I don’t know about you but one of the earliest parts of “American Sniper” – the autobiography written by Chris Kyle, a US Navy SEAL sniper, was as chilling as it was disturbing to me. It didn’t sit right with me and I felt that the book was filled with propaganda-like statements as well as extreme bias and racist views. Mind you, I’m a strong supporter of the US military and as I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy reading military memoirs. This one though felt very wrong to me.
An excerpt reads:
“My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul. I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.
SAVAGE, DESPICABLE EVIL. THAT’S WHAT WE WERE FIGHTING in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy “savages.” There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there.” (p.11)
It’s one thing to kill an enemy but it is another to say that one person’s life is worth more than another’s. It’s also one thing to fight in a war but it is another to say that they are savages for doing what THEY think is right. Imagine if America was invaded. Wouldn’t you take up arms to fight and defend it? This woman probably felt that her country was being invaded and that she had a right to fight and defend it. In HER mind, America was the enemy. Of course, as the saying goes, “All is fair in love and war”, which makes it hard to determine who’s on the wrong and who’s on the right because it is always a matter of perspective.
When we paint others as “savages”, “monsters”, “evil”, “insert-other-negative-word-here”, then we no longer see them as humans. Therefore, we feel justified when we abuse/kill/torture them. After all, they are the enemies, aren’t they? Clearly, we are superior.
It’s hard to be unbiased where war is concerned. Of course you want your family members and loved ones to be safe. Of course you want the enemy dead. I guess all I’m saying is, when I was younger and so gung-ho about joining the military, I was blinded to the fact that the enemy are also human beings.
A story someone shared with me once resonated with me. He was a National Guard a few years ago and he attended a conference on counter-terrorism. He told me that the speaker was riling up the attendees – all of them mostly late teenagers/young adults – and telling them that the “hajis” deserve to die. Of course, his speech was met with enthusiastic cheers of assent. He said that in that moment, he looked around to see if anyone else had a problem with what the speaker was saying. He said he was appalled to see that no one else but him did.
Anyway, that’s just my thoughts and opinion. Before he shared that story with me and before I read “American Sniper”, it never crossed my mind how disturbing a one-sided mindset can be.