Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chris Hayes tells truth; then apologizes

MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes has gotten into some trouble for comments he made yesterday about the use of the word "hero" in reference to US military personnel. The relevant segment begins around 6:30:




In essence, Hayes thinks the word is overused; the overuse makes it too easy to justify wars that have no justification (think all the wars the US has been involved in since WWII).  Hayes is right of course, and it was good to see fellow linguist John McWhorter and other panel members agreeing.

The fact that he felt a need to apologize reflects the fetishization of the military and war that permeates US culture.  We dare not question the actions of our Dear Leaders without feeling the consequences.

3 comments:

  1. I think you're mistaking the fact that much of this is that we don't speak ill of the dead. Death transforms others and it becomes stigmatized to be honest about them. Everyone has known a real asshole that once dead, doesn't get called an asshole at their funeral. Liberals hurt themselves badly during the Vietnam War by ignoring this cultural norm, and they never recovered. What allowed Bush, et al. to get away with what they did, was largely a reaction to the breaking of these norms and taboos. There was a sense that we wouldn't do what we did in Vietnam here at home, because soldiers don't choose the wars they fight in. I think this historical experience of over correction will change the way we react next time. And there will be a next time.

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  2. Actually, it has become common to speak of ALL military personnel as heroes. This seems quite unlikely. This sort of inflated usage makes the word almost meaningless. I missed Chris Hayes's comments but I have seen him many times and he is usually quite thoughtful and remarkably logical in his presentations. I suspect the corporate office was involved in the decision to apologize. We are becoming, in many ways, a nation of cowards, afraid to speak up or immediately apologizing for some statement of belief. We are letting the bullies, thugs, and ideological lunatics control the dialog.

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  3. Rick (above), you're wrong. Soldiers DO choose the wars they fight in. Every minute, every hour, every day, every year, every deployment, they choose whether to fight or, do the only honorable thing, refuse to fight.

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Comments and feedback are welcome, as long as they conform to normal standards of civility and decency. I will delete comments that do not meet these standards.