By Stephen G. Lakis
President, State Legislative Leaders Foundation
While in Austin, Texas, recently I had an opportunity to see the movie American Sniper. I wanted to see the movie because I have a high regard for Bradley Cooper’s acting skills and Clint Eastwood is the best at these types of gritty stories.
The movie was exceptional. Maybe the best movie I have seen in years and certainly the most definitive movie about our wars in the Middle East.
Before going to the show, I was telling friends how excited I was to be going. I was met with nodding smiles from just about everyone who also said they could not wait to see it.
Then something funny happened.
One of my friends who happens to be a very conservative Republican, commented that he had heard Sniper was a great movie and shows how great the USA is. He quickly added, “even though some people refuse to see us that way.” Hmm. Okay, I thought, so Sniper seems to have some political drift to it. Hadn’t thought of that. Then, as these things go, I started to be more alert to other comments. One newspaper went so far as to point out that American Sniper was dividing us (as if we needed something else to divide us!) between those who were for the war in Iraq and those who have opposed it. It seems that for many going to this movie is akin to displaying an “ I support the troops” bumper sticker. (For the record, I support the troops but sport no bumper sticker.)
Then to really top it off, I was watching Bill Maher on TV and he and his panel of liberals and conservatives got into a discussion of American Sniper. I figured for sure Bill would see that this wasn’t a political movie and, like me, he would portray it as a move about soldiers and all the horrors they go through. I was so wrong.
Bill was outraged by Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the sniper as a hero. He went on a rant about the movie and he was joined by former Governor John Dean, who observed that mostly Tea Party members would go to this movie and there’s a lot of pent up hate in us. (Again, for the record, I am not a member of the Tea Party and I don’t have a lot of pent up hate in me, save for the Seattle Seahawks, but that’s more dislike than hate!) The only rational voice on the panel was the conservative commentator who defended the movie for the same reasons I defended it.
Both sides fighting over whose politics is right when, in fact, there’s NO politics in this movie unless, of course, people choose to insert their own political agendas into the story and then make that the point of the story.
For me and I’m sure for many others, this movie is not about a war hero or a “conservative or liberal” cause to be reviled by each side. This is a human story about a soldier and the inseparable bonds that form between soldiers in harm’s way. It was about what happens when we send these men and women to do very unnatural things and how it affects them.
This movie is an awakening of sorts; a call for all of us to understand what PTSD really means. When we say, “We support our troops,” it should mean we support them all the way, from the battlefields in God forsaken deserts to their final return to home, because for these men and women, who bear the scars of battle forever, the fight often never ends.
Those who would politicize this movie for their own selfish gains, shame on them. This movie is bigger than that. This movie is bigger than Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. This is a very human story that should stir our souls to the needs of our fellow citizens who fight our fights and die for our country. This should be a movie that brings us together, not pushes us further apart.