On Chris Hayes & America’s Fallen Heroes

I will admit I was watching the F1 Grand Prix de Monaco this morning and not Up With Chris Hayes on MSNBC. It turns out I missed some controversy. I was referred to the matter by Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway. Mataconis argued that it seemed like the wrong tone for Memorial Day.

The key quote from the article Doug cited, which was from Mediate, quoted Hayes where he says he feels:

…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, you know, 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.

Chris Hayes is a young and very smart talent in the progressive media, and his show has been a beyond rare breath of fresh air generally in what is the pitiful morass of cable news programming. Hayes quickly showed why by referring critics to the video at right, which does indeed present a much fuller and more nuanced take on the issue. As Jeremy Scahill noted, Hayes is being mauled for taking such a deeper and more nuanced look at the issue of praise for war. I agree wholeheartedly with Jeremy.

But, still, I have some, granted also nuanced, qualms.

Contrast Hayes tact with that of Olivier Knox of Yahoo News on Friday:

Memorial Day Weekend: My thoughts inevitably drift to visits to the Normandy Beaches. More moving each passing year. Merci.

When I was a kid, it was hard to appreciate the “full measure of devotion.” Also my French grandparents hadn’t fully briefed me.

There is a palpable difference in tone between the initial takes of Knox and Hayes. While I originally instinctively gravitated toward the Knox take, the more I chew on it, I think Scahill has a point, and the more I think my knee jerk reaction to Hayes was a bit too reflexive and shallow. Here is why.

It is a generational thing to some extent, and the wider the age gap in people reacting to this, the generally wider the potential for adverse reaction. That, of course, is not totally the crux of the biscuit (as Frank Zappa would say), but I think it may be a large part of it.

Chris Hayes touched on a critical and under appreciated point: there is far too much cheerleading for war propagated through obligatory honor of the souls the powers that be send to fight the wars. It does cloud and mask the reality of what is transpiring on the greater moral and humanitarian stage, and does so very much to the detriment of society and the relevant discussion. That is just a fact in my book.

By the same token, the older voices among us, even those of us who grew up with the mess that was Vietnam, still grew up in the halo years of WW II, with the remnants of WW I that preceded it. When I think of Memorial Day, it is under a mental framework cast in those terms, that was still the framework conveyed in the 60′s and, even if lesser, still in the 70′s and 80′s. Vietnam was the aberration, not the norm, for a very long time when considering war and “war heroes”.

And that was me, a kid who mercifully avoided the draft and never served. I think the feelings could, and may well be, even stronger among those who did serve or, like Olivier Knox, who have land and families free today because of the last devotion expended on the beaches of Normandy or Okinawa.

To an older generation, and the differently situated, Memorial Day exists to honor true heroes. American soldiers who died so that you, me, Chris Hayes and everyone else may all have the discussions we do. The fact they gave what they did allows that. And, yes, they ARE heroes.

It is indeed a complex dynamic. Could Chris Hayes have exercised a bit more rhetorical discretion; no question. And he would be wise to not paint it quite as much as he does so primarily in terms of Afghanistan and, presumably, if not mentioned, Iraq (leaving aside Yemen and our other, um, areas of interest/conflict); there is a much larger and older framework, as Hayes himself cogently noted in his lead in.

But move beyond the patina of insensitivity, and Chris Hayes was quite right. We need desperately to unhinge the valor of our troops from the moral squalor of our leaders. Memorial Day may be a touchy time to hear that, but it needs to be said.

[Notice of Erratum: I would like to make quite clear that I do not think Chris Hayes and Olivier Knox are at any odds here; not at all. I simply found their initial takes demonstrative of the greater depth of the issue and discussion here, and illustrative of the point. Thanks to my friend Olivier for pointing that out]

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

35 Responses to On Chris Hayes & America’s Fallen Heroes

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
  • 32
  • 33
  • 34
  • 35
Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @etuckerAP that's nuts.
45sreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BradMossEsq And thank god he did, else this enlightenment would never had happened. Need a million more Snowdens!!
3mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @etuckerAP how many days has jury been out now? Seems like forever.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @BradMossEsq @jasonleopold No evidence is contrary!
12mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @PhilPerspective Not sure, but Foley stupidly extended him recently. @bmaz
12mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @bmaz Wait. I thought you wanted us to hire Charlie Weis. Make up your mind.
13mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @MikeScarcella: Obama-appointed judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers assigned to Twitter transparency suit http://t.co/vFj9PkdEL0 Earlier: http:…
14mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @normative Yeah but I think that is NOT true of Bob Litt. & to some degree I think Comey's been sent out as last IC guy w/cred @mattblaze
16mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz FISCR Used an Outdated Version of EO 12333 to Rule Protect America Act Legal https://t.co/RYRymlFhJo
17mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @JimWhiteGNV cause Gators can't hire Lane Kiffen until Bama season over!
20mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattblaze Plus, who the hell is advising him he can too have Golden Keys to our front doors? Who's advising him? That non-tech Cyber guy?
28mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattblaze I would normally say that but if he were getting good staff work they wouldn't have trotted him out w/easily debunked examples.
29mreplyretweetfavorite