American Sniper

Abstract

Undoubtedly, patriotism is a political ideology that, to a certain degree, is inherent in every society. In this regard, American society is known to possess a high level of patriotism. While comprehending this cultural peculiarity of the U.S. people, a famous movie director, Clint Eastwood, decided to strike the patriotic chord of the prospective spectators. The proper audience evaluation and anticipation of the public demand assured success of the new Eastwood’s movie, American Sniper (2014). Nevertheless, it provoked a lot of criticism, the main part of which was associated with the strong propaganda of militarism and patriotism.

 

This ambiguity in the viewers’ opinion is stipulated by the contradictory rhetoric of the American Sniper. Specifically, the movie simultaneously advocates for and against the war in Iraq. Besides, it considers the problem of Islamophobia and the phenomenon of chauvinism as its manifestation acceptable. What makes the things even worse is the fact that Clint Eastwood presents patriotism as a credible justification for the above-stated social issues assuming that it can acquit mass murders. This paper argues that the American Sniper is an example of the wicked culture, because it deploys this ideology for concealing political and social issues, inappropriate financial expenditure, and financial burden of the U.S. healthcare system.

American Sniper Is an Example of the Wicked Patriotism

While summarizing the plot and the core ideas of the American Sniper, it is appropriate to state that this movie is based on the true events; thus, it can be considered “Clint Eastwood’s paean to Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL”(Levine n. pag.). Chris Kyle was a lethal sniper who killed between 160 and 255 Iraqi people (Bennett n. pag.). Kyle has made four expeditions to Iraq and, after being almost killed during the last one, he came back home to his wife, son, and daughter. Nevertheless, the shadow of the war greatly complicated his civil life. While trying to cope with his post-war syndrome, Kyle decided to help the other veterans who, like him, were struggling to adapt to the civil life. One of them shot Kyle when he helped him practice shooting. According the plot, one can rightfully conclude that the main idea of this movie is that there are no former soldiers; for the military, the specter of the war stays with them until the end of life.

In this regard, the wickedness of patriotism is defined by the attempt to camouflage Islamophobia under the noble ideas of the ideology. It is necessary to comprehend that the origin of this issue is hidden in the religious competition between Christianity and Islam (Gottschalk & Greenberg 84). The controversy had begun long before the military conflicts of the 21st century. However, the main idea has remained unchanged: it is the struggle for the right not to be subjected to the strange religious dogmas and way of life. In these terms, the image of “a Bible-carrying Christian who loves killing Iraqis he calls “savages” is used to enhance the national awareness of the U. S. people (Gwynne n. pag.).

The negative, or at least cautious, attitude towards Muslims is a part of the American national identity. For instance, “those who say Muslim Americans are not loyal to the U.S. are more likely than those who say Muslims are loyal to claim religion is an important part of their daily life” (Gallup n. pag.). This claim is supported by the corresponding statistics: 74% vs. 65% (Gallup n. pag.). Consequently, one should comprehend that patriotism is cultivated in order to oppose any religious differences; therefore, it gains a form of Islamophobia.

Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/us/03muslims.html

The fear of Muslims is inherited from the older generations and is considered to be brought by the first Europeans coming to America (Gottschalk & Greenberg 93). Given this supposition, it is natural to ask what role patriotism plays in this process and why it can be considered wicked. It goes without saying that patriotism evokes respect, which softens (if not eliminates) the notion of wrongness of killing people because they are different. Without a doubt, this idea is intimidating because it becomes clear that the American patriotism is used for justifying the aggressive international policy of the national government.

Moreover, this political ideology is implemented in order to accustom people to the phenomenon of Islamophobia. Therefore, it is appropriate to conclude that the American Sniper is a means of inflicting the wrong type of patriotism. When addressing the counterargument, it is natural to presume that there cannot be the wrong and the right types of patriotism. It is partially true: patriotism is a phenomenon that consists of different beliefs and corresponding actions and reactions. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that while discussing the wickedness of this ideology, one refers more to the outcomes of this social issue rather than to its mechanisms.

In this regard, it is appropriate to quote a famous writer, Lev Tolstoy, who asserted, “War did not inspire patriotism. Rather, war is patriotism’s inevitable product” (Levine n. pag.). This formulation provides a critical insight into the cause-effect relations of the state’s ideology and its actions. In other words, the too intense approach used for concentrating the audience on patriotism is, in reality, the propaganda of militarism. Consequently, the wicked patriotism of the American Sniper reveals the pro-war moods.

While taking into account that this movie is an element of the contemporary popular culture, one can rightfully presume that, presently, the distortion of the patriotism occurs at the level of the national awareness. In particular, one can point to the shift in the emphasis from the defensive to offensive perspectives of this process. In this way, patriotism is related to chauvinism. Consider the example; “Tolstoy called patriotism collective egoism” (Levine n. pag.). Without a doubt, collective egoism is a part of the national identity, which means that it encourages citizens of one country “to alienate its people from their brothers across the border or across the sea” (Levine n. pag.). Unfortunately, the discussed movie is a tool of alienation; it reveals the tendency towards intolerance in the American society.

Despite the fact that many people do not engage in chauvinism, this issue is topical in the modern American society. The magnitude of this problem is supported by the relevant statistics: about 52% of the U.S. citizens believe that western people do not respect Islamic individuals (Gallup n. pag.). A similar situation can be observed in Canada, where 48% of responders confirm the phenomena of disrespect towards the Muslims, which is based on the religious, cultural, social, and political differences. Simply put, this statistics confirms the strengthening trend of the collective egoism. Under these circumstances, inspiring the patriotic moods is similar to a powder keg ignition. Therefore, it is appropriate to conclude that the American Sniper is an example of the wrong patriotism.

While striving to comprehend how this mechanism works, particularly, how the chauvinism and Islamophobia are cultivated, it is necessary to refer to Tolstoy, who implied that patriotism was a means of inspiring hatred. Consider the example; spectators begin to sympathize with the main character, his family, and his military friends. This emotional response is triggered by the work of the properly selected cast and numerous assistants who strived to make the movie attractive to the broader audience. As it is known, the emotional involvement of the viewers presumes empathy. Therefore, when the protagonist endures hard times, spectators tend to support him irrespective of the logic. In this way, the homicides of about 200 people become justified unconsciously and insensibly. Consequently, the notions of hatred and cruelty become a little bit more acceptable in the society.

Basically, this immense effect is achieved by applying the pathos appeal. In this regard, this method of persuasion is a conscious choice. The fact is that the pathos appeal corresponds to the irrational part of the human mentality, including emotions and intuition, which are more ancient and, thus, precede the logic. Therefore, when it comes to persuasion, a properly deployed pathos appeal is considered to bring the best results. As a result, the increased chauvinism, in other words, collective egoism, encourages the nation to consider entering a different country and killing its citizens a patriotic way of protecting own land.

Nevertheless, in reality, it is a significant moral and ethical issue. Consider the case; the positive image of a sniper is intimidating. It is presumed, “He’s not a killer; he’s a hero” (Levine n. pag.). This claim, however, is greatly arguable. On the one hand, being a warrior suggests killing; the weapons are made to kill. On the other hand, Kyle believes that he is not a killer, but a protector. That is why; a sniper defends his achievements during a conversation with a psychologist. Kyle argues that he kills in order to save the lives of the other American soldiers; however, doctor refutes Kyle’s claim by proposing an alternative way of becoming a savior. Specifically, the psychologist suggests that if a military wants to help people and save lives, he can go and work in the hospital. The supposition is rational; there are numerous other ways to be a protector. Nonetheless, just as Kyle, many people do not see alternative ways because they are inspired by patriotism and this militarism that opposes the peace-making approach.

Another indicator of the wicked patriotism is revealed in the protagonist’s scrutiny, “When God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them” (Levine n. pag.). What is more, further he explains, “Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die” (Levine n. pag.). This idea is probably the most arguable one; when there is a war, what are the measurements that help to decide who deserves dying? The answer is simple, the hatred does; as it was discussed above, it is inspired by patriotism.

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Apart from being the reason for numerous social, ethical, political, and religious issues, patriotism is responsible for the unreasonable increase in the government’s expenditure. It was calculated, “The decade-long American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would end up costing as much as $6 trillion, the equivalent of $75,000 for every American household” (Shah n. pag.). This impressive statistic is supposed to evoke some questions concerning the rationality of the expenses, but questioning presumes logical thinking whereas patriotism is irrational. It means, that the patriotic ambitions are expensive, and every citizen should comprehend that this enhanced expenditure is his or her financial burden.

Moreover, the wicked patriotism adds to a significant economic burden of the U.S. healthcare system. As it is known, thousands of Americans were killed or received injuries in the recent wars. Consider the statistics; “The US government has already spent $134 billion on medical care and disability benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans” (Shah n. pag.). Besides, as the American Sniper depicts even more soldiers experience difficulties in socializing that are predefined by the psychological post-war traumas. This condition is well-described by Kyle’s threatening confession, “The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more” (Bennett n. pag.). Undoubtedly, these manifestations of patriotism point to its wrongness and, thus, should not be cultivated.

Retrieved from https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-wars-in-afghanistan-iraq-to-cost-6-trillion/5350789

Summary

Summing up the above-mentioned, it is appropriate to deduce that Clint Eastwood’s military movie, American Sniper, reveals a strong notion of patriotism. Despite its habitual positive meaning, one should understand that patriotism of the entire nation can be wicked. The mechanism of its action is connected with chauvinism as an attempt to increase intolerance and inter-ethnic inequity. A vivid example of this approach is Islamophobia, which is an overspread issue in the Western world. In this regard, patriotism is used to evoke hatred between people; besides, it serves as a tool in the inter-religious fighting (Christianity versus Islam).

Moreover, wicked patriotism allows unreasonable military financing that has a significant negative impact on the state’s economy. In addition, it challenges the American healthcare system by adding to the financial burden of the country. Therefore, one can rightfully conclude that the wrong patriotism worsens the general physical and mental health and financial well-being of the American nation. Consequently, it should not be publicly promoted.

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