Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not Heroes

A major network television news anchor, in reporting on the deaths of some U.S. military personnel, called them all heroes. What had they done to be considered heroes? The report didn't mention anything. Apparently all they needed to do was to be killed, and they were automatically supposed to be our heroes. This kind of editorializing has been common throughout the news industry since we first invaded Iraq. Every eighteen-year-old who is blown up by a roadside bomb is referred to as a hero. Every soldier who is shot, even if shot by one of his fellow soldiers in “friendly fire,” is a hero. Even soldiers who are injured in car accidents are referred to as heroes. Every member of the military who is welcomed home, injured or not, is greeted as a hero. No reasons given and no questions asked.

Well, what about everyone else? What about the guy who tried to get into the military but flunked the physical – is he a hero because he tried to be one? What about the guy who tried to get in but couldn't because of his criminal record – is he a hero because a year later the military started letting in guys like him? Is he a hero because he could have been one if he had volunteered a year later? What about the guy who didn't even try to get into the military because his family needed him at home? Is he a hero because he might have been one if he wasn't taking care of his family? What about the guy who served his entire military career pushing papers stateside while other guys were doing the fighting? What did he do that was heroic? What about the guy who remotely controlled a drone aircraft that blew up a house with children in it because someone who thought there were terrorists in the house told him to? What kind of hero is he?

And what about the guy who didn't apply because he didn't think our current wars should be fought? Isn't he a hero for standing up for his convictions? And the guy who didn't apply because he doesn't think any war should be fought – isn't he even more of a hero? And what about all those guys who refused to be drafted during the Vietnam War? Aren't they heroes for showing us that war is not the answer to our problems? How about the men and women who protested in the streets of Chicago and D.C. to try to prevent the invasion of Iraq? Aren't they heroes for showing us what democracy is supposed to be about, and for not being intimidated into silence by their own government?

I choose my own heroes. I'm willing to listen to a reporter who has some information that might lead me to conclude that an individual acted heroically. But news anchors who label every soldier a hero, just because they are part of the military establishment, give me very little basis for judging. Years ago, when a news anchor gave is own opinion, words would appear on the TV screen telling us that that portion of the broadcast was an editorial, or opinion, or commentary, so that we would not think they were just doing an unprofessional job of reporting the news. We don't see those signs anymore. The propaganda just gets mixed in with the news, and mixed in so well that we might not even notice.

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