29 May 2012

Patriotism apparently means having to say you are sorry.

Honestly, I am having a hard time understanding precisely what the actual offense was here that requires a defense in the first place.

Perhaps this is because I find that ordering soldiers off to do things that are, by definition, hazardous and sometimes disagreeable, is not something that entitles us to do so with an incautious sensibility.

Naturally I find myself more aligned with liberal sentiments than conservative ones, so perhaps the outrage is something tribal that is more conservative and traditional; a noble sympathy with the common soldier and his commanders as they do battle to honor god and country. To that extent, I'm inclined to grant that such sympathies are not without their merit and deserve a level of attentive respect. I'm not sure that Hayes didn't grant that either though which is the confusing part where I don't understand outrage. Was that respect in some way expressed at an insufficient level? I don't get it. 

The real complications I suppose are the bigger questions that will no doubt go unasked and unanswered. A few are hinted at directly at the bottom of Conor's post.

First, he in effect asks if heroism flows from their sacrifice of individuality and control, especially in the modern context through the requirement of volunteering to serve versus compulsory draftees. I'm not sure that this action is automatically "heroic", but as noted on the show, it certainly embodies some noble traits useful to most societies (that some people will give up private goods for all/others to enjoy common benefits). Perhaps we could identify this as a form of heroism, in the same way that we might identify various forms of non-combatants who might do such work (teachers or various political activists, etc). But I think the key word here is a form of sacrifice and effort on behalf of others, be that your country, the country one is fighting in, or a set of students, or whatever. We identify, somewhat appropriately, a sacrifice of self as heroic, with its ultimate case being a sacrifice of life itself so that others may live and lesser cases being self-defensive cases of death where others die by our hand or an appointed hand acting on our behalf so that they will cause no harms to ourselves and others. This too is a difficult scenario to envision oneself doing actively and agreeably and which we might naturally ascribe a certain degree of heroism.

This question naturally implies that the sacrifices are not all those of life and death, that the basic freedoms being surrendered for some cause or military unit's ultimate victory in a mission or war are all worthy of merit. Or conversely, that not all deaths in war are heroic sacrifices in and of themselves. Perhaps it is this hint that is offensive. I think it would be difficult for people to go to wars if they did not convince themselves that the deaths of others, friends and enemies alike, were in some way serving a purpose. Otherwise the slaughter would appear needless and wasteful. But I also think that the general opposition to these wars or recognition of futile causes occurs far more readily by those soldiers themselves, and even to their commanders at times than to the politics that require such actions. Opposition to the continuing operations and occupation in Afghanistan is higher among troops who have served there or are still serving than among the general public, which is higher still than among political figures who have control over said operations and occupations. What this should tell us is that soldiers themselves probably don't feel very heroic.

I suppose what it comes down to is this:
American soldiers are always declared brave and honorable. Our enemies are not, and at times our allies are not. There can be no nuance to this statement or the statement is now declared unpatriotic. This is... well it's fucked up. It's nationalism. It's not patriotism. Patriotism means sometimes the thing you love has flaws and it needs to be woken up to it.

But apparently saying so means you have to apologize.

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