July 24, 2010

(Native) soldiers aren't heroes

“Our American Heroes”:  Why It’s Wrong to Equate Military Service with Heroism

By William J. Astore[E]ven if elevating our troops to hero status has become something of a national mania, is there really any harm done? What’s wrong with praising our troops to the rafters? What’s wrong with adding them to our pantheon of heroes?

The short answer is: There’s a good deal wrong, and a good deal of harm done, not so much to them as to us.

To wit:

*By making our military a league of heroes, we ensure that the brutalizing aspects and effects of war will be played down. In celebrating isolated heroic feats, we often forget that war is guaranteed to degrade humanity. “War,” as writer and cultural historian Louis Menand noted, “is specially terrible not because it destroys human beings, who can be destroyed in plenty of other ways, but because it turns human beings into destroyers.”

When we create a legion of heroes in our minds, we blind ourselves to evidence of their destructive, sometimes atrocious, behavior. Heroes, after all, don’t commit atrocities. They don’t, for instance, dig bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies in an attempt to cover up deadly mistakes. They don’t fire on a good Samaritan and his two children as he attempts to aid a grievously wounded civilian. Such atrocities and murderous blunders, so common to war’s brutal chaos, produce cognitive dissonance in the minds of many Americans who simply can’t imagine their “heroes” killing innocents. How much easier it is to see the acts of violence of our troops as necessary, admirable, even noble.
Comment:  I agree, and I don't equate military service with heroism. When soldiers come under fire and don't run away, then I'll consider calling them heroic. Or at least courageous. But just for enlisting and serving? No.

As few people are willing to acknowledge, we haven't fought an enemy who threatened our country since WW II. You don't get a lot of credit from me for participating in stupid and unnecessary wars. Someone who protests these wars, even when the wars are popular, is arguably more heroic.

A commenter on Facebook concurs:Making sure that you're actually standing for the right cause regardless of the cost--that's heroism.He adds:This is not just an American tendency...Native Americans as a whole have a thing with turning soldiers into heroes as propaganda.I agree with that too. As longtime readers know, I've criticized the Native obsession with warriors many times. For instance:

Shawn Hawk the "Sioux Warrior"
Weaponized drone = Indian savage
Gang culture in Indian country
Indians join military for paycheck?

Bottom line: Many (Native) soldiers are heroes and many aren't. But nobody's a hero automatically. Do something heroic and then we'll call you a hero, not before.

For more on the definition of "warrior," see Billy Mills Defines "Warrior" and Sitting Bull Defines "Warrior." For more on the subject in general, see Indians in the Military and Diplomacy Works, Violence Doesn't.


Southern Plainsman said...

The definition of a hero has been broadened over time to include the most brutal and corrupt in the American experience. Perhaps we can all share some blame in this phenomenon, but for nationalists and so-called patriots, how hard can it be to explain why most Americans tend to see the divine halo around the heads of America's Presidency, when most gained popular vote by being "Indian Killers" or "War" heroes?

Even Bush Jr., by no account a soldier, was still christened for being a cowboy from Texas, even though we all accepted him as a goof.

But I guess a greedy goof still resonates in a capitalist society as long as your a member of a secret society thats really no secret at all.

The warrior label is something that the American Indian had as a means of survival, whether individually or as society's, but it was never sought to be for sale or used as a permanent identity, that is a populous tool for propaganda.
And it has flourished to the point of the ridiculous and mundane.

It has become the great national requirement and self worth for a nation of men, and women, whom use it as a shield for behaviors that excuse and hide true courage and wit.

There are acts of heroism, but calling one a hero denies them the status of being human and a common ground that we are all capable of.

dmarks said...

"But I guess a greedy goof still resonates in a capitalist society as long as your a member of a secret society thats really no secret at all."

Perhaps the silliest criticism of Bush has to do with membership in the "Skull and Bones", which resonates perhaps with those who think that Captain Jack Sparrow was an actual historic buccaneer.

Southern Plainsmen said...

No dmarks, the secret society I spoke of was not Skull and Bones, but the rich and wealthy 1% that control America and you!

dmarks said...

There's no "secret". Sorry to burst the whacky conspiracy bubble. And they don't control you, or me.

Southern Plainsman said...

I never mentioned "conspiracy" either dmarks,if I had ended the statement with a period after the word society, you would have a valid statement, but as usual, you add to or read short of what my point is.

"Capitalists society" are the key words in this statement, not "secret society", perhaps I should have used the words, exclusive club to not confuse you?

dmarks said...

Actually, the idea of a "secret club" that you describe counts as a whacky conspiracy. So you did name a conspiracy first.

So, how often do you see Elvis?

dmarks said...

Also, about "Even Bush Jr., by no account a soldier". This is because he was an airman.