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‘American Sniper’ raises questions about hero definition

Photo Courtesy of MCT Campus – Chris Kyle, a retired Navy SEAL and bestselling author of the book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History”, poses for a photo in this April 6, 2012, file photo. Kyle was one of two people reported killed on the gun range at Rough Creek Lodge near Glen Rose, Texas, Saturday, February 2 2013.

Commentary by Anthony Cardellini ’17
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With the release of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” one subject of much discussion is whether or not we can consider a profound killer a hero.

On one hand, Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL and the sniper portrayed by Bradley Cooper in the film, saved countless American lives. His 160 confirmed kills gathered on four tours in Iraq are unprecedented, even for a SEAL.

Kyle deserves our respect whether we want to give it to him or not. The man was unbelievably skilled. He was famous even among his enemies, who dubbed him “The Devil of Ramadan.”

We should respect the bravery it takes to be successful in war and the skill with which he acted.

However, none of the above qualities or facts make a person heroic. The most common definitions of the word “hero” include noble qualities and outstanding bravery.

It should be undisputed that Kyle displayed the second. However, one can argue whether or not he had the first.

For a country like the United States, I would argue that he did. He put his life at his risk for our country. He saved a huge number of American lives, and he, therefore, helped our country.

But heroes do not always deserve our idolization or even perhaps our admiration. Admiration is not respect.

You can respect a man without teaching your children to be like him.

In this sense, Chris Kyle does not deserve to be admired in the same way that Martin Luther King, Jr. does.

The problem with this is it raises bigger questions. King was a great speaker and leader. Kyle was, quite literally, a great killer.

King did what he could with his talents and we applaud him for this. Kyle did what he could with his talent of being a sniper: He killed lots of Iraqi soldiers who were likely trying to kill Americans.

In the end, the decision of whether or not to admire Chris Kyle is yours, but I will certainly give you a few things to keep in mind.

For this issue, let’s remember that the worth of a human being from our country isn’t higher than that of a human from Iraq.

In the end, Kyle killed a lot of people. Undoubtably, he saved a lot of people as well, but this came at the expense of taking other lives.

Should we really have a society with the mindset that this is a good thing?

Second, the decision of whether being a sniper is morally acceptable isn’t yours to answer: it’s Kyle’s. We are simply asking ourselves whether or not to admire him in the same sense of other, nonviolent heroes.

We aren’t here to criticize the actions of another man, but here to look at them and decide if we should want our children to be like him.

In the end, I believe Kyle is to be treated with great respect. Still, whether or not I wish for myself and my society to be like him is another question, and it’s one that I don’t feel responsible enough to answer.