Friday, January 23, 2015

in the crosshairs

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle in the film "American Sniper"

With the run-up to the Oscar Awards on Feb. 7, movies in contention are jockeying for favorable consideration. Among them is "American Sniper," a biopic about Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who allegedly killed 160 people while on four tours of duty in Iraq.

My younger son, a member of the National Guard and a verbal enthusiast of military effort, camaraderie, and patriotic purpose, went to see the movie for the second time the other day. When I asked him if he had gone a second time because of friendship with his buddies who went with him or because the movie was worth seeing twice, he replied, "A bit of both, I guess." 

My son can wax fiery and rhapsodic about people who criticize war efforts without knowing from experience what the fuck they're talking about. It's an argument for which I have some sympathy ... blowhards, left and right, are like living with a fart under the covers -- no escape and stinky with ill-informed righteousness. Politics, religion, sports ... same stuff, different day.

The movie seems to have had two strands at least. One is the movie per se, which has gotten moderately good reviews. The second strand seems to be a heart-felt and fairly shallow investigation of reality-based events and policies and perceptions. Is Kyle a "hero" or a "villain" in the world as it currently and actually exists?

All the news-outlet buzz words come into play: "Terrorism" and "oil" and "warrior" and "hero" and "patriotism." And there is passion to the palaver and everyone credits his or her outlook as "thoughtful." And who knows -- maybe it is.

But two things seem to me to be missing: 1. In all the reality-based discussion of America's warriors there seems to be little willingness to back up a step from the individuals under consideration to the policy-makers who made it all possible. It's as if those stating a "thoughtful" position know implicitly that such a study would be enormously challenging and vague and unlikely to provide a knife-edge clarity of conclusion... and their supper might get burned if they went down that road.

Second, unless I am mistaken, there is a growing tendency to see things in terms of fear and the war and warriors it creates. Where is the consideration that if "terrorism" and its "terrorists" exist, there is some appreciation of the reasons -- well-founded or not -- for those activities? What happened to the good news that invariably shadows the bad? And vice versa? If you cannot acknowledge and snoop the positive aspects, how "thoughtful" is the appreciation of the negative? If you cannot know your enemy, how can you know your friends ... and vice versa? And what legitimate claim to being "right" can be claimed when what is "wrong" is the sole focus ... and vice versa?

I guess this sounds a bit airy-fairy and daunting, but I really do think that without such an effort (even if it falls short), the chance to be happy and at peace is sharply diminished. 

Having a hero is not the same as being one.

And flushing out the villain is not rocket science while the bathroom mirror exists.

1 comment:

  1. Terrorism is rebellion. One may or may not have sympathy with their cause, but they strongly feel that their cause is just. And taking hostages for cash is nothing new in human history. Kings were held for ransom when the crusades didn't go their way.

    This one is a conservative cause. A fundamentalist religious cause rebelling against secular modernism that would grant rights to women and gays. Oddly enough their greatest opponents are a conservative/republican fundamentalist religious cause with the same agenda of opposing secular modernism. It's just not their brand of religious fundamentalism.

    From what i can tell, the military requires and applies indoctrination needful to motivate young men and women. I've seen a video clip of a soldier riding a humvee shouting "vote republican" at a news camera. That might have been from a movie but i'm told it's believable.

    And they're there and perhaps deserve credibility for that, even though it's something of a 9 to 5 war compared to Vietnam where patrols could last for days and an assault on a base could happen at any time. But still, we have veterans returning from the middle east and joining peace movements or blowing their brains out because they couldn't live with what they experienced.

    Apparently we've lost more soldiers to suicide than to battle in the middle east. I find that very suspicious and wonder how many war supporters in the military really deserve to say that others don't know what they're talking about. I have to believe that the suicide statistic knows what it's talking about, voices taken from the discussion, who can no longer shout that others don't know what they're talking about.