Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Flawed Heroes

When it comes to politics and writing I try to stick with Kansas. Arguments about the broader country rarely turn out well and I’m more concerned with my own back yard right now.

The Chris Kyle debate has become intriguing to me though. The articles are certainly thought provoking – on both sides. But, frankly, it is the reader comments and Facebook posts that have captured my interest the most.

Here is what I have gathered so far. In typical US fashion, we’ve rapidly fled to one of two corners. We like our teams, don’t you know. We like things black and freaking white!!! We don’t like any in-between, any gray, and certainly we don’t like to agree on individual points.

Every issue HAS to be a battle, a war. This one is no different it appears. Which is ironic, considering it is about, eh hum, war.

The sides, for the most part, appear to break down like this:

Pro-Kyle team believes he is an American hero, worthy of sainthood, martyrdom and a national holiday. Pro-Kyle team believes every Arab/Muslim/Iraqi/middle-easterner is an American hating killer and they need to die and that Chris Kyle is personally responsible for saving the entire American military from death at the hands of these haters.

Pro-Kyle team believes if you dare say a single negative thing about the man, the movie, Clint Eastwood, Bush, the invasion of Iraq, et al, then you are an American hating sissy liberal who has never served in the military (it’s assumed if you aren’t on Pro-Kyle team then you have no military background, which would be an in-accurate assumption based upon what I’ve read).

Pro-Kyle team believes if you so much as hint at anything negative about Kyle then you should immediately get your ass the hell out of this country or they will kick it because you are un-American (which, unfortunately, will mean me by the end of this post because despite the fact I'm calling him a hero I'm also using the word flawed). Pro-Kyle team believes you should get on your knees and thank Chris Kyle for your ability to speak.

The anti-Kyle team is no less abrasive, although they generally use fewer aggressive words and revert to fewer threats.

Anti-Kyle team believes he was a sociopath and a killer, one who woke craving Muslim blood. They believe he was a boaster and a sell-out, a blood thirsty warrior who capitalized on his service to make money.

Anti-Kyle team believes he was an invader of Iraq. They believe he was at best a teller of tall tales and at worst a habitual and chronic liar.

I set out to read both sides, to see why people believed what they believed about him, and I was utterly sickened and saddened by the things people are saying to each other about this topic. The pro and anti Kyle comments I repeated above? Not exaggerations; these are examples of the things people are writing online.

I did not know Chris Kyle nor did most of you. I wasn’t there with him and, as such, I cannot and will not judge this man having not walked in his shoes.

We know what he wrote. We know what he said. That still doesn't mean we know him. Sometimes I go back and read something I wrote and am dumbfounded at how it came across and I'm most likely a far less complex person than Chris Kyle.

I haven't served in the military or been in combat. I also haven’t been through boot camp but I did ask my grandfather once about his training as a United States Marine in San Diego during WWII. I asked him “what did they teach you at boot camp?”

He responded “they taught us to kill.” That one statement is why I was hesitant to wade into this discussion. It is also another reason I can never judge Chris Kyle.

My grandfather was my hero. He was also flawed. As painful as it is for me to say, acknowledging those flaws has been one of the hardest things as an adult for me to accept.

We are all flawed. Even our heroes.

You see, America, it is possible to be a hero and to be flawed at the same time.

Argue all day long about Eastwood’s movie if you choose. It is no secret his political views so it should come as no surprise that there appears to be an attempt to link 9/11 to Iraq. You'll have to ask Clint if that was deliberate. Regardless, the movie isn’t going to change the minds of people who already mistakenly believe we invaded Iraq because of 9/11 and it is, in true Hollywood style, still a movie. Hate his politics all you want (which I do, other than that time he spoke to an empty chair, which still makes me chuckle) but Clint makes damn good movies. Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby? Awesome! But I digress...

The saddest thing for me, other than watching my fellow citizens continue to scratch and claw at each other online as we seem to relish, are the increased threats towards Muslims in this country which have reportedly resulted, and the failure to focus on what I see as the true message in all of this: we have to take better care of our veterans.

Kyle, and all American soldiers and Marines, are not responsible for where they are sent or what they are asked to do. Our leaders bare that responsibility.

American military members who see combat often suffer a debilitating mental and/or physical toll. Our leaders own the responsibility of ensuring we do everything in our power to make sure they can be as whole again as possible, knowing that combat and death can never be erased from their psyche. PTSD is a reality, a monster that causes suicide and destroys lives.

Which leads me to this belief.

Rather than argue over Chris Kyle, we should be using these discussions to look at Washington and to demand they stop cutting funding to veteran’s benefits. We should demand they never send our military into battle under false pretense, or for any reason our leaders wouldn’t be willing to risk their own or their children’s lives.

Our government needs to ensure when they ask a serviceman to cross the deepest and most sacred law – the taking of another human life – they rule out all other options and, absent those options, provide every service available to heal that American.

Stop fighting. Stop calling each other names. Have a discussion about our veterans' needs.

Chris Kyle, I believe, was flawed. I’ve often heard within the Christian community that there was only one perfect man who ever lived and his name was Christ. Kyle wasn’t Christ and neither are the rest of us. Stop acting like he was but also stop acting like he should’ve been.

He was a hero when it was demanded of him. There are many others out there quietly doing their jobs so instead of Chris Kyle's face picture theirs and make damn sure you speak out loudly when the United States government decides to put them in harm's way.

Life isn’t simple folks. So stop acting like it is in your discussions. If Americans started treating each other like we were part of the same team we’d all be better off.

Wouldn’t that be a great way to honor all of our veterans?