January 27, 2015

Phony "patriots" love American Sniper

Don't hate on critics of 'American Sniper'—criticize its flawed hero

By Matt RozsaFor far too many Americans, it is impossible to separate criticism of individuals within certain institution—or even systematic injustices perpetrated by those institutions—from the actual institutions themselves.

This was seen last year in the right-wing backlash against those who protested racial profiling among law enforcement. "If you read the liberal mainstream media," argued Ben Stein, you’d think "that the main problem with race in America was poor innocent black people being set upon and mistreated by the police." In his dismissal of the #BlackLivesMatter protests, Rudy Giuliani claimed that "they are tearing down respect for a criminal justice system that goes back to England in the 11th century." After a crazed cop-hater assassinated two police officers in December, New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch blamed it on those who "incited violence on the street under the guise of protest."

There is an obvious logical response to these attitudes. "You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach," argued Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. "Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards."
And:Of course, the reason we are seeing such reflexive rallying behind American Sniper and Kyle’s character is that there are Americans who wish to turn him into such a symbol. "Treating Kyle as a patriot and ignoring any other possibility," observes Dennis Jett of the New Republic, "allows Americans to ignore the consequences of invading a country that had no weapons of mass destruction, had nothing to do with 9/11, and had no meaningful ties to Al Qaeda." Just as important, the canonization of Chris Kyle allows Americans to duck the morally thorny questions involving Kyle’s possible killing of innocent civilians, his dehumanization of both Muslims in general and Iraqis specifically, and his bloodthirsty attitude toward war itself. Because his supporters don’t wish to see these things (or, even worse, secretly condone them), they gloss over the inconvenient details and insist that drawing attention to them is un-American.

This speaks to an issue even larger than questions about the Iraq War, America’s military presence overseas, or even racism among law enforcement (to refer to the earlier analogy in this article). If America is going to have an intelligent public debate on any political issue, it is essential that its citizens be able to participate without fear of having their motives baselessly attacked. More specifically, if we are to hold our government accountable for its actions, we absolutely must be able to criticize its most powerful institutions—particularly those who use violence, be it the military abroad or the police at home—without being intimidated into silence.

It's not un-American to question Chris Kyle and the military operation he worked for. In fact, it might just be the most patriotic thing you can do.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see American Sniper = Indian Killer.

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