The comments were made on his Sunday show, which had long segments about Memorial Day and featured US Marine Lt. Col. Steve Beck, who recounted his experience as a casualty assistance officer, and Mary Kirkland, whose son Army Specialist Derrick Kirkland was diagnosed with PTSD and took his own life at age 23. It also included a conservative commentator, BusinessInsider.com editor Michael Brendan Dougherty.
The show also unearthed that Memorial Day was created by slaves and first held in Charleston in 1865. It also named some of the civilians killed in Afghanistan.
In a segment about the meaning of heroism and valor, Hayes said:
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.
Part of the context for this, discussed on Hayes’ show before, is how America calls returning service people ‘heroes’ — then cuts services for them or denies them an education or, in some cases, citizenship.
Here’s the context of the show segment:
Ann Coulter tweeted:
Chris Hayes ‘Uncomfortable’ Calling Fallen Military ‘Heroes’ — Marines respond by protecting his right to menstruate.
But not to the First Amendment and certainly not to discuss a difficult subject?
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.
Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly writes that a veterans group should know better:
I guess the VFW doesn’t do nuance, and is “fair and balanced” only in the sense of Fox News.
The VFW might have expressed a few words of dismay at the regular exploitation of fallen soldiers by conservative pols and garden-variety militarists who want to borrow some of that heroism to grind their many axes, often at the expense of present and future men and women in uniform. That is part, of course, of what Chris Hayes was talking about in expressing his ambiguity about the term “heroes.”
Writes John Cole, a former soldier, at Balloon Juice:
[As] Tennyson, Galloway and Moore, and others note, we’ve been making heroes for hundreds of years. It takes nothing to go along with that status quo. It takes balls to stand up and say “Make it stop. No more heroes.”
Taylor Marsh slammed “the usual suspects, who want to preen they support the U.S. Constitution, but won’t allow any discussion about war and peace that might land in an uncomfortable arena.”
We can no longer disagree with one another, with the right proving their political correctness is as vicious a scourge as anything on the left.
There are many individuals who want to work on backing our country away from “justifications for more war,” with these people having every right to say so in a discussion forum on cable, without fearing reprisal or being threatened with the loss of their job, or humiliated for expressing an opinion on the way to fostering debate.
· Read more about the treatment of 21-year-old “hero” Army Spc. Derrick Kirkland.
Photo credit: MSNBC screengrab