Chris Hayes, the host of MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” unleashed a bizarre rant this last Sunday that caused more than a few eyebrows to lift the day before Memorial Day. Here was the text of what he said:
CHRIS HAYES: Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that'll be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke [sic, actually Beck], who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible]. Um, I, I, ah, back sorry, um, 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." Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word "hero"? I feel comfortable, ah, 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.
So uncomfortable with the word “hero” to describe our military men and women?
First, let’s acknowledge how easy it would be to demagogue this issue. It is a cupcake of a set-up to portray this one liberal’s remarks as indicative of a larger disdain for the military that is held by the left. But while it would be easy, it wouldn’t be right or even accurate. There are a great many liberals – many of whom have themselves served in the military or who have kids who are doing the same – who would not agree with what Hayes had to say.
And I also think it’s important to note that Hayes himself was struggling with making this statement. He clearly recognizes how his statement borders on the outright offensive to many people. But Hayes is merely trying to be consistent with his worldview, and at least deserves a rebuttal to his hair-brained position.
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And make no mistake, the idea that somehow recognizing all our military men and women as “heroes” (or even just terming them such) makes us more likely to go to war is about as logically flawed as it could be. Imagine arguing (though these may not be perfect analogies) that recognizing our teachers as noble somehow makes us more likely to go out and encourage ignorance. Or arguing that honoring our doctors for their great work at saving lives somehow makes us more likely to go out and encourage illness.
Yet that appears to be the logic used by Hayes here. If we acknowledge that the very act of putting on the uniform of the United States is heroic, we are somehow encouraging a warlike attitude in the United States? Absurd. Perhaps Hayes really believes it, perhaps this is simply to generate controversy, perhaps it’s due to his bizarre allegiance to a far-left anti-war orthodoxy. I don’t really know. But it’s silliness.
If a willingness to sacrifice one’s own life for his or her country is not the very definition of heroism (whether that individual ever actually dies in service to the country or not), I don’t know what is. Again, I tend to believe that my sentiments are shared by most liberals. That’s why I don’t think it’s fair or right to demagogue the issue of Hayes’ remarks. But calling them out for what they are is necessary.