single missile. They should still be held accountable…absolutely…no one is denying that. But to claim that the soldiers bear no responsibility for their actions…that they are not JUST as guilty…is so ludicrous and so offensive that it makes my head spin. 

        • Is a systemic problem, it needs to be tackled as a whole, is the lack of possibilities for people to make a living except by supporting a brutal system, the lack of empowerment or moral compass to fight that system once inside, the same as the corporations, media, lobbyists and politicians that back the brutality from their chairs, and benefit handsomely from the ignorance and stupidity that they themselves encourage.

          • “Is a systemic problem, it needs to be tackled as a whole…” Now that is interesting and makes me wonder: are those of us who pay our taxes – a significant portion of which goes toward the funding of these despicable wars – just as complicit as the soldiers on the ground who are killing and maiming and raping the innocent citizens of another sovereign nation? I wonder if Ron Paul or any other progressive candidate has ever addressed this issue? Would encouraging people to stop paying their taxes be considered treasonous and/or worthy of arrest? Or would that still be covered by free speech? 

          • That or actual representation in how your tax money is spent, with the level of corruption of the USG kind of hard to achieve that, you’ll need a revolution.

        • Jin The Ninja | May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am |

          i think your implications are far more offensive.

          it is so much easier to condemn a populace who by and large come from lower economic circumstances, who are used in my view, as pawns in the neo-imperialist games of chess, that the plutarchs and technocrats and hawks at the pentagon and their corporate counterparts play.

           it is so much easier to allocate responsibility based on physicality rather than ideology. it so much easier to see people as murderers than as multi layered complex human beings with complex moral and ideological systems.

           i think the state of america, and the corporate hierarchy are the true culprits. this doesn’t absolve in any way war crimes or acts of atrocity- but why and when these acts are comitted they are sponsored by ideologues in the state and by the state itself. There has been a policy of exceptionalism since the time of jefferson, with american interests and designs on hawaii, cuba  puerto rico and haiti. And from the conquerors come forth a greater mission of domination that seeks to exploit the third world and much of the non anglo first world.

          if that ideology, the practices of america as a whole, were not extant- you would not be able to implicate soldiers- because they largely wouldn’t exist. there would be no wars for oil, minerals and geostrategy.

          The act of domination, the acts of atrocity are comitted by soldiers on the ground but it is comitted to by the powers that be in the state. That means they implicitly or explicitly sanction the culture of atrocities and violence that wars engender.

          • Calypso_1 | May 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

            well said

          • Jin The Ninja | May 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm |

             thank you!

          • ThinkHarder | May 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm |

            Our society is utterly fucked…you will get absolutely no arguments from me on that score. And nothing would make me happier than seeing the entire system upon which our society is based completely restructured and/or replaced. But where does that change start? The point I am trying to make is that it starts with the individual… 

            In this case, we are discussing the individual soldiers who are given immoral/illegal commands and how they choose to react to those instructions. Because there ARE soldiers who have finally had enough and who have conscientiously objected. They are few and far between – admittedly – so the burning question then becomes: why? Is it fear of repercussion which holds others back from doing likewise? A cultural brainwashing which they are unable to overcome? 

            Given your mindset, perhaps you would argue that the majority feel justified in their actions because society seems to backs them up. Perhaps it is some mixture of all these things. But as far as I am concerned, none of that truly matters, because at the end of the day, none of those reasons are strong enough to absolve/excuse/justify the actions of those who are guilty of war crimes (ie: murder, torture, rape, etc.) And here is another reason why I do not buy your argument: you and I are also products of that same system…so why aren’t we out there maiming and killing and torturing in the name of “freedom” and “democracy”? Are you going to argue that we are intellectually and/or emotionally superior to our military counterparts? We are all fucked-up individuals stuck together for a limited amount of time on this glorified hunk of spinning rock. You can blame society all you want for “making” people do things which you don’t like, but at the end of the day, every individual is responsible for his/her own actions and decisions. 

    • i’m substituting “soldiers” for “people”. some folks join with wholly benevolent intentions, truly believing they are making a POSITIVE CONTRIBUTION and actually maintain that attitude, represented by their actions, throughout the course of their service. others crack, because the guns/testosterone/stressful situation cocktail is not conducive to one’s mental health( yes i know it’s a coed army, but i’m pretty sure the walls get hairy in a combat situation). say what you want about the U.S. military-industrial complex (which is VERY,VERY BAD), but I don’t think that any American commander ever ordered soldiers to go out and rape. And yes, they are cultist, so is every other institution, social structure, etc. ever. I am VERY anti- military, but equally anti-demonization of a specific group of people. except for demonic people, but one finds them everywhere.

  4. Backpedaling weasels, all of them.

  5. Camron Wiltshire | May 30, 2012 at 1:19 am |

    Pat Tillman and Bradley Manning and Smedley Butler.  Real Heroes. 

    • ThinkHarder | May 30, 2012 at 9:57 am |

      Bradley and Smedley are definitely heroes…but why did you include Pat Tillman? He was killed by so-called “friendly fire” but how does that make him a hero? 

      • Camron Wiltshire | May 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm |  In the above video, Officer Jack McLamb discusses the growing number of soldiers who are “committing suicide.”   Football star and Army Ranger, Pat Tillman, discovered the true reason the United States is engaged in these foreign wars.  He planned on making this information common knowledge upon returning to the states.  Only a few days after making this announcement, Pat Tillman was assassinated with three bullets to the forehead.An excerpt from a letter by Pat Tillman’s father to the Army investigator:“You are a General, there is no way a man like you, with your intelligence, education, military, experience, responsibilities (primarily for difficult situations), and rank… believes the conclusions reached in the March 31, 2005 Briefing Book. But your signature is on it.  I assume, therefore, that you are part of this shameless bulls__t.  I embarrassed myself by treating you with respect.  I thought your rank deserved it and anticipated something different from the new and improved investigation. I won’t act so hypocritically if we meet again.”“In sum: F__k you… and yours.”

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