There's a fascinating new piece in the New Yorker about Chris Kyle, the decorated Navy SEAL sniper who was tragically killed by a fellow veteran on a Texas shooting range. Kyle, if you recall, was a best-selling author, was on a reality show with Todd Palin (and did a stint as Sarah Palin's bodyguard) and after his death, was mourned as a hero.
That's why revelations that Chris Kyle seemed to be a bigot are quite jarring.
Kyle seemed to consider himself a cross between a lawman and an executioner. His platoon had spray-painted the image of the Punisher—a Marvel Comics character who wages “a one-man war upon crime”—on their flak jackets and helmets. Kyle made a point of ignoring the military dress code, cutting the sleeves off shirts and wearing baseball caps instead of a helmet. (“Ninety per cent of being cool is looking cool,” he wrote.) Like many soldiers, Kyle was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He tattooed one of his arms with a red crusader’s cross, wanting “everyone to know I was a Christian.” When he learned that insurgents had placed a bounty on his head and had named him al-Shaitan Ramadi—the Devil of Ramadi—he felt “proud.” He “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. In his book, he recounts telling an Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”
Let's pause for a second, and imagine if Chris Kyle were a Muslim named Ali Muhammed, talking about Christians.
Like many soldiers, Muhammed was deeply religious and saw the Iraq War through that prism. He wore an Islamic star and crescent, wanting “everyone to know I was a Muslim.” ... He “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. In his book, he recounts telling a friend, “I don’t shoot people with bibles. I’d like to, but I don’t.”
Wouldn't the right call this person a "jihadist" or a "terrorist"? And doesn't this undermine the common refrain we hear from conservatives about the inherent war-like nature of Islam?
But here's the bigger problem.
The archetypal American hero doesn't like to kill--he's forced into it by circumstances beyond his control. Think Gary Cooper in High Noon or Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. Our heroes also don't hate people because of their race or religion, which is inherently un-American.
If Chris Kyle truly believed he was fighting the Crusades, and killed out of "hate" -- he wasn't fighting for the America I grew up in.