If you've been on social media lately, you've seen countless celebrities bashing American Sniper for its violence and “unjustified glorification” of the real-life soldier, Chris Kyle. With an amazing box-office turnout this weekend, the Oscar-nominated film starring Bradley Cooper is getting serious attention, both good and bad.
Something a lot of people just aren’t understanding is Chris Kyle is not a hero because he killed people – he’s a hero because he saved people.
I think it’s hard to find a stance on morality when it comes to war. Christian or not, it’s difficult to justify killing anyone. But this movie isn’t about the rightness or wrongness of Chris Kyle’s killings — at least, it shouldn’t be. That’s where Seth Rogen got it wrong when he compared the film to a Nazi Germany reference in the tweet above.
Yes, Nazis killed innocent people. And so did Chris Kyle. But it’s not a fair comparison, by any means.
And whether or not Rogen wanted the comparison to be about the Nazis (he probably didn't, he's a comedian after all) -- I think it's a thought-provoking statement worth discussing, regardless of what Rogen meant in his spontaneous Tweet that he later apologized for.
In the opening scene of the movie, Bradley Cooper’s character shoots a mother and son in cold blood. Why? Because they were about to kill a vehicle filled with soldiers by throwing an explosive at the truck. In that split-second decision, Kyle was killing the mother and her son in order to protect his own friends so the marines could attempt to create peace in a country that caused so much turmoil in the U.S.
In no way did the filmmakers glorify this action, either. The beauty of this movie is how real and raw it is – Cooper displays the terrible agony and struggle Kyle went through pulling the trigger in that moment.
If you’re into math, think about it this way: A whole platoon of soldiers would be killed if Kyle let the child throw the grenade. Or, the two Iraqis would be killed if Kyle shot them to eliminate the threat of an explosion. Either way, someone dies while Kyle looks on. What would you do, and how can you even answer that question?
The thing is, you’re really not allowed to have an opinion on whether or not Kyle’s decision was right or wrong. Until you’ve done the grueling training, seen the incredibly-gruesome things and suffered incredible loss, I don’t think you should be able to Tweet about the rightness or wrongness at all.
One of the most important things to understand about this movie is that American soldiers never once killed “just because” in this film. You see the American fighters mingling with Iraqi people — their supposed “enemy.”
Would Nazis sit down and eat with Jews like the American troops did with the Iraqis?
And is the above comparison even logical? At what point do you become un-American by comparing U.S. troops to Nazis?
Chris Kyle wasn't killing because he hated the Iraqi people. He was protecting his country by defending it, even to the extent of saving the Iraqi people from their own “leaders” who cut off citizens’ limbs to inspire fear.
This movie is about war. It's not about the rightness or wrongness of going to Iraq. But it IS about the real, terrible struggle of searching for a moral compass in an impossible situation. And I think it succeeds at presenting viewers with one thing:
Our soldiers are heroes. Not because they shoot people. But because they do something that I, Seth Rogen and most of America haven't done: Risk everything to fight for freedom.
If what Chris Kyle did as a U.S. sniper bothers you, I hear there are plenty of other countries that agree with you. You can click here to book your flight:
So ... why should you be offended by American Sniper? You shouldn't.
Thank you to the Kyle family for allowing us a glimpse into the life of a true hero.
Note: All the content above is the opinion of the author. This post is based on the character of Chris Kyle from the film, American Sniper. It is not based on history or the book.