On Sunday, Chris Hayes, writer for the Nation and host of the MSNBC weekend morning show “UP,” engaged in a dialog with his panelists about using the term “hero” to describe fallen soldiers and how he feels uncomfortable with that term. The panel had, from my vantage point, a reasonable discussion on the matter. Some people, naturally, found the talk in bad taste for Memorial Day Weekend. An official for the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated:
“Chris Hayes’ recent remarks on MSNBC regarding our fallen service members are reprehensible and disgusting,” Richard DeNoyer, a VFW official, told Fox News in a statement. “His words reflect his obvious disregard for the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have paid the ultimate price while defending our nation. His insipid statement is particularly callous because it comes at a time when our entire nation pauses to reflect and honor the memory of our nations’ fallen heroes.”
“It is especially devastating to the many broken-hearted children, spouses and parents, left behind to grieve for a loved one,” DeNoyer also said. “Such an ignorant and uncaring and blatant disregard for people’s deep feelings are indefensible, and that is why the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States demand that Mr. Hayes and MSNBC provides an immediate and unequivocal apology.”
Essentially, the VFW official is arguing “It’s not Hayes’s place to talk about this subject on this weekend where we honor heroism.” What I think this debate points to is the inability to have natural, academic discussions in the media about public conceptions of “heroism,” “valor,” “sacrifice,” and the general memory of wars in general. It is also the reason that criticizing the military in American public life is hard to do. Certainly, no military family wants to feel their son or daughter died in vain or was not honorable. However, trying to condemn or silence public discourse on the matter is not the best way to go about it. The discourse of language and its fundamental usage is an important topic worth discussion. Having more discussions like this in the media, when it goes on in everyday life and in academic settings all the time, should be promoted more. More importantly, not feeling like a traitor when doing is just as important to that process.