Vail Daily column: American Sniper makes you think and feel
“American Sniper” drew me in: emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. Emotionally, I felt disturbed and tense. Watching Chris determine whether or not to shoot a child is unbearably stressful. The fact that he is doing this to protect his own, as well as fathers and mothers of children back home, makes it understandable and still disturbing. Chris knows he is safer on the rooftop and chooses to join the troops on the ground because he is a warrior in heart and soul. Sheep dog is his dad’s description — born to protect the sheep.
Chris doesn’t waver in his calling nor is he excused from the inevitable trauma of killing people. His journey is to save his people, and this calling continues when he returns home. He knows what the returning warriors need to heal their trauma. I felt deep sadness for his family when he died at the hands of a veteran he was trying to help. I also felt something akin to envy because he knew his calling, took his journey and did it well. He didn’t waver. He was clear and knew he had answered his calling. When he said he wouldn’t hesitate to defend each and every kill when he met his maker, I envied his clarity. If only I could be so clear about my life choices.
On an intellectual level, I experienced cognitive dissonance. I am a liberal and do believe that war is not the answer. However, I also realize wars will continue until we evolve to some different state of being. One where people have more equality in opportunities for income, health care and education. One where we don’t hoard our wealth but share it. One where we truly accept differences as not better or worse but just different. One where we quit trying to get everyone to fit into the same mold and begin to see the richness in our diversity as humans. In my opinion, fighting terrorists “over there” doesn’t keep them from coming here. In this regard I disagree with Chris. Yet, do I really know that? After all, it is my opinion, not a fact. Would there be more terrorists here in the U.S. holding drills to the heads of my grandchildren? If the warriors weren’t over there letting terrorists know what they will be in for if they set foot on our soil, would more of them come over here to “rid the world of evil” as the terrorists see it?
Remembering Jack Nicholson’s line in the movie “A Few Good Men,” “You can’t handle the truth,” I found myself wondering if that was about me. I wanted to run out of the movie screaming more than once. All the killing, bloodshed, lives shattered, bodies crippled, minds blown on both sides along with the abject poverty of the people in Iraq was so hard to watch. I didn’t run out. I went home and watched “Parenthood” hoping it would wash away the disturbing feelings. It didn’t work. Watching Julia and Sam’s kids worry about their parents splitting up seemed so trivial compared to a grandparent watching a terrorist put a drill through his already-parentless grandchild’s head.
What I know is there is evil and good in every one of us so fighting “evil” is not ever going to work. Some of our own U.S. children have become terrorists, shooting people in schools and movie theaters. Recently some of our young people have tried and others have succeeded in becoming terrorists joining the jihad movement. I assume they are looking for a sense of meaning and purpose. I suspect they find having all of their physical and material needs met leaves them bored and wondering, “What is the point?’ I suspect some of them are, like Chris, born warriors (sheep dogs) looking for a place in this world.
The movie made me feel and think. This was not entertainment, this was real life.
Mary Ceynowa lives in East Vail.