Friday, July 23, 2010

Next time you drive the Highway of Heroes ...

Here's some ideas from William J. Astore to think about:

"*By making our military generically heroic, we act to prolong our wars. By seeing war as essentially heroic theater, we esteem it even as we excuse it. Consider, for example, Germany during World War I, a subject I’ve studied and written about. Now, as then, and here, as there, the notion of war as heroic theater became common. And when that happens, war’s worst excesses are conveniently softened on the "home front," which only contributes to more war-making. As the historian Robert Weldon Whalen noted of those German soldiers of nearly a century ago, "The young men in field-grey were, first of all, not just soldiers, but young heroes, Junge Helden. They fought in the heroes’ zone, Heldenzone, and performed heroic deeds, Heldentaten. Wounded, they shed hero’s blood, Heldenblut, and if they died, they suffered a hero’s death, Heldentod, and were buried in a hero’s grave, Heldengrab." The overuse of helden as a modifier to ennoble German militarism during World War I may prove grating to our ears today, but honestly, is it that much different from America’s own celebration of our troops as young heroes (with all the attendant rites)?"

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