No Glory in War

A few nights ago, I watched the movie American Sniper with some friends of mine. I suppose I’ll start this off by saying that I’m not big into war movies, and I’m even less into the military. I don’t mean this to be offensive, but I never really bought into the idea that our military secures our freedom. I’m not super patriotic and I don’t see a lot of heroism in joining the military. A lot of that is probably because I’m privileged and I’ve never known anything other than freedom; I haven’t witnessed a legitimate threat to our freedom. But before you stop reading because I’m ignorant or ungrateful, please read what I have to say about the military and the movie American Sniper.

Overall, I thought the movie was excellent, but I don’t know if I’d say I liked it. It was an incredibly difficult movie to sit through because of the sheer tragedy of it all. I was far too young to remember 9/11, but that jump starts Chris Kyle’s decision to join the Navy SEALs. They were legitimately worried and saddened by watching that footage, and to me it has become stale, like it’s just an event in history, which is unfortunate. Anyway, he gets married and goes off to war and his first kill is a child; his second kill is the child’s mother. The soldiers in the movie, including Kyle, keep talking about the evil they see there, which is only half the truth. I do not doubt that there were evil people there, but I think there is as much evil in our troops as there is in the hearts of those citizens. If we switched places, we’d be doing the same things. Their city was demolished, family members probably killed, and their entire lives were uprooted by foreign invaders. If any of that happened to America, you can bet our citizens would be doing the same thing. It’s easy to see ourselves as the good guys and the Iraqi people as the bad guys, but we’re not all that different. But watching a woman and child being shot so mercilessly was extremely taxing to watch.

What I liked about the movie was its portrayal of Kyle. I saw crystal clear that he was as broken up about it as I was. Of course he has to rationalize it by saying its these people or my people because deep down he knows that what he was doing was evil too. But evil was going to be done one way or another, and he had to both do his job and protect his family in America and in the military. That I understand. It’s not easy to have to face that, especially when by the end of his four tours he’s killed more than 160 people. I try to size up 160 people and that’s an insane number of people to kill one by one. The weight of that is immeasurable and my heart really goes out for him and his family.

Then we come to the scene where the butcher drills a boy’s head and then has the father shot and the women in their pure white hijabs running to the dead bodies. I almost lost it there as the women wailed over the loss of their loved ones. It was because the man had conspired with the Americans that those people were killed so brutally. Even though the American troops didn’t kill them, the boy and his father died because of the Americans. No matter what the Americans did, people were dying, and most of the people dying were more or less innocent.

And just for a moment, I want to talk about poor Taya, Chris Kyle’s wife. I don’t think enough credit is given to the women and children or the families of active duty servicemen. They live every day not knowing whether their husbands, sons, fathers, mothers, daughters, wives, etc. will return alive. Over and over Kyle returned and he wasn’t the same. Taya’s stress at his absence was unbearable to watch, especially in the scene where they’re on the phone and Kyle is under fire and drops the phone. All Taya hears is gunfire and her husband won’t respond. She’s pregnant and walking out of the doctors and thinks she’s listening to her husband dying. That tears me apart. When Kyle finally returns for the last time and almost kills the family dog because of PTSD symptoms, you can really tell how stressful the military is on not only Kyle, but his entire family and everybody close to him.

And the saddest part of the entire movie, aside from Kyle’s death at the end, are the deaths of his friends Biggles and Marc. Biggles dies in reconstructive surgery after being evacuated from battle. A man that for all intents and purposes was Kyle’s brother was shot by a sniper and didn’t die from the wound in the field, he died in the hospital while the doctors tried to fix his ugly face. Marc was shot after the unit went back into action for revenge following Biggles being shot. In the heat of the moment, a friend was killed and they had to drag the body out of action. I can’t imagine being there being shot at and watching one of your closest friends die. From being in this world to being violently ripped from it and sent who knows where. The funeral scene where Marc’s mom delivers a speech to her dead son brought me to the edge of tears.

All of this made the movie very difficult to watch for me and it definitely changed the way I viewed the military and war. I don’t like the military. I love the people in it, not because of what they’re doing, but because they’re people. I don’t see heroism in joining the military. I don’t think the military is in any way heroic, but that doesn’t mean that soldiers can’t be heroic there. Joining something doesn’t instantly make you a hero, killing other people doesn’t make you a hero. Saving your friends and your loved ones does. War is evil. The military as an institution, in my opinion, is evil. I’m not hating the soldiers either because I think they’re all victims of the institution. The military and war devours lives whether the soldiers die or not, and I greatly sympathize with those men and women. I feel the same way about the “bad guys.” Their lives are no less valuable. Every human life is valuable to me, whether they’re wearing camouflage vests  or burkas. It breaks my heart to see anyone dying in such a realistic way.

This was an excellent and eye opening movie, but I can’t say I’ll ever watch it again. It’s too traumatizing to me. With other movies, I get traumatized by death, but there’s always an element of fiction. Those people aren’t really dying because they don’t exist in the first place and their deaths are all pretty symbolic or interesting in some way. With this movie, a death was a real death, a soul was wiped off this earth in seconds. There was no ultimate purpose, there could be no true justice or peace; it was all pointless. The conflicts were petty and real people were losing their lives over it. It’s a tragedy! War is nothing short of a tragedy; always has been, always will be. There is no glory in killing Nazis, there is no glory in being killed in war. It’s all pointless killing for made up institutions we call countries in the name of politics. It sickens me that war exists and that it devours so many innocent lives. To be honest, I have no idea where I stand on the military. I will always support our troops, not because they’re brave to defend America, but because they’re beautiful people who are being consumed by evil. Maybe that’s an awful thing to say, but I honestly don’t see any glory, heroism, or sacrifice in the military. Yes, I see it in the people, but I see that in all people. The military, to me, isn’t really all that special. It’s ugly and horrible. I’d love to have some discussion about this because I don’t think my opinions are very popular. Thanks for reading, and my heart goes out to all servicemen and women and their loved ones.

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