the word hero is overused in our society. some people say that every cop and every fireman is a hero. this got especially popular (i use that word quite deliberately) after 9/11/2001 – when so many men in those jobs died. and maybe they are heroes. their jobs leave them open to the necessity of being a hero, although i feel like it’s rare when a policeman gets to do something heroic. i don’t consider traffic ticketing and filling out reports after a robbery being a hero. nor is cleaning a fire truck and waiting for the bell to ring.
they, like soldiers, are put into an occupation where the opportunity to act heroic will likely be placed in front of them. this does not mean they will do so. but we hope they will.
i hear people refer to certain other folks as ‘a hero’ all the time. it’s a bit much. every soldier is a hero, their best friend is their hero. i’ve heard people refer to their kid as their hero. ok….
on memorial day, on my facebook, i posted the following idea which has been voiced by many countless times before: does the military really ‘keep us free’ anymore? it seems that since 1946, it exists merely to enforce our foreign policy aims and clear the way for business interests to asset strip smaller, less civilized and less powerful countries. it seems like the only danger to freedom here and mostly around the world is corporate encroachment and maybe, government. i don’t think dead soldiers are ‘the price of freedom’. i think they are evidence we are being lied to. ‘never forget’, for sure. but are you not forgetting the truth or some bullshit narrative of sacrifice that is just a cover for our leaders failing, culpability and self interest?
that’s what i posted. i got the responses you would imagine. some people backed me up. ‘yes, that’s right and not only that but…” but mostly i got the emotional responses of ‘well i for one want to take this opportunity to thank the troops who fought and died so that i might be here to post this’ and on and on.
some took the additional tack of saying ‘if the military weren’t here, castro would march right in and take over’. one nice, attractive older lady actually said that. first off, the idea of castro marching here, through the ocean to florida, especially at his age, is quite humorous. also, i venture that we have enough expatriate cubans in the miami area alone to take cuba in a day if we decided to arm them…but i’m getting off track.
when someone makes this anti-’price of freedom’ statement like i’m making, they are not saying we should not have a military. precisely the opposite. we are arguing that they don’t ever get the chance to safeguard our freedom and values. they are occupied far away from here, in countries that don’t matter to our safety, engaged in acts and campaigns of dubious worth and justness. that’s all. let’s bring them all home. let them guard the border. and give them free college while they are at it. but don’t send them to iraq. don’t let them languish in afghanistan. why do we have a base in germany, still? etc. this is what people like me are referring to.
still i wonder, because i am prone to self doubt and revisiting ideas, ‘am i wrong?’.
to me, it just seems this thing about calling every member of the military ‘heroes’ and repeating the emotional, thoughtless meme ‘they died for our freedom’ is this: it makes sending more troops into future misadventures that much easier. it’s a tacit agreement that whatever they do and no matter where they are ordered to go, they are protecting our freedom, even if they aren’t. it’s further proof that you are being lied to and that you have been again swindled into arguing for something that is against your best interest and is sorely against the best interest of the troops who will actually have to be put at risk.
on memorial day, a lot of people put out flags on their lawn. actually, at least in utah, a lot of these are done by the boy scouts and/or the church. groups of boys will put up and take down a flag for you, for a small fee. it’s like outsourcing your patriotism. you can often tell because all the poles are exactly the same. i’ve never understand the flag thing.
a flag is not the country. it is a shadow. it’s a representation, a visual reference. some people get very excited and aroused regarding the flag. they wear flag pins, they wave little flags. it’s odd to me. we get it – we are all americans. it’s as though some people feel ‘more’ american if they have the accessories of an actual flag or jewelery. but in a curious twist, these truer-blooded americans are often the more intolerant of speech that doesn’t agree with theirs. they are often the ones who are for denying rights to people who they see as not morally in agreement with them. don’t misundertand. they are not bad people. and neither are the people they try to deny. they are just more emotional than rational, and this is what the people who try to speak for them bank on.
over using a word like hero distorts not just how people feel about something but also how they think. and one thing i am certain of is that over using words that have a lot of power diminishes not just those words’ meaning but also, slowly, our ability to interpret meaning.
some other words in my culture which seem currently over used: love, hate, friend, offended, dangerous, wrong, right, america, apology, war, good, evil.
some words in my culture that are under utilized, in my opinion: understanding, reasonable, empathize, thought, explanation, expression, nuance, idea.
these two lists can go on for pages. i think i’ll start writing them down and post a ton of them soon.