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Is the “American Sniper” a Victim?

January 24, 2015

Is a sniper a victim?

Especially if he was a volunteer both for military duty and for training for a well-paid career position as a sniper?

When he becomes dehumanized, sociopathic, cynical, and shallow, mocks his victims as subhuman “savages” and “scum;” and works to impress people by bragging boastfully about how many people he killed without regret, and then solicits our sympathy as a victim of PTSD because readjusting to civilian life is difficult, does he merit our sympathy? Should we perceive him as poor unfortunate one?

Is he a victim? Who are the victims and who are the perpetrators? Is he a victim, a perpetrator? Both? Neither? Ares you sure?

Does he have (any) responsibility for who and what he has become?

Should we admire him? Celebrate him and thank him for his service? Are we in his debt?

On Colorado Public Radio I heard a bit of about Chris Kyle’s book and movie “American Sniper” after I’d already read on the internet about how many inventions, lies, and exaggerations his “true life story” contained.  One military man appeared to defend the film because he too had problems readjusting to civilian life. He defended his hatred and contempt for the enemy as “part of training. Dehumanize the enemy.”

Neither seemed to remember the old truism that you cannot dehumanize someone else without demonizing yourself. It is Christ Kyle not his targets that has become dehumanized. We used to know this. Fifty years ago degrading and dehumanizing others was clearly and easily recognized as revealing how diminished and degraded you yourself have become. “American Sniper” reveals more about Christ Kyle than it does about the people he targettted and killed. I suspect Chris Kyle doesn’t realize how revealing of himself his memoir is. That simple, obvious bit of folk wisdom seems to have disappeared in today’s frightened and angry America.

So many questions….perhaps he release of the movie is a good thing if it causes people to really reflect, really question the conventional wisdom and the surface view…if we cannot distinguish victims from perpetrators we cannot hope to have a moral and fully human understanding of events.

So many questions…

I am trying to start a discussion with this post, so fire away.

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