I’m sure you do it too: describe something good not merely as good, but as epic, or unbelievable, or inconceivable!
And it’s not that we actually think that something is epic, or inconceivable (I do not think that means what you think that means), but that we’re being all hipster-ironic or whatever you want to call it. Everything is the biggest! best! most! amazing! EVAR!
And this is not restricted to cool kids (and those of us who are no longer cool, really, and certainly not kids); it’s more or less everyone who has ever read or written anything on the internet. Which is basically 90% of everyone I know.
So you end up with Chris Hayes of MSNBC, who gives the impression of being young and excitable, given his normal fast-paced speaking style. He’s patently an intelligent and thoughtful person, and he’s certainly a liberal (as, of course, am I); I don’t know that I’d call him an elitist–well certainly not in the pejorative sense that the chattering classes use the word. I certainly do believe in striving for excellence, and I admire accomplished people. I have often wished that I had enough ambition to actually accomplish things :p
But regardless, he’s a young and clean-cut fellow who is very passionate about justice and the safety net, among other things, I guess I can fairly say. He guest-hosts for Rachel Maddow, who is not beloved by the right-wing either.
And now I’ll send you over to Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic, who has written an excellent piece on what happened to Chris Hayes the other day. That should get you up to speed.
I looked at Chris’s facebook page on Monday when I heard about the brouhaha, and liked it (I haven’t actually seen his show, because it’s on at 0400 on Saturday and Sunday, or something, and we don’t have a DVR and I just am not getting up at that hour for anyone). The comments (at that point, there were fewer than 200 to the most recent post) were largely (and SO DAMN PREDICTABLY) ad hominems about Chris by people who very obviously did not watch the show and just hear “MSNBC” and seemingly get all foamy at the mouth in a very Pavlovian way. They were slamming him for disrespecting soldiers and their families, and saying things like “come over here and say that so I can deck you, you whiny little liberal socialist puke” and god knows that else. It was depressing to the point that I didn’t read them all, and can only hope that there were some messages of support.
I follow Chris Hayes on twitter, and I mean he doesn’t know me from a hole in the ground, but while I might not agree with everything out of his mouth, or necessarily even understand everything out of his mouth, he is not at all the kind of guy to badmouth soldiers. He very clearly said that he wasn’t saying anything disrespectful of soldiers!
But Chris was commenting about (among other things) the way that everyone is a “hero” now. And it’s the kind of thing that I have thought about as well: not every dead soldier is a hero. Some soldiers are just dead guys who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and died for it. And it’s horrible, and it’s unfair, and basically any right-thinking individual (‘right’ as in morally right, not politically right) can agree that it’s a massive sacrifice for someone to make, and those of us who are not in the service are normally fervently grateful to those who are, and represent our country in dangerous places far away, and fight or keep the peace on our behalf.
But. The same way that every little tyke who makes it through pre-school on the way to Kindergarten really isn’t a graduate, or deserving a cap and gown (which actually signify something in the world of academia). The same way that we are not, every one of us, a beautiful and unique snowflake, as Chuck Palahniuk might say it.* The same way that no, we don’t all win the race by finishing: finishing is great! and a worthy accomplishment! but only one person actually wins the race: the winner. In that way, not every soldier, not every policeman, not even every firefighter! is a hero, to my understanding of the word.
A hero, to my understanding of the word, is the guy who goes back in to the burning building to rescue the kid or his comrade or coworker. A hero is the soldier who does something incredibly dangerous, most likely knowing that it’s incredibly dangerous, in order to help his fellow soldiers or advance the line, or whatever the objective is. A hero is the person who, for selfless reasons, puts himself or herself on the line for others’ benefit. A hero is a special kind of person, and while all soldiers deserve honour, gratitude and respect, not every soldier is a hero any more than every cook is a chef or every teacher makes that big difference in every student’s life or every actor deserves an Oscar.
That’s just not the way things are. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with having more better things to strive for, and probably even more controversially, there’s nothing wrong, in my opinion, with being content with who you are, inasmuch as knowing that you’ll never be an Olympic gold medallist, or Grammy-winner, or Master of the Universe, and being OK with that, is perfectly acceptable.
Being good is OK. Nothing wrong with being superlative, but nothing wrong with just being good.
So can we maybe stop with the BEST! THING! EVAR! or slow down with the most appalling lie ever and I’m so goddam insulted by what that guy said that other guy said? Can we stop cherry-picking the sound-bites so that people are quoted completely out of context and saying exactly what they didn’t say?
I am so weary of the outrage, because it’s false outrage, and what’s worse, it’s a cynical pretense of outrage meant to garner page-clicks and dubious brownie points, and I’m just epically tired of it, if you know what I mean.
* Many thanks to The Boogerhead for correcting my miss on the Palahniuk-ism. And to Lithos, who pointed out that my link was pointing in the wrong direction entirely. Sigh.