Donald Trump is receiving all kinds of flack for characterizing John McCain's military ordeals in a less flattering light than most of us are accustomed to.
What exactly did Trump say in response to McCain accusing 15 million Trump supporters (including me) of being “crazies?”
"He's not a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured. Perhaps he's a war hero, but right now, he's said bad things about a lot of people”
Frankly, I understand where Trump is coming from. He’s coming from a “performance” mentality – a “success-driven” mindset. He correctly believes that anyone who gets caught in a contest, war, battle, game, or business deal is less than a “hero.”
I contend that “war hero” is the wrong label for a soldier captured and held by the enemy. A soldier saving other soldiers, a soldier showing bravery in the heat of battle, a soldier who designs or implements effective and winning battle tactics, a soldier who goes well beyond the call of duty to facilitate a winning outcome – these are “heroes” in the unadulterated sense of the word.
The American public has developed a tradition that anyone, but especially a politician, who is harmed during a military engagement is a “hero”, whether he had any choice in the matter or not.
“Not a sports player. Not a politician. Not a faddish figure. A hero faces death for others, with no thought of personal gain or glory.”
A war captive may be a victim, he may brave, and we may feel respect, admiration, pity or sorrow for him. But a captive a “hero?” He allowed himself to get caught – he failed to escape. He did not contribute toward success or victory. In a purely objective sense, that dilutes the meaning of the word, even though such usage is a popular and cherished tradition and sentiment.
Calling a captive “a war hero” is in the same league as calling a driver injured or killed in a car accident “a driving hero.” Whether he caused the accident or the other guy caused the accident, it is not something that he had a lot of control over. He didn’t save lives. He didn’t perform admirably as a driver. He didn’t inspire others in having the car accident. He may have been noble with a stiff upper lip during his subsequent recovery. – But a hero?
Capture and captivity during a war does not a legitimate hero make. Such person can legitimately be called “brave”, “noble”, “tough as nails”, and even “inspirational”. But the term “hero” denigrates the term as applied to those who actually initiated and carried out acts that are both brave and successful.
In this country, with the death of the majority of “the greatest generation” and not having won a war over the past 70 years we have a tendency to conflate the unremarkable into something much grander. We feel a need to call expected feats something miraculous and hero-esque. We have made grasping at such straws commonplace to fill the void created by our lack of successes.
In the case of John McCain, “war hero” was a label Republican operatives elevated to sacred status during his many political campaigns. And most politicians knew that would be a term that gives American people a warm fuzzy feeling about an individual.
Unfortunately, anyone who bucks that manufactured tradition will be ridiculed and demonized much as Donald Trump has been with his comments about John McCain.
I admit to being a politically incorrect, “crazy” veteran who found it easy to relate with and promote Trump’s perspective - not that he needs anyone speaking on his behalf.