I recently read American Sniper by Chris Kyle. It isn’t great writing, just an ordinary soldier (make that an extraordinary soldier) telling about his experiences. I’m American, but let’s just say this was a cross-cultural experience for me. The book showed up as available on my library app, and I had heard a lot about it when the movie came out, so I thought, why not? “It’s a really good book,” I was told, and I certainly can’t fault it for excitement. Kyle was definitely an adrenaline junkie.
But I found Kyle’s attitudes hard to comprehend. He is a brother in Christ according to his own testimony; we believe the same things about Jesus, see Jesus as the same highest priority in our lives and yet, Kyle finds war fun? He kills people for a living. How can that be?
They are all bad guys, according to Kyle. They probably are, but to look down the scope of a gun and send them to hell? For eternity? And to feel cheated when sidelined from such action? It is not a mindset I find easy to understand.
I am well aware that the military is a necessary institution. I am not naïve enough to think that our freedoms would long survive if we shut it down. But I consider war a necessary evil to be avoided whenever possible, not an exciting career with lots of great bonding and exciting action. I have no doubt that steeling oneself to kill is a necessary part of serving in the military; it was the “not wanting to miss out on the fun” that bothered me. Laughing off bar fights that end in ER only confirmed in my mind that something was twisted here. These are people we are talking about, for God’s sake (and I use that expression intentionally). Admittedly, part of the story is that Kyle comes home burned out, his marriage nearly destroyed by his loyal-SEAL mentality, but he himself never seems to see a problem with the mindset that caused him to chose those priorities. He considers those who think the wiser approach to Iraq would have been hospitals and schools and building relationships in the community to be naïve wimps.
The issues are obviously complicated. Kyle died at the hands of a disturbed veteran he was trying to help (although how anyone could think that putting a gun in the hands of a disturbed anyone was a good idea is beyond me.)
I find myself wondering about recent incidents of police brutality against African Americans. Yes, some of those African Americans were “bad guys,” but none of their actions were deserving of death. How similar is the attitude of urban police to the military’s attitude that people like me should just get out of the way and let them do their job?
I thought of leaving American Sniper in the middle, but (aside from being an obsessive-compulsive reader) I thought I needed to see how that side of our society thinks. I finished the book. I still don’t understand.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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