Everything about Chris Kyle may not scream, “hero,” but he is deserving of much of the praise he’s receiving.
Audiences are lining up to see the film, “American Sniper,” but many are protesting that Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history, is undeserving of the acclaim. Kyle, the Navy Seal immortalized in an autobiography and the film, wasn’t a perfect hero.
It’s unfortunate “American Sniper” has become a political cause. Film critics and political hacks say the film and its subject show a limited view of war. They say Kyle is a liar or at the very least, an exaggerator, who relished killing.
And in some regards the critics may be correct. Former Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former Navy Seal himself, successfully sued Kyle and his book publisher Harper Collins over a passage in his book that Ventura said never happened.
Kyle wrote he punched Ventura out in a California bar in 2006. The passage was removed from the book. The court awarded Ventura $1.8 million, but Kyle’s estate is appealing the judgment.
In Ventura’s mind, Kyle is no hero.
“A hero must be honorable, must have honor,” Ventura told The Associated Press. “And you can't have honor if you're a liar. There is no honor in lying.”
Kyle, it appears, wasn’t perfect. News flash: None of our heroes are.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement to end segregation. He did so peacefully and with grace, but he wasn’t immune to temptation. Civil rights leader the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a man who worked closely with King, wrote in his own 1989 autobiography that the married King, had a “weakness for women.”
Appropriately, we cast aside that character flaw when we remember King on a day named in his honor each January.
For decades, former Penn State University football Coach Joe Paterno was hailed as a hero. The winningest coach in college football history, Paterno’s Nittany Lion teams also boasted one of the highest graduation rates in Division I football.
And then fans learned Paterno had all but looked the other way when he learned that his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, had sexually abused children. According to the grand jury report, Paterno said he had heard Sandusky had “fondled” a child in the Penn State locker room showers. Sandusky was fired, but Paterno did not contact law enforcement on the matter.
Paterno’s fall from public grace was swift and severe. Penn State fired him. His name was removed from buildings. The NCAA vacated 111 of his wins, and he died two months after the scandal broke. Paterno’s wins were reinstated last month.
Name a greatly admired human, and I can find a million flaws. Blind hero worship of fallible humans is unwise, but recognizing and admiring the good in others is a worthy endeavor, one I’m glad Clint Eastwood immortalized in his film on Kyle.
What you think of the global war on terrorism is not relevant. I think Kyle understood this.
Before his death, he told a Dallas magazine: “If you hate the war, that’s fine. But you should still support the troops. They don’t get to pick where they’re deployed. They just gave the American people a blank check for anything up to and including the value of their lives, and the least everyone else can do is be thankful.”
Kyle deserves praise for one simple reason — he was willing to lay down his life to fight for his country. Time is our most precious commodity — you can always make more money, but you can’t manufacture extra time. Kyle, like all service members, sacrificed time with his family to serve in the U.S. military.
In the whole of all humanity, only one man, Jesus Christ, had a perfect ledger. The rest of us can only aspire to a final balance sheet that shows more good than bad.
There’s a reason we try not to speak ill of the dead. It has something to do with that life ledger.
We want to remember the good in people and forget the bad. The stupid thing is that we often don’t put that into practice for the living by forgiving one another the small grievances of every day life.
And that’s a shame.
Freelance columnist Danedri Herbert writes in this space once a month.