Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thank You, William Deresiewicz

Thank you, William Deresiewicz. In last Sunday's New York Times Sunday Review section, Deresiewicz wrote a page one opinion piece titled "An Empty Regard". The piece is about the ridiculous rah-rah gung-ho God-bless-America mentality that causes far too many Americans to treat military members as if they were saints. The article can be read at:


Here is Deresiewicz's first paragraph: "No symbol is more sacred in American life right now than the military uniform. The cross is divisive; the flag has been put to partisan struggle. But the uniform commands nearly automatic and universal reverence. In Congress as on television, generals are treated with awed respect, service members spoken of as if they were saints. Liberals are especially careful to make the right noises: obeisance to the uniform having become the shibboleth of patriotism, as anti-Communism used to be. Across the political spectrum, throughout the media, in private and public life, the pieties and ritual declarations are second nature now: 'warriors,' 'heroes,' 'mission'; 'our young men and women in uniform,' 'our brave young men and women,' 'our finest young people.' So common has this kind of language become, we scarcely notice it anymore."

Here is another excerpt from the piece: "The term most characteristically employed, when the cult of the uniform is celebrated, is 'heroes.' Perhaps no word in public life of late has been more thoroughly debased by overuse. Soldiers are 'heroes'; firefighters are 'heroes'; police officers are 'heroes' — all of them, not the special few who undoubtedly deserve the term. So unthinking has the platitude become that someone referred to national park rangers on public radio recently as 'heroes' — reflexively, in passing — presumably since they wear uniforms, as well. Stephen Colbert picked up on this phenomenon long ago, which is why he slyly refers to his viewers — and now, to the donors to his Super PAC — by the same term."

Now, Deresiewicz didn't mention Brian Williams by name, but then again he didn't have to. Brian is one of the most ardent members of the military-worshipper cult of personality. In fact, Brian could be their leader. Watching Nightly News is like reading a thesaurus entry for the word "heroes". "Wounded Warriors," "Fallen Heroes," "Our Brave Men and Women in Uniform"--the list goes on. And then there are the waving flags. Nightly News gratuitously inserts American flags into their stories so often that they should do a "Making A Difference" piece about Betsy Ross. Brian's fawning, drooling "I love the military" act has become a parody. Not to mention that it is completely inappropriate. A news anchor is supposed to report the news objectively, not act as the propaganda minister for the U.S. military. How completely unprofessional. I hope Brian had a chance to read Deresiewicz's New York Times piece. Then again he may have had a hard time getting through it. Brian's eyes probably glazed over when he saw the full-page photo of the decorated soldier that accompanied the article.

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