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Originally Answered: Do you think John McCain is a American hero? Why or why not?
John McCain didn’t consider himself one, and disliked the term being applied to him. Indeed that seems to be the attitude of many combat veterans—and I hasten to specify combat veterans, that is, veterans who encountered the enemy, received deliberate fire, perhaps returned fire. Salvatore Giunta and Dan Daly, so far as my limited history knowledge assures me, have not and did not make a habit of calling themselves heroes.
Warfare, at least as waged by modern Americans, is an exercise in collectivism. The model here is not Ajax, but Sparta: tightly-formed units of nameless men whose lethality in combat derives primarily from their trust and reliance on each other—teamwork, in a word—rather than the fighting prowess of the individual. During the Second World War, surveys of frontline units  found that the will to fight originated in an unusual fashion: servicemen in combat feared the disapprobation of their peers more than they feared actually getting killed. As much as anything, the determination not to let their comrades down is what impelled men on the ground (or on stricken ships and aircraft, as the case may be) to go to such stupefying, foolishly extreme lengths to kill the enemy, rescue their friends, defend a position, and so on. The motives and thoughts of men in battle are obviously impossible to conceive of for someone like me, but it should be obvious that for someone so deeply ingrained with American military culture as John McCain, the idea of being singled out as a hero is at best distasteful.
As for what I personally think: I think that by default, civilians with no combat experience of their own are incapable of holding a considered opinion on wartime heroism. Never having tested myself physically or mentally in the way that fighter pilots or Rangers have, I’d be hard-pressed indeed to tell the difference between a complete shitbag (who, veterans claim privately, do exist in the military—in abundance) and the perfect warfighter. So is John McCain a hero? Ask John McCain’s peers, ask people who went through the same training, fought the same combat missions, and endured the same type of treatment. They would know. But drunk Quorans on their cell phones? For goodness sake, most of us couldn’t visualize that type of challenge if it bashed us in the mouth with a snow shovel.
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