Are Soldiers Killed In Occupations Heroes?
A great timely question. And I do have to agree that the use of term, especially about dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan is very troubling.
MSNBC’s Chris Hayes sparked controversy and debate on Sunday when he said that he felt “uncomfortable” calling soldiers killed in action “heroes” because the term can be used to justify potentially unjust wars.
Hayes spent a large portion of his Memorial Day-themed show on questions of war and of the people killed on all sides of military conflicts, from American soldiers to Afghan civilians.
After speaking with a former Marine whose job it was to notify families of the death of soldiers, he turned to his panel and, clearly wrestling with what to say, raised the issue of language:
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.” Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable — 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.
Hayes’ fellow panelists expressed similar discomfort. Linguist and columnist John McWhorter said that he would “almost rather not say ‘hero” and called the term “manipulative,” even if it was unintentionally so.