Inevitably when a famous person dies, there’s always the counter-reaction after the initial wave of sympathy. After the sincere mourners have gotten all of their “pain” out of the way, there’s always the folks right behind them who somehow need to invoke dead U.S. soldiers as a means of trivializing the pain of people who are mourning said celebrity. Not only is this intellectually lazy and kind of dim, but it’s also intellectually lazy and kind of dim. So, as a response, I’m going to offer my own brief ejaculate on heroism:
I’d be hard pressed to define what a hero is. It doesn’t take any crazy sort of history digging to discover that most if not all of our armed conflicts are designed, not to protect freedom – though that sounds really nice and sweet – but to protect American commercial interests. So under that premise, while there’s something incredibly tragic and sad about a kid dying under such circumstances, especially if he’s doing so under the belief that it’s in the name of “freedom”, where does that leave us? Is that sacrifice still heroic even if you fundamentally disagree with that particular conflict? Even if you don’t believe that our “way of life” or our “freedom” is in any significant danger with or without this particular conflict? More often than not, I find the power of art and music to be more important and affecting to me personally than I do the tragic sacrifice of a kid who was protecting something that he maybe didn’t fully understand. Not that I’m a huge fan of Whitney Houston, but I do understand the feeling of mourning a public figure who I’ve found important. I don’t think anyone should have to apologize or make concessions for doing so, even if you’re not as cynical as I am about our foreign relationships and armed conflicts.
This gets into really sticky territory because any time you want to unpack what some of these conflicts mean and you begin to insinuate that American kids died for anything less than a 100% noble and morally sound cause, people flip their shit and don’t want to hear about it. Or they call you a witch and try to burn you. Instead of getting rightfully pissed off at the system that sent them to war in the first place, they turn their scorn to the people unsatisfied with the excuse that “it was for our freedom and way of life”. Disagreement with that premise and unexamined assumption is suddenly perceived as a personal attack that is hostile, ungracious, and anti-American. This type of thinking — and I hesitate to even call it “thinking”, it’s basically just id-driven emotional fanaticism — is ugly and dangerous. It’s thoughtless and closed-minded. But more than that, it commits the unforgivable wrong of letting those in power off the hook for sending our kids to die for unacceptable reasons in the first place.