I’m with Chris Hayes

I know I’m not the first to comment on Chris Hayes’s Memorial Day remarks (to which Scott linked in Blaise’s post):

“Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word ‘hero’?” Hayes said. “I feel uncomfortable about the word hero 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,”

but, timing aside, I don’t see how they are particularly controversial – though I understand how they might be used to gin up a controversy. In my experience, the recent deaths of soldiers, “heroes”, in Afghanistan are used as justification for prolonging the war. Maybe that doesn’t happen in the States (though I doubt it), but it definitely happens in Canada.

I don’t see much at all with which to disagree in Mr. Hayes’s comment.

Jonathan McLeod

Jonathan McLeod is a writer living in Ottawa, Ontario. (That means Canada.) He spends too much time following local politics and writing about zoning issues. Follow him on Twitter.


  1. I don’t think “rhetorically proximate” is sufficient justification to call the usage of “hero” into question, though. It may be proximate, in the sense that people tend to slip from talking about heroism to talking about the idea of justifying that heroism through continued war, that the people who we remember on a day like Memorial Day need some continued political justification of their sacrifice. But, the fact that it’s “rhetorically proximate” doesn’t (nor shouldn’t) mean that it’s rhetorically consequent. Antiwar progressives don’t need to concede the idea of a military hero or retreat into the specifics of any single act of heroism (like Hayes does) to claim that the best way to recognize such heroism and sacrifice is to be fully respectful of its cost on society and the moral cost of war. Fight that rhetorical fight. Don’t call into question broadly popular, true actions of human service and heroism.

  2. JM:

    My first snarky response would be that of course you agree with Hayes, you are Canadian , right?

    Seriously, the fact that someone could use the dead for propaganda means that they will and therefore we shouldn’t honor them? That seems to Hayes point and logical fallacy as far as I’m concerned.

    I’m curious, if the Canadian dead that were killed taking Vimy Ridge aren’t heroes then why build such a nice monument to them? Has anyone in Canada ever used the Vimy dead as justification for another war?

  3. Chiming in a few days late, and with not much to add, but I agree.

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