Applauding American Sniper is like celebrating murderers

Published: February 2, 2015
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Bill Maher aptly described American Sniper as a story of a ‘psychopathic patriot’. PHOTO: AFP

Chris Kyle’s story, as depicted in American Sniper, is nothing but an absurd folly of sorts. It is more like an attempt by director Clint Eastwood to unnecessarily spruce up the image of a ruthless killer and stir up unnecessary public emotions at a time when the world needs a calm and calculated approach to end the global upsurge of violence.

Eastwood’s persona as a Hollywood icon has won him plenty of recognition and fame. American Sniper would not, by any account, stand tall amongst the list of his achievements from the conscientious humanitarian angle. In the artistic sense, the movie lacks flair and is full of Kyle’s uncaring ways and bloodthirsty nature. Bill Maher aptly described American Sniper as a story of a ‘psychopathic patriot’.

In a world infested with radical religious inclinations and practices, it appears to me that Eastwood has made an effort to make his own statement of fanaticism, rather Christian fundamentalism. While we are time and again reminded that religion and politics do not mix together in Christianity, the carrying of the Bible by the main character, Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), and his self-absorbed ways of expressive religious beliefs is a stark negation of such a premise, a sign of an unholy religious-political alliance that has already almost ruined a different religion by the name of ‘Islam’. We know well from the histories of Pakistan and Israel that when religion blends in with politics, what we get is nothing but strife and never-ending bitterness in the society.

One statement that stood out to me in the movie was when Kyle said:

“I don’t know how the Quran looks like.”

Really? I asked myself.

Even if the real life guy was ever heard saying something insensitive like that, Eastwood should have refrained from presenting it in the movie. These are troubled times when religious radicals need a slight excuse to bomb, kill and maim innocent civilians to teach those criticising their beliefs. Why provide them with yet another opportunity to go on yet another rampage? And, why would Kyle not know what the Quran looks like. It’s a book just like any other book.

Why play with people’s sensitivities?

In the words of Eastwood, American Sniper is ‘anti-war’. This is complete and utter nonsense. Yes, it does show how wars are crippling the family lives of soldiers. Even though it is agreed that continuous conflict is changing the social fabric of the American society, however, think about the terrible consequences that the movie has on the audience in the parts of the world where religious tolerance is low or non-existent. Think about the effect the movie’s message will have on societies where radical Islamists have or are creating havoc.

What repercussions will such images have on the Muslim-non-Muslim paradigm?

We have already seen and experienced that a substantial chunk of population in the West has concluded that all Muslims are terrorists. The push by politicians and leaders in such societies to pacify emotions and emphasise that they are fighting a war against the terrorists and not Islam has had little or no impact. American Sniper will only solidify the argument that Muslims are terrible zealots.

Let’s be clear on the fact that the US, despite being a target of Islamist hostilities in recent times, overall remains perhaps the most tolerant Western society. This does not mean that one can ignore the far right chatter and anti-Muslim garbage that is hurled on a regular basis in the social media and political circles. Crazy nuts like Sarah Palin have made a mockery of American values and have essentially changed the mind set of millions in this country by spewing hatred against diversity and urging people to ‘Take Back America’. People like Palin have only added fuel to the fire.

Just like the mullahs spreading anti-US, anti-Israel, anti-Islam hatred during their Friday prayer sermons in Pakistan, American crazies have taken it upon themselves to ensure that rural, unenlightened segments of the population stay within the ‘Bible limits’, look no further and look down upon any other faith or ethnicity as non-compliant and unsuitable for societal existence and survival. Needless to say, when communities reach a level of judging others, fundamentalism is nothing but a natural consequence.

But what makes America a stable society is the right of the people to speak out, to say what they want to say. This is the beauty of the system. Despite the fact that we live in times when the country is engaged in several battles and wars, when our armed forces are protecting us from various security threats, when it is a taboo to say anything against our soldiers, yet we can express and express at our will. Take, for instance, Michael Moore. Soon after American Sniper came out, here is what Moore tweeted:

Seth Rogen dived in as well and essentially ridiculed the movie. Both Moore and Rogen had to pay a ‘heavy price’ for their remarks though – they were banned by the owner of an obsolete steakhouse who seemed to be grievously offended by what they said.

At the end of the day, all this jibber jabber and nonsense that goes around in social media or the energy charged, right-wing, Tea Party circles boils down to carefully orchestrated policies that, for the most part, never target specific ethnicities or groups within the teeming millions. Responsible, value-laden media and journalism policies thankfully facilitate in keeping the societal balance intact.

Let’s not forget that Kyle was a hero of wars that are not supported by millions of Americans. People are sick and tired of the incredible number of American lives that have been lost in conflicts around the world. Furthermore, the economy has been totally popped. What would have been an anti-war statement was if Kyle had lived long enough and acknowledged that given the consequences he suffered from in his private life by volunteering to fight, he regretted the decision and hence apologised for his nefarious ways. Since he lost his life in rather mysterious circumstances right here in the US, he’s no longer amongst us. Therefore, we cannot ascertain really how he would have felt about America’s never-ending commitment to wars if he were still alive. All I know is that the public support for wars has gone down incredibly. It’s only the proponents of the military industrial complex who keep pushing us into unnecessary conflicts.

I cannot resist mentioning the ill consequences of American Sniper on gun violence in America. Each year thousands of innocent lives are lost, thanks to the relentless, uninterrupted, non-restricted access and availability of arms and ammunition. Anyone, anywhere, over the age of 18 can walk into a store that sells weapons and buy as much as they want. As long as we have the dreadful National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment entrenched in the constitution, the killing sprees will not cease to exist. American Sniper will only encourage the gun advocates and those who plan on go wild and kill folks in the future.

Don’t get me wrong. The reason for penning down my thoughts is not because I’m defending or criticising a certain faith. I’m far from ever associating myself with one. The only reason for my existence is to strive to become a better human being. I’m just appalled by the general degradation of our ethos and values and why people like Eastwood allow themselves to incite and instigate societies and a world that is already finding itself on the edge of precipice. Eastwood himself is no stranger to controversyAmerican Sniper might end up making him the darling of the war mongering right-wingers and definitely make him far richer than he already is. With the presidential election coming up in 2016, the erstwhile Western movie hero may end up playing a pivotal role in the Republican campaign.

Long story short, two wrongs can never make a right. Radical religious tendencies in the Muslim world are enough for us to battle. Such trends are destroying the basic fabric of humanity. In an age, when we are battling the incessant and unceasing wave of violence, American Sniper will neither help in slowing down or eradicating the scourge of violence. It has only added the element of Christian extremism to the mix and poisoned an already lethal situation. At a time when predictable normality has exited our lives due to the crazies amongst us, this movie is nothing but a bad omen.

Life is a powerful statement of God’s existence. I would hate to remember and respect the life and times of anyone like Kyle who brought an end to 160 odd lives. To me, he was as evil as any terrorist looking for a prey in the West or in the bloody streets of Pakistan.

Ahson Saeed Hasan

Ahson Saeed Hasan

The writer is a proud American, a peacenik who has traveled well over 80 countries and lived in four continents. He likes to share his experiences and reflect on the worldly surroundings. He tweets @tweetingacho (twitter.com/tweetingacho)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.