Monday, May 28, 2012


A right-wing buddy of mine from high school posted this on facebook:

Seriously? On Memorial Day weekend no less.

Chris Hayes: I'm 'Uncomfortable' Calling Fallen Military 'Heroes'

"Effete: affected, overrefined, and ineffectual; see "Chris Hayes." OK, I appended the name of the MSNBC host to the dictionary definition. But if ever you wanted to see the human embodiment of the adjective in action, have a look at the video from his MSNBC show this morning of the too-refined-by-...

Here's the link, with video.

And here's the response I left:

I'm probably going to watch the entire show online later tonight, but without the overall context, I think Hayes has a point, albeit very awkwardly stated. That is, for several years after 9/11 a real culture of military fetishism took hold in this country, one that politicians used to hit over the head anybody who in any way criticized our dual Middle East wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So criticizing the mission became tantamount to criticizing the effort and sacrifice of of our soldiers, sailors, and marines. It turned out, of course, that criticism was exactly what this country needed, and if critics hadn't been so silenced we might very well have avoided the intense bloodshed that happened in Iraq during the botched occupation--indeed, one of those critics was the prophetic Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, who knew that we simply didn't have the troop strength to really pull off an occupation, but he was summarily put out to pasture by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and American service personnel, lots of them, died in IED attacks again and again as a result.

And all that "you must love the military or you're anti-American" BS was totally hollow at the Washington level: the rhetoric was there, but Bush's VA was routinely screwing over guys coming back home, and the Republican Congress didn't seem to care about it one bit. One wonders what it really means to support the military. Is it all about flag waving and getting in the face of people who want peace, or is it about truly treating veterans with respect and affording them the dignity they deserve for their service? Of course, I prefer the latter, but this continues to be something of an open question for the American culture and political class.

Adding insult to injury was the rise of the neoconservative in American political life: it's not widely known, but neocons really do want us to be at war all the time, simply because they believe that war gives America purpose and unity. And to this day, the neocon voice continues to carry weight, simply because they are the most organized in as much as foreign policy rhetoric goes.

This brings us back to Hayes. I, personally, as a far left liberal, believe that it is not the fault of individual service men when their civilian leaders are totally insane and send them on crackpot adventures that make the world far more dangerous than it was to begin with. Our service men and women do their jobs, and do them extraordinarily well, at great risk, often losing everything, just because they're patriotic citizens. We, as a nation, owe them whatever they want. But we also have this military fetish cultural strain that politicians use for their own cynical purposes. Of course, Hayes is uncomfortable with all this, as we all ought to be. It is very easy to have one's praise for the military twisted in sick and awful directions.

I'm cutting him a lot of slack on this one, and you should, too.
Not much debate yet because I just posted my response, and I'm really wondering what my old friend might have to say with his response, but I just had to get this out there. One of the things I think the left has learned since the Vietnam era is that people in the military are just trying to live their lives like you and me, and that they join up for both patriotic and practical reasons. That is, their motivations are noble and reasonable; they are not bad people, not imperialists, not oppressors, even though their collective action under direction from Washington may amount to imperialism and oppression. Indeed, they, too, are oppressed, when the civilian leadership misuses their service, warping their love of country into something that is ultimately sinister.

But it's hard to talk about this without the military fetishists dog-piling with chants of "America hater" and whatnot. So Hayes left an opening and the right wing jumped in. Typical.