Chris Hayes was right to question the obscene overuse of the word "hero" to describe our troops and was far too hasty in apologising. Trouble was, he was right for the wrong reason.
In the unlikely event that anyone unfamiliar with these pages reads this, the disclaimer is that I am a veteran, had some interesting times, and know what a hero is because I've seen several in action...most of them not combat troops. I would love to know what proportion of Hayes' critics were veterans. Considering that something under two percent of Americans have ever served in the armed forces, the math is suggestive.
To be uncomfortable with this because it seems "rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war," either misses the point of this outpouring or is awash in denial. There is an elephant in the room, people. Its name is the collective guilt of millions of Americans over the way we (yes, fools, we) of the Vietnam era were treated in uniform and after we served. It is easier to get the keycard combination to Fort Knox than to get anyone wallowing in this guilt to admit it. It is much easier for them to exercise some transference and go overboard over today's servicefolk. That is why these people call everyone from Lieutenant Generals to the company cook "heroes."
Props to President Obama for speaking the words that none of the salivating chickenhawks and few if any pundits will say aloud: that the treatment of Vietnam veterans is a national shame, It is past time to put that right.
I give today's veterans their due. Like many of my generation I carry the memory of being sneered at by veterans of previous wars, and I'm determined not to do the same to those in uniform today. But overreaction to these veterans doesn't do a goddam thing to square things with veterans of that previous and troubled time.
How about it, America? Grow a spine, or a pair, or whatever it takes to create some balance between past and present. Forty-one years on, and I'm used to this shit, but it would be nice to have something besides pro forma thanks twice a year.
A final note for the 99 percent, non-veterans. Kindly spare us the "thank you for your service" platitudes on Memorial Day. Veteran's Day, yes, but Memorial Day isn't for those of us still living. It's for those who didn't live.