Paul Campos reacts perfectly to the emotionally-charged reaction to Chris Hayes’ entirely reasonable statement that merely being a soldier does not make someone a hero, for which Hayes has now issues a completely unnecessary and tortured apology.
We live in a culture in which someone like Hayes cannot suggest, even the most diffident, nuanced, and self-deprecating way, that automatically labeling every American soldier who dies in war a “hero” might be an oversimplification of a difficult set of moral and political questions without thereby releasing such a storm of indignation that he is forced to immediately recant such a terrible heresy.
When it comes to war and peace nothing less than full-throated stupidity is acceptable in our public discourse, and any sign of ambivalence regarding the righteousness of the various causes for which around 1.34 million American soldiers have died is to be stamped out as an offense to the memory of the honored dead. (This view produces some logical problems in the context of America’s bloodiest war, but logic is never an impediment to pseudo-patriotic fervor).
Note too the perniciousness of the idea that Hayes’ civilian status is assumed even by himself — or at least his contrite persona –to disqualify him from having a valid opinion on such matters — a disqualification that obviously doesn’t apply to the armies of chicken hawk pundits who deploy their keyboards to celebrate whatever foreign adventure they and their masters have deemed worth the cost of someone else’s life.
Bingo. What we are seeing is a perfect example of how public discourse in this country works to punish anyone who dares to question the government on matters of war. It’s a very effective way to silence dissent without needing a law to do it. This is what happens when you turn patriotism into a marketing slogan. Don’t believe me?