Heroism vs. Jingoism

Another Memorial Day has come and gone.  Usually I avoid the hype and just enjoy my day off, which I did…but I also came across this issue which exploded over the weekend and got everyone’s panties in a tight little bunch.  A commentator on MSNBC questioned America’s practice of calling every dead soldier a “hero”, wondering if such a thing tends to (perhaps unintentionally) glorify war.  And oh, did he get raked over the coals for that!  Imagine:  speaking an opinion, asking a sensitive question, right there for all to hear!  Why, he oughta be burned in effigy!

It’s an interesting question, though, and one I’ve asked myself many times:  does getting killed in the line of duty automatically make you a hero?  Maybe…or maybe not, depending on the circumstances.  What if someone is killed by stepping on a mine while walking down some road in Afghanistan — is that heroic?  His/her family and friends would likely say “Of course it’s heroic, you insensitive asshole!”  But is it really?  I wonder.  How heroic is that compared to, say, a fireman hauling two kids out of a burning building?  Or troops fighting an actual threat to our country rather than a war based on lies and greed for oil?  Are there degrees of heroism in cases like this?  Probably.

Also, some think that simply being in the military automatically makes one a hero — even though joining the military is usually a choice people make.  But if everyone’s a hero, then nobody is.  Know what I mean?  It’s like those wussy parents who don’t want their precious spawn to hear the word “loser” when their team loses a game, because “everyone’s a winner!”  Well, then nobody’s a winner.  So maybe we’re using this term “hero” a little too broadly.

But that’s just my brain blathering questions about stuff.  What do I know?  I’ve never been in the military, so obviously (as someone on Facebook snippily inferred) I’m not entitled to any opinion on the matter.  I don’t claim to have an answer because there really isn’t one, just peoples’ opinions and interpretation of the hero thing.  It’s an interesting discussion, don’t you think?  Too bad you risk being burned at the stake for asking these questions, like this poor guy did — as if the subject can never be discussed, as if nobody can ever pose questions about the military and its effect on our society because the military is beyond question.  That’s not a good road to start down.

One thought on “Heroism vs. Jingoism

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  1. I have to agree, this idea of calling every single soldier a “hero” does kind of devalue the term… But it’s probably too late to salvage it now – maybe we just need a new word, one that means what “hero” used to mean?


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