MSNBC’s Chris Hayes sparked major controversy and debate when he said that he felt uncomfortable using the word “hero” for members of the U.S. military.
Hayes’ point was that the word is inadvertently used to start more potentially unjust wars – not unreasonable – but now says his own word choice was poor.
After speaking with a former Marine whose job it was to notify families of the death of soldiers, he said that while he means no disrespect to those who serve us all, the word “seems to be rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.”
Hayes also said that, on the flip side, it is “noble” to join the military.
While a “liberal caricature” like himself would not truly understand “submitting so totally to what the electorate or people in power are going to decide about using your body,” Hayes conceded, he saw valor in it.
Nevertheless, Hayes’ words, on Memorial Day of all days, caused a predictable furor with some. He issued a statement Monday apologizing for his comments:
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.
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.