American Sniper

It took me a while to sort out my feelings about this movie. I saw it on Saturday afternoon, but it has taken me until now (Sunday evening) (Note: I had a three day weekend so my timing was off, I didn’t write this post until Monday evening) to figure out what to write. This is a movie that has me feeling very ambivalent.

It is a technically good movie. It is well acted. The war scenes are very intense. I wouldn’t say this movie covers any new ground: the worried wife and family at home has been a cliche for a very long time and people have attempted to convey that war is hell for eons.

The protagonist Chris Kyle is portrayed as super patriotic and as somewhat of an automaton. I haven’t uncovered any new information to contradict that portrayal. In the film Kyle eschews politics and political thought. He fights for the men there fighting with him. He earnestly believes what he is fighting for, even as his comrades around him, including his brother, question the wisdom of what they are doing.

I don’t think this is an anti-war movie. Because it focuses on a jingoistic personality, the movie feels jingoistic. So much so, that it got me to thinking about jingoism generally. Is it always thoughtless and emotion laden? Are there thinking jingoists?

I would argue not in this movie. My experience in the army showed me the the men who were expected to die for politics were, and probably still are, acutely aware of politics and its meaning, even as they ostensibly ignore politics. For a man who spent four tours in Iraq, killing Iraqis (and presumably enjoying it), what does it say about him that he didn’t care about politics?

I also got to thinking about the fact that Kyle killed hundreds of people. He did this in prosecution of a war in which the United States invaded another country under false pretenses, in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction that the administration knew not to exist. I don’t see how this is not murder.

I am not accusing Kyle of being a murderer. He was a pawn, played like so many others by a president intent on his own ambitions. He admits to hating Iraqis and considering them savages in the movie. Apparently he wrote this in his book as well. Kyle arrived in Iraq as an invader, killed hundreds of people, and considered them savages because they fought back.

I know there are many people who consider Chris Kyle an unequivocal hero. I have no qualms about calling his actions heroic. Because I like to think about things I notice that his heroic and deadly actions in defense of God, country, and family were committed in a war of aggression commenced under false pretenses. This is what happens when you don’t care about politics.

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