Last night I took my son to see the American Sniper Movie. I must admit, I was a little wary after reading all the controversy about the film, but when have I ever run away from a few indiscriminate comments?
As the film began, I was sitting in my seat wondering a couple of questions.
1.) I’m not a fan of war in any account, so I wanted to be sure I was trying to distinguish between a film that may be advocating war.
2.) I think the men and women in uniform are people who have a distinct honor working to protect and defend a way of life. I wondered how the director (Clint Eastwood) presented these ideas in the film.
3.) I have several Middle East Muslim friends. So I wanted to watch the movie through the lens of what they might be thinking. Of course, none of my friends could ever be labeled “Terrorist,” but they do come from the region where this historical conflict was fought.
When we sat up and left the movie, I was confused. I’ve read all the controversy about a film that was going to celebrate war and insight more violence against Muslims. To be honest: I think the people who were shouting those things, didn’t go see the movie. OR: they watched the movie through a TOTALLY different lens than I did.
1. The story of Chris Kyle is a tragedy, plain and simple. Chris was a young man looking for a way to be significant in life, and after 9-11 he wanted to channel his energy to protecting America. I think every American living during that time could say the same emotional anger, hurt, and betrayal were at the forefront of our collective thoughts. While I was living in the Mid-West, even I found myself wondering what kind of world we were going to wake up to on 9-12.
Eastwood did a GREAT job in the narrative telling this story. The feelings of the country were raw, and Kyle just did what every young American man was thinking at the time. “We’ve got to stop this violence.” we all thought. (although a decade later, I don’t know that violence actually curbs violence, but that’s another post.)
2. The movie set forth a very important point about people who go to war. It’s not all about “Yipee Kai-Yay, let’s go shoot people” violence. In the film, Kyle had significant psychological and emotional imbalance that effected his family, his friends, and his worldview on the future. Even though sometimes manliness can be measured by how tough a guy can be, this was VERY DISTURBING. Humans weren’t created to kill other humans, and I think that point needs to be heeded, as we now have so many veterans coming back from war.
We need to reach out and figure out how to care deeply for our fellow Americans. At KIVU, we’ve sought to reach out and provide scholarships for military families for their teenagers to come to Colorado, and experience a “normal” summer camp experience. I think we all could do better to care for our fellow service men.
3. The Movie wasn’t about Americans Vs. Arabs. Even though some might try and create and US vs. THEM scenario about Americans vs. Arabs, or Americans vs. Muslims, Eastwood carefully kept religion out of the narrative. It wasn’t about any tenets of faith, but more about a group of people trying to figure out how to achieve the mission they were called to complete.
On both sides there were violent murderous scenes where men were killing other men. The story Eastwood tried to tell included Kyle as a sniper protecting his fellow servicemen. There were several places where Kyle was forced to make morally significant decisions, i.e. Save A Friend or Shoot a kid. As I was watching there was a groan in my spirit I can’t believe this is an actual situation. Who in their right mind could pull this off?
4. What was left out was more important than what was in. At the end I looked over at my friend we were sitting with and said, “I don’t get what the controversy was all about?” This is not a celebration of war. It’s not a movie that endorses any kind of killing, on either side. What wasn’t in the movie was the basic 100,000 ft. question, Why were we there anyway? And that’s the hardest part of distinguishing this movie.
For my Middle Eastern Friends, American Service Men and Women are people a part of a huge machine. Our Constitution demands oversight from the American Government. They were there because they were told to be there. It’s a very different scenario than a band of people who gather together to just go out in the world and take over.
We can all agree that people who plan and plot evil against innocent civilians should be held accountable. I think without that in a national conversation we see evil run it’s course through the world. But at the same time, I think we need to be careful to hide behind the violence to excuse decision makers. And this is a question that only history will be able to deal with.
Last night as I was processing this HUGE movie, I thought to myself I’m really sad that so many innocent people were killed in this historical era. It just seems like in 2015 we could figure out a different way to resolve conflict.
I’m incredibly sad for our service men and women. The notion that the Navy Seal is just a terminator without feelings and emotions trained to kill is wrong. They’re people just like us who have to deal with that point in their lives where it gets REAL. Taking the breath from another man, no matter what situation you find yourself in, is a horrible thing.
I’m moved by the resolve of our Military Service People They know there’s always a chance they would be put in the pathway of a dangerous situation. I’ve never had such a sense of honor wash over me, juxt opposed to my sadness. I think many might be in the military with the idea that they get to play with cool toys, or some lofty idea that they are protecting their families at home. But WOW, to set their mind straight, take orders regardless of implication, and move on…WOW.
I’m sad for My Friends in Iraq Watching your country be torn apart by people who wish ill will on innocence, seeing your cities destroyed by armies and militants; it just made me think about what I would feel if that happened here in America. Imagine a foreign army working its way through your city. Fear. Guilt. National Pride. Anger. Death. These are all the consequence of just being born in the wrong place at the wrong time in history.
I think this movie deserves to be examined at a deeper level. It’s NOT about America goes and shoots the bad guy. (although there were some cheers in the theater when the ‘bad guys’ were shot) It is about taking time to really see the consequences of war, and evaluate all of the systems put in place here in America where war may come to be.
If we can take some time to civilly discuss on this level, I think American can truly become a place where we can take considerable responsibility for our military might here in 2015. With mighty power comes GREAT responsibility, and we have a responsibility to honor our men and women who are willing to sacrifice. We have a responsibility to take great care of our influence across the globe. And, we have great responsibility to care for humanity.
War is not to be celebrated in this film. There are so many more important layers to discover.