The fringes on both sides of the political spectrum have created a vacuum. The Radical Middle must rise and create a new Common Ground and move our country forward. Reasonable, Sensible, Balanced. Outrage does none of us good. Let us stop screaming at each other and get to work!
Sunday, January 25, 2015
From American Sniper to Corpse to Political Football
Perhaps, I’m too objective. That sounds utterly ridiculous,
doesn’t it? However, I do believe a prerequisite before attacking anything or
wading into powerfully emotional issues with nationalistic implications in such
a polarized political atmosphere with divided government and an ever more crowded
GOP field of Presidential hopefuls is to at least become informed. Therefore, I
felt it necessary ahead of the predictable posturing by the far left and far
right with the release of American Sniper
on the big screen to actually see the movie.
After a week of digesting my experience of this movie about
war, warriors and a clashing of civilizations, ideologies and religions, I am
finally capable of formulating sentences again.
My last line in this piece: “Let
go of the posturing. Let go of this political football. Take care of our vets.”
Just so you know there’s a point.
The bare bones of the movie: a rough talking Texan from an emasculating
father figure self-destructs into early adulthood until the U.S. Embassy
bombings in Africa which becomes a motivator for his involvement in the
American military complex. Chris Kyle, a childhood sharpshooter, finds his way
into a team of snipers while his brother works his way into less glamorous military
roles. After 9/11, as we all know, the U.S. embarks on two wars. Kyle marries
and is shortly deployed to the first of four tours in Iraq. He becomes the top
killing sniper in American history, a legend, as they refer to him often, a
point of ego and personal endangerment in his future tours.
As the movie progresses, each successive tour sees Kyle devolve,
his family life suffer and an ever deteriorating war strategy, stressed military
personnel and decreasing morale and obvious signs of PTSD at home and in the
field. The stress and tension is palpable, sustained and grating leading up to
the most extreme sandstorm showdown climaxed with personal family crisis for
Kyle and his wife as he becomes engulfed in bullets, sand and nearly succumbs
to PTSD, insurgents and death.
Years after returning and helping other vets, Kyle and his
family have recovered much of what they had lost. In a series of moving events
of actual therapeutic moments for those who suffer from PTSD, we are left with
a final scene with his family that feels contrived. He then walks out the door
to a very shell-shocked looking vet, never to be seen again. He is shot and
killed by a veteran he was helping, so the story is told. Then, the movie
flashes real-life footage of the actual memorials to Kyle before the credits
scroll in silence.
Clint Eastwood really was masterful in smashing through
these successive war scenes in such a way that the pressure and stress mounts
for the audience. Bradley Cooper’s physical prowess is obvious, but the real
mastery was the layering of the subtle PTSD symptoms one after another after
another. Having PTSD myself, I think it probably affected me much more than
others. Cooper was amazing at not overacting. His eyes told and muscle rigidity
scrolled volumes to me.
Okay . . . so, now the politics of this movie
I will say this, I think some of the criticism of Kyle and
his book is probably warranted, but to say this movie connects 9/11 to the Iraq
War is a real stretch. Certainly, the imagery of the Twin Towers is there, but
that is part of the nation’s psyche leading up to the invasion of Iraq and was
in the mind of many of those in the U.S. military. Also, movies based on real
events and people are never 100% accurate portrayals of those events or people.
Many criticisms of Kyle exist. Here are just a couple from
alternet and another from someone who says they actually saw the movie, even
though I find that claim suspect.
The very issues these articles criticize about the movie’s
portrayal of Kyle are actually positives changes to the narrative about the
damaging nature of war. Also, the laundry list of personal failings of this
veteran seems extensive, but I think it is crucial to remember that he had
severe PTSD. Before simply attacking someone, I would suggest educating oneself
on that condition as it is one of the most difficult conditions to treat and
the symptoms can be exhibited in a myriad of ways.
Many criticisms of the movie also say that American Sniper glorifies war. This has
to be one of the most ignorant false claims I could imagine making about the
movie. If a person actually watches this and walks away thinking, “oh yeah,
that’s a great idea, let’s do a war like Iraq again,” there’s something seriously
mistaken at work.
Other critics have wanted the movie to have taken multiple
tangents to weave the narratives they would have preferred to have seen on the
screen. Wanting more Iraqi perspective, or more background on the insurgents,
and to these people I suggest writing and producing their own movie
If anything, focusing the film on this specific sniper, the
sniper who killed more, allegedly, than any other in American history, and
showing the drastic, profound, negative impact of this war on him, his family,
his friends, brings the glorifying nature of the Kyle legend into a much more
Everyone can have their own opinions about anything. It
would be so much better to have a more balanced opinion based on actually
watching the film, not simply responding to the talking heads using this film
for propaganda. The anti-war versus the neo-cons is a tired battle.
I do find the far left reaction to this film appalling. Most
of these groups and personalities are hypercritical without even ever seeing
the film. Of course, the far right, pro-war propaganda machine wants to prop
this corpse up against the far left to use as cover
Anyone who says this movie glorifies war either didn’t watch
the movie or somehow has impairment to empathy.
Anyone who thinks this demonizes all Muslims didn’t watch
the movie or somehow turned away to the absolute horrors that were shown done
to Muslim families who tried to aid Kyle and U.S. troops.
There are few things that aggravate me more than people
being just adamantly critical with no objective observational reason as to why.
Making a dead man who certainly died as a result of gun violence the prop of two
opposing factions is as disturbing as the brutality of the terrorists and
insurgents depicted in American Sniper.
Let go of the posturing. Let go of this political football.
Take care of our vets.