Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reaction to Chris Kyle's Murder

Chris Kyle, a former US Navy SEAL, was the most dangerous sniper in the history of the US military. He had over 150 confirmed kills and multiple Bronze and Silver Stars. Kyle was wounded in combat. He completed four tours of Iraq and once killed a rocket launcher bearing insurgent from a little over a mile away. In short he was the best at what he did. When he left the military to be with his family he wrote a best selling autobiography, American Sniper, detailing his story. He didn't take any of the royalties from this book but instead donated them to the families of SEALS killed in combat.  He also gave away the money he made from appearances or book signings. Kyle started a non-profit foundation, FITCO, to work with veterans suffering from disabilities, whether physical or emotional/mental like PTSD. Kyle did a lot of hands-on volunteer work with veterans. He was pretty dedicated towards raising awareness of the challenges that veterans face reintegrating into society and doing what he could to help veterans meet those challenges.

Kyle was supposed to help work security at the Super Bowl but evidently decided to decline that opportunity in order to volunteer with a veteran he didn't know, Eddie Ray Routh, who was suffering from PTSD. The men went to a shooting range. Apparently, at some time on Saturday, Eddie Ray Routh murdered both Chris Kyle as well as a friend of Kyle's, Chad Littlefield. So a man who survived four tours of Iraq and an Iraqi bounty being placed on his head was murdered in the US. Kyle leaves a wife and two small children behind.

Now this isn't the first time this has happened to a combat veteran. And it definitely won't be the last. The news is full of stories where someone survives the war zone abroad only to return home and get murdered. Usually when things like this happen, people murmur words of sympathy and curse the evil person who took the life. But see, Chris Kyle was also something of a conservative who was quite proud of having served his nation in the Armed Forces. He also was not a fan of current gun control proposals or the current Administration. I haven't read his book yet but it's probably a pretty fair bet that Kyle was probably close to if not 180 degrees different from my political beliefs.
So evidently that made it okay for some people to snark or joke about his untimely death.
Whether it was the Mother Jones editor  implying Kyle's death showed we needed more gun control because even SEALS aren't safe, random twitter users calling Kyle a hillbilly liar, saying his death was poetic justice or karma, alternet commenters calling Kyle a "mass murderer","psycho", "serial killer", or Ron Paul saying that "live by the sword die by the sword" there was an unseemly number of people that were eager to denigrate Kyle (and by extension all soldiers) after his death.

I am not a fan of an interventionist foreign policy. I did not and do not support the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But once we're there, we're there. Chris Kyle did not commit war crimes. He killed people in a war zone who were trying to kill him or other Americans. He wasn't sitting in Langley dropping bombs on children and or writing memos claiming the right to kill Americans. He put his life on the line overseas to save soldier's lives. And upon his return he continued to look out for soldiers. He died trying to save a soldier's life. There are American veterans today who are alive because Chris Kyle was watching their backs. You may or may not think that makes him a hero, but there's no way that makes him a bad guy as far as I can see. But even if you do think that Kyle was a bad person for his politics or his attitude, I don't see why someone should crack jokes or make light of his death. Is that where we've come to as a nation? Someone politically opposed to us is murdered and we hurl insults and unfunny jokes? That's disgusting. I have family members who served in Desert Storm. I am very glad they returned safely. Another younger relative is at West Point now. In the unthinkable event of their murder I wouldn't have much nice to say to anyone who implied that their death was somehow karma for their "bad" deeds or politics. Even if you think that our foreign policy is wrong and needs to be radically changed as soon as possible, (and I certainly do) I just don't think you do your argument or yourself any favors by making fun of dead soldiers. Something has gone very wrong in our political culture when someone's death just invites more vitriol. Given time and experience Chris Kyle may have become a modern day Smedley Butler.  Here are some more relevant Butler quotes. Or Kyle may not have changed. Kyle may have stayed most comfortable on the right. Either way he (nor most other human beings) did not deserve to be murdered and then mocked after death. Again, it's not about if you agreed with his politics or not. It's just basic human decency.

One of Kyle's last interviews from January 2013.

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