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.

  • Prashant

    “Why play with people’s sensitivities?”

    May be, people need to be a little less sensitive.

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

    It can also mean, he has not read the holy book.

    “To me, he was as evil as any terrorist looking for a prey in the West or in the bloody streets of Pakistan.”

    All the author needs to ask is if Pakistan has snipers or not, if yes, what do they do? I believe they kill terrorists before they kill innocents, how do you call them cowards?

    It seemed to be a balanced article though.Recommend

  • Sami

    Just take it as a film and you will be relieved . It is not some American foreign policy. Also In Pakistan we have our own murderers to celebrate like Mumtaz Qadri etc. It seems somewhat odd when we belong from Pakistan where we discriminate against non Muslims, make fun of their emotions and belief system and then at the same time we dictate the moral values to the West?Recommend

  • wb

    I don’t think most people of the subcontinent even understand the basic idea of films. We’re a billion and a half people and only a dozen or so really understand the meaning of movies.

    Movies are story telling devices. They should not be looked upon as anything else.

    I’ve watched American Sniper and I found it to be a very well made film. It neither glorified the snipers, nor did it undermine them. It, in fact, tried to look at the character very objectively, especially given that it is based on a true story and a novel.

    So, the question of right or wrong, good or bad, ethics or morals, doesn’t arise here.Recommend

  • ab1990

    I wish india made a sniper film like this american sniper. But bollywood’s border was too good.

    Piece of advice to people who immigrate to usa and then criticize their immigrated country. Those who dont like usa should leave the country.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad

    In movie its portrayed that how America takes care of its soldiers. Their leaders are pro-active and try to eliminate enemy before it becomes dangerous. Safety and security of their soldiers is their first priority. This is the reason, Americans provide best equipment and armaments to their fighting forces. We fight wars differently. Lives of our soldiers are not important to us. We send them without enough cover and back up. This is the reason we call American sniper a murderer.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I haven’t read such drivel in a long time. It seems like you took the movie as an excuse to say what you wanted. There is a whole lot of exposition yet nothing that actually explains how it relates to the film. Extraordinary.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I like how it just shows how Kyle was. It hides nothing. I think the author wanted to see something heavy handed like a Bollywood film that shoves its message right down the throat.Recommend

  • Gp65

    ““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?”

    I have not seen the movie and do not plan to. I am just going by your statement. Why is that an insensitive statement? Most people have not read religious books of other faiths. Are you saying that a Character in a Hollywood movie saying he does not know much about Quran Is enough to send some radicals on a rampage? Then I would say that the problem is not the insensitivity of this film character but the oversensitivity of the radicals. The world cannot tread on eggshells because some people are hypersensitive and kill others everytime their feelings are hurt.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    finally, some sense came out of liberal fascists. American sniper is nothing but a tool for dehumanizing human life and glamorizing violence and death.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    But that’s how they roll. Hollywood war films, really are propaganda films and especially Oscar nominated ones have an agenda they push towards so we really cant take this as ” just a film”. Sociopolitical themes are constantly embedded in cinema they days.Recommend

  • Critical

    and you are preaching that to a country which honors their nuclear missiles in the name of Ghazni,Ghori,Abdali,BaburRecommend

  • wb

    Also, I want to add that the film was so well made that towards the end of it, I had beginning to hate the character.

    This is also clear evidence that there was no glorification. If there was glorifying, I couldn’t have ended up hating the character.

    And when I say: “They should not be looked upon as anything else.”

    I mean, movies should not be looked as PR or propaganda tools. Though in the subcontinent, movies have been used exactly as that. In fact a recent Pak film was even said to have been funded by ISPR.Recommend

  • wb

    True. And most importantly, in the end, you don’t feel any love for the character. Even a bit of hatred. I felt so. I felt a bit of hatred and sadness for the lead and definitely not empathy.

    So, to project it as glorifying and applauding is unwarranted.Recommend

  • Manish Bathla

    Mumtaz Qadri ??? Anyone?Recommend

  • Sami

    Well every country do that. Remember our Movie Waar, soldier and dramas like Alpha, Brave, charlie etc. India’s movie Mission Kashmir, Lakhshya, Border and so many. So it is a routine for every country to do that. Every country wants to secure their interest and for that purpose they make movies as well.
    Movies do represent socio-political theme of one country but rather than protesting we can make our own movies that will counter that propangandaRecommend

  • Fawad Ali

    “These are troubled times when religious radicals need a slight excuse to bomb, kill and maim innocent civilians to teach those criticising their beliefs.”

    by that argument do you mean people should stop keeping money in pocket, as it gives opportunity to pickpockets or ladies shouldn’t wear revealing dresses as eve teaser or rapist may be around. It is criminal’s fault who can’t control or regulate themselves, don’t rest blame on others or victims.Recommend