There’s a hero’s story sweeping the hearts and minds of America. The legend of a righteous warrior who piled enemy bodies high. A marksman whose heroism saw no equal. The legend of Chris Kyle. A legend that we must crush.
To be honest, I don’t really care either way about Chris Kyle. In my view, he was a hired killer like so many others who have participated in the wars of the last decade or so. He had similar motivations and actions to the thousands of veterans of both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and deserves no special praise or condemnation beyond any normal servicemember.
Yet I feel the need to criticize Chris Kyle’s legacy. Why? Because we can’t.
There are plenty of reasons why we might scrutinize the wars and their moral justifications, including those who carried out these conflicts’ implementation. Raise a disagreement with American hero at large Chris Kyle, however, and face a swift backlash. Not on the issues. Not on the wars. Not on Kyle’s actual record. No, the condemnations offered heretics such as myself concern the basic premise of questioning purported heroes at all. It isn’t being wrong that’s the sin. It’s dissenting. And that’s frightening.
There’s a war cult in place, a cult demanding absolute unquestioning obedience. The power of this cult is evident by just how un-heroic of a person they have been able to deify. Chris Kyle was no Pat Tillman, who left wealth and sports stardom because he believed in the war’s cause, and paid the ultimate price. Kyle admitted to relishing killing, called his opponents inhuman savages, alluded to wishing he could have killed anyone with a Koran, and amassed a considerable body count without the slightest hint of remorse or pain at the horrors of war. What’s more, not content with the accolades afforded to his accomplishments, he spent the years following his deployments building and embellishing his legend, including several proven lies about his extra-military life. And he made bank off of it.
Yet somehow, even after losing a public defamation lawsuit (a rare occurrence) for his lies, the legend lives on, both in cinema and in lore. He was a selfless hero troubled by the horror of war who gave away the profits from his story to charity. Not a merciless, gleeful killer who lied repeatedly to increase his own wealth and legend, and only donated a token 2% of his millions to charity. This is what the war cult does.
And that’s why I speak out against Chris Kyle: because we can’t. Because when certain subjects become too sacred to even mention, they can (and will) be used to cover all sort of injustice and horror. Because when a gleeful killer, and proven self-glorifying slanderer, is touted as the ultimate hero, and we are not allowed to question this status, we have lost the ability to claim the “free country” label.