Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Friday, October 15, 2004

Battlefield Heroes

When Pvt. Jessica Lynch was hailed as a hero after her convoy was destroyed and she was taken captive in the opening days of the current Gulf War, I stopped to wonder exactly why. The original accounts spoke of her leaping out of her destroyed Humvee, and, while severely injured, laying down a hail of bullets on her attackers until her weapon ran out of ammo. Thereafter she was beaten and carried away by the enemy. Heroic stuff, no doubt. But later it was revealed that she lost consciousness after crashing, never lifted a weapon, and her wounds were likely caused by the accident, not a beating. Still, she was hailed as a hero.

There's no doubt that each and every serviceman or woman is a hero in a way a civilian could never fathom. They fight in dangerous locales around the world. Bullets, bombs, etc. part of their daily lives. God bless them all. But I still had to wonder what ever happened to the types of "heroes" we learned about as children? The ones who lead the charge against all odds, fell on grenades, shot down the most enemy planes, and performed other incredible battlefield deeds? For instance, if you read the book "D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II" by Stephen Ambrose, the things that were done by our servicemembers on D-Day were absolutely incredible. Heroism drips from its pages. Why don't we ever hear about those types of stories anymore, especially with hot action occuring in both Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak?

This issue is explored in a recent article called "Why Are Victims Our Only War Heroes?" by Captain Roger Lee Crossland. In Capt. Crossland's estimation, the national obsession with psychology and political correctness are major factors:

Psychology Was the Death of Courage . . .
. . . and of persistence, endurance, and that whole set of virtues that comprise our moral value system. If, as Freud would assert, will is an illusion and all behavior is causally determined, it is illogical to admire moral attributes. It has become the fashion of the age to believe there is no such thing as a hero.

There may be another more disturbing aspect to the disappearance of heroes. Heroism, by definition, implies a superior quality for a moment in time. A hero, therefore, is a superior individual by virtue of superior conduct, and the politically correct will not countenance that. No one is superior to anyone else, nothing is better than anything else, no cause is greater than any other. The United States is not exceptional, nor are U.S. causes. Victims, on the other hand, are perfectly politically correct.

Another factor cited is the media's fascination with highlighting the flaws of our heroes, rather than the deed performed. So often a news account of someone who saved a person, say from a burning wreck, will also highlight the fact that that person failed to pay child support or had an alcohol problem. This fits the PC theme highlighted above, that everyone must be portrayed as similar to everyone else. Take Pat Tillman for instance. He gave up pro football millions to join the Army Rangers and fight terror in Afghanistan. He was killed. Our first impulse was to call this man a hero, which is exactly what he was. But the media found it necessary to highlight the circumstances of his death: the victim of friendly fire in a gun-battle with ex-Taliban forces. Focusing on this fact, the anti-war media tried to portray Tillman not as a hero, but the typical victim-hero. He had been foolish to fight in another of Bush's wars, only to accidentally die at the hands of his own men. That's the line we were fed. His heroism diminished in the press.

There are consequences to this campaign against heroism. Capt. Crossland writes that the focus on victims and grieving emboldens our enemies:

We help our enemies by default, by allowing lesser images to be presented as substitutes. Everyone knows the name Jessica Lynch. She wore her country’s uniform, went willingly to her duty in Iraq, and suffered grievous injuries, but does she qualify to be known first among those who served in this war? We have brushed aside battlefield resolution and action—which should be foremost—and allowed the image of victimization and suffering to take its place.

By our focus on victimization, we have adopted our enemies’ standard of measure, and are handing them a victory. As Charles Krauthammer noted in the 8 December 2003 issue of Time, “That is the enemy’s entire war objective: to inflict pain. And that is why it would be a strategic error to amplify and broadcast that pain by making great shows of sorrow presided over by the President himself. In the midst of an ongoing war, a guerrilla war, a war that will be won and lost as a contest of wills, the Commander in Chief—despite what he feels in his heart—must not permit himself to show that he bleeds.”

It also affects military recruiting. Unfortunately, considering the politics of most national media outlets, that appears to be part of the goal of the marginalization of heroes:

For some today, the only image they know is of U.S. servicemen and women as victims. That is not right. It cannot continue. Worse still, we risk having our children’s perception become that signing up to serve is signing up to become a victim.

Thankfully, you can still read about heroes, but you have to search for those stories. I suggest you start at the always useful Blackfive regularly highlights our heroes in a series he calls "Someone You Should Know." Please take the time to read about our heroes overseas, and reflect on the sacrifices they are making for you.


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