There are some things people who haven't served this country in the military should be real careful about. And one of them is opening their mouths on a national holiday dedicated to those who died serving this country to offer a freshman-level, introduction-to-cultural-studies deconstruction of an alleged link between the word "hero" and "justifications for more war."
Here is the statement MSNBC show host Chris Hayes made Sunday night on the cable channel during his show (you can see it below).
Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word 'hero'? I feel uncomfortable about the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect the 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."
Can you imagine viewers who are remembering the loss of someone they loved -- a loss that might have changed the arc of the lives of their entire family -- coming upon MSNBC this weekend and hearing this pedantic, privileged, out-of-touch-with-any-real-notion-of-civic-sacrifice-and-pain remark?
And I am not going to let anyone say, "Well, this is a legitimate intellectual critique, and thoughtful people can clearly see what he was trying to say. The blowback is just mock outrage from the right."
No, this is pseudo-intellectual vanity and self-absorbed, TV media talk at its worst . I have a Ph.D. in American Studies, and after spending 10 years in seminars filled with too much of this kind of talk, I can accurately say that people who talk like Hayes did in his remarks are most often self-important b.s. artists: "....it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war."
Here's the apology Hayes issued once the blowback started:
On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word "hero" to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don't think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I've set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that.
As many have rightly pointed out, it's very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about the people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots. Of course, that is true of the overwhelming majority of our nation's citizens as a whole. One of the points made during Sunday's show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy in Afghanistan, and to assuage our own collective guilt about this disconnect with a pro-forma ritual that we observe briefly before returning to our barbecues.
But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don't, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.
Here's the video: