Once again American Sniper has appeared on too many of my feeds and made me reasonably upset. I am including a Rolling Stone review of the movie, too, because it says a lot of things with which I agree in regards to Hollywood and war movies, generally, as well as being a very well-written piece.
(Short form: war movies suck because in order to turn a war into a film that doesn't make a person crawl out of their skin requires grave offenses to art and sense. But for me, the money shot of the RS review is, "The thing is, it always looks bad when you criticize a soldier for doing what he's told. It's equally dangerous to be seduced by the pathos and drama of the individual solider's experience, because most wars are about something much larger than that, too." I have struggled with his dilemma, myself. War is so terrible that some balancing the horror that many soldiers experience against critiques of war, itself, that I feel are necessary to prevent future wars. The most horrifying thing about this, for me, is that I absolutely know that warmongers use the pains of soldiers as cover for further wars - but dismissing the legitimate pain of human beings isn't something I'm good at. So how does a person talk about the tragedy of war when the people who perpetrate and profit from the misery use the suffering of human beings as a defense . . . to further perpetrate and profit from war? Drives me crazy.
(Blame Kai for this. She encouraged me to ramble on.)
Seth Rogan said, "American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that's showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds", which is a mock Nazi propaganda film. Unlike Michael Moore's comments, this isn't factually in error. It's a person's opinion and, frankly, given both the overt nationalist sentiments of American Sniper's director (anyone else remember Clint speaking to that empty chair?) and the subject matter, I don't find the comparison unlikely.
Craig Morgan took umbrage with Rogan's opinion in one of the most absolutely tedious ways imaginable. In particular, Morgan said, "You are fortunate to enjoy the privilege and freedom of working in and living in the United States, and saying whatever you want (regardless of how ignorant the statement) thanks to people like Chris Kyle who serve in the United States military."
Bullshit. Some assholes in the Middle East do not threaten any rights Americans possess. They are very far away and can attack us in extremely limited ways. To believe otherwise is to engage in conspiracy theory of the strangest magnitude. The last time that the US military actually defended the rights of Americans - the last time they were under actual attack by an enemy - was probably the American Civil War. Arguably World War II, but since neither Nazi Germany or the Empire of Japan had the physical ability to invade the United States so I don't think they actually threatened our freedom. Middle Eastern terrorists obviously threaten the lines of some Americans, but their ability to kill Americans has been made much easier by our invasion of several Middle Eastern countries. Middle Eastern killers now have much more convenient access to Americans, which is why so many have been dying.
Additionally, it is easy to find people who actually do protect American rights, immediately and directly. People like the American Civil Liberties Union. I would, furthermore, argue that an artist as bold as Seth Rogan does a great deal to protect freedom of speech - by using it. One of the things that keeps rights healthy is their exercise. One of the ways laws form and dissolve is through tradition - by keeping the tradition of freedom of speech alive, through its healthy exercise, Seth Rogan is absolutely defending human rights, and more directly than a sniper in the Middle East.
Sentiments of people like Morgan are also corrosive to the very idea of freedom. We do not owe soldiers our freedom. We possess it as a natural right. Read the Declaration of Independence! It is integral to American democracy that the people possess rights, not because they are given, but because they are natural to the dignity of humans. Because if it is true that we "owe" anyone our rights, then they can revoke them, because they own them.
It is that idea - that rights are natural and their exercise is healthy - has done more to expand freedom than all the arms that have ever existed, both here in the United States and all around the world.
Lastly, Morgan said that Rogan's words were insensitive to Chris Kyle and his family. C'mon, dude. You can't have a big budget movie with A-list directors and actors made, to considerable profit, and then use that as an excuse for people not to critique the movie! If you want to live a private life, here's a pro tip: don't have your dead husband's life story made into a movie. By so aggressively putting the story out there, it opens the door to critique. Opens it wide.