Knock this chip off my pedestal

Enough about the sniper guy, already.

If you believe that Chris Kyle was a hero without flaws, you’ve gone woozy from the intoxicating smell of his jock. He was, at the least, an occasional liar and notable braggart.

Image used without permission

Image from Bearing Arms. Used without permission.

Not that I begrudge him his well-earned braggadocio (per the Oakland Raiders of yore, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it”), but whatever happened to the SOF ideal of quiet professionalism? Stomped flat by Richard Marcinko et al, the notion of doing your job and not pitching a fit seems relegated these days to army Special Forces — and the rest of the guys you never heard of, because they’re off doing their jobs in some under-promoted hellhole instead of negotiating book advances.

Likewise, if you go around bitterly declaring Chris Kyle a racist, hate-filled, psychopathic serial killer because he shot people — warm, breathing, human meat sacks — from rooftops, we’re entitled to suspect that you’re off your own meds. Navy SEALs are first-tier warriors who kill people on behalf of the United States. They’re good at it, and it’s their job, and you pay them for it.

Beyond that, it’s idiotic to decide that someone who is particularly skilled at the job they’ve been trained for is a crazed hater because you disagree with the politics that put him (not you, you whining fuck) in harm’s way. As a political liberal myself, I implore you: don’t be a lib-douche.

The current, red-faced fracas over Clint Eastwood’s (not Chris Kyle’s) American Sniper movie resembles the way idiots and children view women: either gleaming statuesquely up there on the pedestal, or personifying the grimy downfall of humanity.

Image from Hollywood Reporter. Used without permission.

Image from Hollywood Reporter. Used without permission.

Apparently, it’s easier to believe in red pills and blue pills than it is to consider a nuanced reality.

Some soldiers are better killers than others. Some are better leaders. Some type faster than you. Some have fine singing voices, pretty wives, dark secrets. Some take drugs. Some take questionable opportunities. Many are broken by their service, and many are not, and all are marked.

Not all of us are heroes, though damn few of us are villains — especially in the cartoon sensibility of “baby killers” and “psychopaths” so frequently applied by commentators innocent of the least shred of psychological training.

There are real heroes, of course. They’re just not all that damned simple.

We believed in heroes, and we worked alongside heroes, and that’s good enough in this life. You don’t have the right to put everyone who served up on a pedestal, just because hagiography suits your Team America political delusions. You don’t have the right to slander us as “murderers” whilst pretending to stand for schoolmarms and nuns and starving pygmies, either.

To reiterate what every American soldier has internalized since the Continental Army, it’s not about you. Chris Kyle didn’t exist and walk his path to prove or disprove your worldview, and neither does any other veteran.

If you want to do justice — not false obeisance, or gratuitous punishment, but simple justice — to America’s service members and veterans, start by keeping America’s promises. Make Congress and the President keep their promises to veterans about retirement, about educational benefits, and about medical restorations for the damages done. Pressure businesses to keep their promises to hire (or re-hire) combat veterans when the peace drums boom.

Make your city council keep its promises to get homeless veterans off the streets, to counsel the suicidal, to find jobs and places and purpose for every American. Make your school board focus on the best educational outcomes to produce outstanding citizens who keep building a society that secures itself through freedom, not through fear.

Keep your own promise, encapsulated in the Golden Rule, to treat a vet the way you’d treat anyone else, including your own crazy old uncle or yourself: as a complicated, flawed, beautiful human being filled with promise and fear and talent.

Every single one of us is human, and none can be described in a single sentence. And you are as responsible for your military as any dog owner whose pet has teeth. Best we learn to negotiate, with skill, that middle ground between nuzzling and snapping.

Rest in peace, Chief Petty Officer Kyle. I am personally sorry we didn’t get to know you better, and even sorrier that we still seem determined not to.


Image from Used without permission.

Image from Used without permission.

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  1. *Reads about Kyle’s end* Damn. What a spectacular failure of the American system.

    I’m in total agreement with what needs doing, both for you and your brother warriors, and for America as a whole… part of me questions whether we *can* without a lot of chaos… but the dogged (catted?) optimist in me says we have to try anyway, that what could happen in that chaos doesn’t bear contemplation…

    I think we also need to lean on the Powers that Be to get and keep our uniformed men and women – and our economic interests – out of places that break people, often in ways not easily seen, much less fixed. This could be as simple as making sure your next vehicle uses as little of that black smelly stuff as possible – preferably zero. The less oil we use, the less power Big Oil has to wag the military dog… and the less we spend on deployments, the more we can spend on taking care of people, uniformed or not. Which is a big step towards avoiding pitchforks.

  2. Saw the movie with David and friends last night. I found it heartbreaking, and more nuanced than all the bullshit hoopla would ever lead you to expect. Bradley Cooper almost disappears into a flawed, very human Chris Kyle — but the war, the Urban Middle Eastern War, never disappears. It’s there in full, awe-inspiring horror, and the intense moral and emotional conflicts, the damage men and women risk from fighting in such a war, are painted in swirling muddy colors of sand and dust and blood.
    The movie provoked a lot of thoughts and feelings directly relating to exactly what you wrote in this column. I couldn’t sleep much last night — so actually, I think Clint Eastwood did his job.

  3. tim_in_seattle says

    oh, f*ck off with your “try to understand people are complicated” sh*t, I’ve got some hating to do! Get out of my way!

  4. Gary Blomstrom (Mil Ret) says

    Blame it on the general media; catch the ears & eyes with whatever silliness they can fake freak on, dead air is money lost!!


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