What is a hero? Was Chris Hayes wrong to apologize?

Just over a week ago MSNBC talk show host Chris Hayes said something about heroes that drew quick and fiery responses from people who felt they had something of value in his comment.

The comment related to Memorial Day:

” 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.”

It is pathetic that he that he’s actually engaged in a proper question in the proper moment and others in their shallow patriotic fervor missed the meaning.

What seems to fail is his follow through when the hammers came down. Why did that fail? Because he was apparently lacking in some integrity on the question. I’m sure he can remedy it with more thought, time to hear out others, and a re-examination. But otherwise, he was right to ask this question and right to feel uncomfortable about the word hero being so blindly thrown around in social company. If it is to be a revered day then it should require that we examine these concepts without fear of reprisal including asking, “are we honoring heroes? or are we playing along with a larger narrative that we shouldn’t” Did we honor other people who served our country? Do we only appreciate the death of our citizens in order to express our finest principles?

Ever thanked a lawyer for upholding your rights? Probably not.

Within a hair’s breath, Hayes also sought to qualify his question, which indicates he’s not looking to smear anyone’s reputation, question their honor, etc. He’s merely engaged in a proper logical examination of the national use of Memorial Day and whether it is used to justify policies that have kept us in perpetual war time.

it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war”

Absolutely correct!

He did not say, “I’m uncomfortable with calling fallen soldiers, ‘Heroes’.” 

Hayes was clearly discussing the “proximity” of the use of the word “hero” to events and causes with the intent justify more war Strong Foreign Policy and there clearly are politicians who throw up the word hero along side their antagonistic military policies (invading other countries, global war on terror, etc).

When Hayes said this, I thought about examples where Bush, Rumsfeld and others paraded this word “heroes” around so gallantly as they sent more men and women off to war. Few of them had substantial military experience as they lauded “heroes” right and left then ignored them at Walter Reed and abroad.

At first I thought to ask, “what makes a hero?” but this would only serve to move further from Hayes point. He didn’t ask the question I’d ask, “are these all heroes?” All the more reason attacking his comment is nothing more than either over-reaction from people who simply misread his statements (in written or archived form because they clearly didn’t watch it at the time)  and took offense when there was none to be taken.

And as much as I am want to ask about who the heroes should be, it is hard to miss the countless examples Hayes must have been thinking of when it comes to the misuse of ‘heroes’ for political gain whether it is for foreign policy push or to applaud one’s own. Abuse of the word diminishes its worth over time.

Chris Hayes is an easy target for silly criticisms. This was an easy target but not a very substantive one.


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