When I first started seeing previews for American Sniper, I wanted to see it. Without knowing much about Chris Kyle, what I saw was a soldier dealing with the psychological effects and complex of emotions that resulted from being in combat. For me, that’s an important issue to expose and an important story to tell, because we, as a country, fail soldiers upon re-entry.
I’ve never been in a war. I’m not a soldier. I only know what people who have served in war have told me and what I have read. I had a student once who had done two tours in Iraq. We were talking about morality in class one day, and he said very plainly and matter-of-factly, “I’ve killed people. I shot them and saw them die, and I have to live with that.”
Of course, soldiers have vastly different experiences depending on who they are, where they serve, and what their job is. There’s this interview with Edward Tick about the work he has done counseling veterans since the Vietnam War in which he says:
“We don’t even think we have a warrior class, and we don’t teach our service people to think of themselves as warriors, even though societies throughout history have almost all had warrior classes and reciprocal relationships between warriors and civilians. Soldiers have a responsibility to defend their country, and it is our responsibility as citizens to heal those who have put their lives on the line for us, even if they fought a war for the wrong reasons or for lies. And we’re not doing that.”
Unless you believe that human beings can kill without feeling any consequence, can see their friends and comrades die, and can live on edge with the threat of death around the corner without that fundamentally changing something inside of them, then feel free to ignore me.
I want to see the story told not of war itself, but the effects of war on the people fighting it.