Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A nation deranged by war, an empire collapsing

Following up on my post from earlier today on Chris Hayes, military service, and the meaning of heroism, wherein I expressed complete agreement with what Hayes said about the use of the word "hero" and it's application to those who serve in the military, I want to bring to your attention an excellent piece at The Economist on the right-wing political correctness of the knee-jerk criticism of Hayes and, context and content ignored, what he said:

Calling "hero" everyone killed in war, no matter the circumstances of their death, not only helps sustain the ethos of martial glory that keeps young men and women signing up to kill and die for the state, no matter the justice of the cause, but also saps the word of meaning, dishonouring the men and women of exceptional courage and valour actually worthy of the title. The cheapening of "hero" is a symptom of a culture desperate to evade serious moral self-reflection by covering itself in indiscriminate glory for undertaking wars of dubious value. A more confident culture would not react with such hostility to Mr Hayes' admirable, though cautiously hedged, expression of discomfort with our truly discomfiting habit of numbing ourselves to the reality of often senseless sacrifice with posturing piety and too-easy posthumous praise.

Indeed, the adolescent vehemence of the reaction to Mr Hayes' mild confession seems to me to underscore the idea that America has become so deranged by war that anyone who ventures to publicly question any element of America's cultural politics of endless conflict will instantly mobilise indignant hordes who will bear down to silence him.

It's actually even more existential than that. What we're seeing in the derangement of the right, of which we have ample evidence (this is hardly an isolated example), are the death throes of the American Empire, militaristic jingoism being the right's knee-jerk response to the coming of the end of American hegemony.

The mature response, the response of a confident, progressive culture, is to welcome such change and to encourage American engagement with the new paradigm, to advocate an outward-focused approach that emphasizes engagement with the rest of the world not as dependents or enemies but as partners tackling common problems and working towards a common future.

Alas, there is no such maturity on the right, and the right-wing Republican Party is powerful enough to block the rest of the country from moving forward in a responsible manner.

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