In all fairness, you have to give Clint Eastwood credit. For a man who lives a relatively quiet and private personal life, he always finds a way to get in the public eye. And it's a testament to his endurance and relevance, legitimate or otherwise, that he remains a political lightning rod for those on both sides of the Great Ideological Divide. After all, you show me one other 84 year-old director who's still directing movies let alone ones at the top of the box office that make people talk about them at the water cooler.
And it's a crowning irony that Eastwood's newest effort, American Sniper, was directed by a man who'd once admitted in an interview decades ago that he hated guns. Yes, Dirty Harry and the Man With No Name who'd killed more fictional people than you can shake a .44 Magnum at, hated guns. Therefore, the old man who made a laughingstock of himself at the Republican National Convention almost two and a half years ago by yelling at an empty stool now finds himself in the spotlight yet again.
Eastwood's box office-busting film should not be taken as a referendum on the legitimacy of the Iraq War
(Eastwood, in fact, has publicly stated he hates war in all forms) but
the manufactured controversy surrounding his film ought to be taken as a
referendum on the enduring, virulent hatred and racism that has taken this country by storm ever since we elected a black man to run it in 2008.
It's hard to understand why Eastwood chose Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who'd bragged about killing 255 men, for his next opus. If he'd insisted on making a movie about a sniper, he could've chosen Marine gunnery sergeant Carl Hathcock, who'd had a horrendously high body count during Vietnam and was the template for Stephen Hunter's bestselling Bob Lee/Earl Swagger series of action novels. Vietnam, after all, while still controversial to some aging deadenders, recedes much further into American history and the Department of Defense and its predecessors had produced many other notable snipers going back to the Revolutionary War.
Ergo, it's difficult to fathom why Eastwood chose Kyle, who was murdered at a Texas gun range in early 2013 by another military man suffering from PTSD. Nicknamed "The Devil of Ramadi", Kyle was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and was once credited with shooting a target from 2100 yards.
But this isn't a book report and no man's life can be adequately summed up in one. Or a two hour-long movie, for that matter. Rather than a dry recitation of one person's achievements and capriciously awarded medals, what matters is how that person's life affected and continues to affect those who didn't even personally know him. And it's that willful ignorance that's produced the disturbing backlash aimed at Michael Moore over a clumsily-worded tweet and anyone who criticizes Kyle for his conduct in Iraq and elsewhere. Typically, many of the rape and death threats comes from right wing nut jobs and armchair snipers who have turned Eastwood's movie into a referendum on the justness of the Iraq War and the low value of brown-skinned human beings.
And the fact is, Chris Kyle
wasn't just the personification of "mission creep", he was what one could call
The Mission Creep
Kyle wasn't shy about making his thoughts known about Iraqis. He once infamously wrote in his own memoir, "I hate the Goddamned savages. I couldn't give a flying fuck about the Iraqis." He also said he "loved" to kill and that it was "fun." Such a misanthropic and psychopathic attitude should alone have disqualified this man from being held up as an American hero and having his life glorified in a movie that seems bound for Oscar consideration. All things considered, it's a miracle this man even got a literary agent let alone a publisher to trowel out such filth.
Such hateful statements alone should've invalidated the fetish that people of virtually all political persuasions harbor for those who wear military uniforms, regardless of where they'd served, not served or what they did or didn't do. Most disturbingly, even nearly 12 years after the most wrong-headed invasion and occupation in perhaps all American history, Iraq has never been tainted with nearly as much controversy as Vietnam. Therefore, the hatred and sociopathic bigotry of human monsters such as Chris Kyle, not to mention his murderous deeds, will similarly be shielded from any substantial and lasting criticism. And his needless and senseless murder on a Texas gun range only made him a martyr, thereby making him, at least for the moment, invulnerable to such comeuppance to the point where no one of any consequence even had the nerve to say, "Live by the sword..."
And it isn't much of a stretch to say that Eastwood's and Kyle's fans happen to be the same ones that criticized African Americans this past summer, fall and winter for protesting having members of their own gunned down by so many mini Chris Kyles such as Darren Wilson and George Zimmerman. That would be the same libertarians who decry police abuse and overreach until they start killing dark-skinned people who "had it coming to them." Kyle himself bragged about, without substantiating it, killing looters (read: black people who "had it coming to them") in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Yes, Kyle was an equal opportunity misanthrope. He also hated his own people.
Killing in war is unfortunately an inevitable consequence. At most, it should not be glorified and ought to be looked at as a grim duty. Good men ought to be troubled by the taking of human life regardless of how justified it was (and only a simple-minded misanthrope such as Kyle would even posit in polite company that every single one of his 160 confirmed or 255 alleged kills were absolutely justified). If war is an incurable condition of Mankind placed there by God, then it's horrible for a reason, The death, decay, destruction, plague and poverty that comes in its wake serves as an ongoing, albeit unlearned, object lesson that these ought to be deterrents to doing this to our fellow human beings.
But even more despicable than monsters such as Kyle who use a wrongheaded and corporately-driven military action such as Iraq as an excuse to release his own racist demons to kill the very people the Bush administration piously swore for six years to be protecting are the people who are jumping on the Kyle bandwagon. The people who are misinterpreting Michael Moore's original tweet as him calling snipers "cowardly" are themselves resorting to hateful insults and death threats from the safe anonymity of their Twitter and Disqus accounts.
Despite the fruit salad he may have worn on his Navy uniform, Chris Kyle was the very definition of an idol with feet of clay. And those who are threatening his critics with rape and murder only further dishonor a man who already has a blood-spattered legacy as well as the innocent Iraqis that Kyle glorified in victimizing. As with Sarah Palin and so many other right wing idols with feet of clay, in Kyle they've found someone who mirrors and validates their own irrational, misguided and ignorant hatred and racism.