Culture, Science & Faith

The Legend of Chris Kyle

Putting "American Sniper" in perspective.

Jan. 21, 2015

The late Chris Kyle is an American legend, joining the likes of Jim Bowie, Daniel Boone and Alvin York. When a solider suffering from PTSD killed Kyle at a gun range in 2013, Kyle’s legacy as one of the great American snipers, with nearly 160 confirmed kills in Iraq, was already cemented into the annals of American war. And when “American Sniper,” the film depicting Kyle’s life, blew out the box office this past weekend, Kyle’s reputation was preserved as an American icon.

To put “American Sniper” in perspective, its opening weekend earned the film $89.5 million. Usually, only superhero movies like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” do this well. But Americans wanted to see the biopic of a real hero. It’s Kyle’s story – with its focus on the cost of war and the struggle he had balancing duty to country with duty to family – that resonated with the American audience. After all, it’s an American story.

The film, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood, was nominated for six Academy Awards, but that didn’t stop (or perhaps led to) some members of Hollywood’s leftist elite lambasting the film. Actor Seth Rogen said, “American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds.” Did Rogen just compare the life of Chris Kyle to a Nazi propaganda film? Rogen is about as moronic as the character he plays in the assassination-comedy “The Interview,” which is being used as anti-North Korean propaganda.

Anti-gun documentarian Michael Moore mocked Kyle as a coward: “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.” The only coward here is the one who does his sniping from behind a camera – using a high-capacity magazine full of made-up “facts,” we might add.

Run-of-the-mill liberals also joined in the clamor against “American Sniper,” saying the film is racist because Kyle describes jihadis as savages in the movie, or that Kyle is a war-drunk killer.

There is a difference between Chris Kyle the man and Chris Kyle the legend. The Leftmedia could dredge up enough valid dirt on the man, but they attack the legacy of the fallen sniper because of the American values Kyle represents. Kyle, like any man, was flawed. For example, he was perhaps prone to exaggerated braggadocio, likely fabricating some stories – including having punched former pro-wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura in the face. Ventura won a defamation suit over it, which is difficult to do.

But Kyle didn’t return to Iraq again and again because he was arrogant or gloried in killing. According to Kyle, he returned to protect his brothers in arms. “The ideal thing would be if I knew the number of lives I saved, because that’s something I’d love to be known for,” Kyle said in 2012. “But you can’t calculate that.”

If that isn’t an American ideal, what is?

Kyle’s widow, Taya Kyle, took to Facebook to express how overwhelmed she was that “American Sniper,” an “honest” depiction of her husband’s life, was so successful in movie theaters.

“Thank you for being willing to watch the hard stuff,” she wrote, “and thank you for hearing, seeing, experiencing the life of our military and first responders. I put them together because the battlefields may be different but the experience is the same on many spiritual levels.”

If Kyle has become our hero, he shows the values America still holds dear on and off the battlefield. We laud the man who runs toward the sound of chaos, who handles a gun with ease, yet is still gentle enough to hang up the weapons of war to be with wife and children.

Violence comes at a price, as Eastwood explores in his cannon of films, and that may cost a man his soul or his mind. For thousands of American soldiers, war is a hell that rages in their minds in the form of PTSD. Yet as Kyle shows, that is a burden the American hero bears out of love of country.

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