This past weekend, my husband and I went to see American Sniper, the 2014 biographical war drama film based on the book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History written by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. My husband had looked forward to seeing the movie. Me – not so much. As a writer of mystery novels, I’m no stranger to “offing” my characters in inventive ways but I’m nevertheless the kind of gal who still yearns for happy endings and prefers to watch a movie without having to keep tabs on a growing body count (something that didn’t seem to concern my husband one iota as he plowed his way through a tub of popcorn, his eyes never leaving the screen).
The book and the movie immortalize the career of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Justice, Chris quickly earned the nickname “Legend” throughout the military, thanks to his many kills. The movie was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper in the titular role. Suffice it to say, the violence, bloodshed and body count throughout the movie were a stomach-churning constant but the movie also gave consideration to several important issues such as the toll war takes on a family whose members serve in the military and war’s after-effects once the soldiers return to civilian life.
American Sniper garnered six Academy award nominations as well as its share of heavy criticism from various fronts, primarily for lionizing the gun culture and for promoting blind adoration of the military. Promoting blind adoration of the military? Not necessarily. Sending a message of “us against them to keep them out” – most definitely. Nowhere in American Sniper is this more evident than in a brief scene where one of the characters asks Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris, why he keeps going back to Iraq (he had done four tours). Chris’ response was: So that they don’t come here. This is certainly an altruistic take on the good guys/bad guys scenario but sadly enough, recent events in our history involving homegrown terrorists in our own backyards have convoluted the “us” and “them” theories, making his statement naively unrealistic.
Take for instance the Boston Marathon bombings and related subsequent shootings which began on April 15, 2013 and killed four people and injured an estimated 264 others, instigated by two Chechen brothers motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack was on U.S. soil by two brothers who had immigrated to the U.S. as refugees.Then there were the two Islamist terrorists armed with assault rifles and other weapons who forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper in Paris on January 7, 2015, killing eleven and injuring another eleven as they shouted “Allahu Akbar” during their attack.Five others were subsequently killed and another eleven wounded in related shootings that followed in another French region, also by Islamic terrorists, the gunmen belonging to a branch of Al-Quaeda.And who can forget the horror of September 11, 2001 and the series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks by Al-Quaeda on the U.S.?All these horrific events raise some hard-hitting questions how do you tell the good guys from the bad and how do you keep them out of your peaceful nation when they were born there?
Responding to those critics that considered the movie as being excessively violent and one which celebrated war and killing, director Eastwood remarked, “I was a child growing up during World War II.That was supposed to be the one to end all wars.And four years later, I was standing at the draft board being drafted during the Korean conflict, and then after that there was Vietnam, and it goes on and on forever.I just wonder…does this ever stop?No, it doesn’t.”
Sadly enough, Eastwood may very well be right on that score.As long as humanity exists, wars will continue to be waged.Now the question becomes:Instead of going “off” to war, how long before we’re deploying our soldiers to fight wars in our own backyard?