At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Questions For the Hero Worshippers of “the American Sniper”

posted by Jack Kerwick

Chris Kyle, the “American Sniper” who Clint Eastwood has immortalized in his latest blockbuster film, is widely being heralded by die-hard Iraq War supporters—i.e. neoconservative Republicans—as an unqualified “war hero.”  Some thoughts:

(1)Given that we ordinarily reserve the distinction of war hero only for those whose cause we value or share, Kyle is a war hero only if his cause was just.  Were German and Japanese soldiers in World War II war heroes?  After all, they too were fighting and dying for the sake of their respective countries?  But if, in spite of putting their lives on the line for a cause greater than themselves, these soldiers are not to be regarded as war heroes because that cause was unjust, then neither is Kyle to be regarded as a war hero—if the American cause in Iraq was unjust. 

And yet this is precisely what’s in question: Was the Iraq War just?

(2)That Kyle killed some evil people is beyond dispute.  But even if every single person of his 160 or so confirmed kills was evil to the core—they may very well have been—and even if, as I have no doubt, Kyle saved the lives of many of his comrades-in-arms, this still wouldn’t warrant celebrating him as a war hero.

Those media pundits on Fox News and on “conservative” talk radio who champion Kyle as a “war hero” don’t mean simply that he wasted bad guys and had other soldiers’ backs.  And they admit as much: Kyle was a war hero because he did all of this to protect our freedoms.

In other words, those singing hosannas to Kyle are to a man and woman the Iraq War’s staunchest defenders. By praising Kyle as a “war hero,” a soldier who did as much as anyone to “defend our freedoms,” their implication is clear: the Iraq War wasn’t just a just war; it was necessary in order to, well, protect American freedoms.

(3)We need heroes, but hero-worship—and that’s exactly what we witness in this case with the Iraq War’s staunch defenders and their obsession with Kyle—can be dangerous.  That this is hero worship can be gotten easily enough by the refusal of the worshippers (idolaters?) to engage in civil discourse with anyone who doesn’t share their own estimation of Kyle.  Anyone who doesn’t extol Kyle’s virtues as a great American patriot and war hero is dismissed, usually angrily, as an ingrate, a coward, or even anti-American.

This is bad.

(4)And this is bad because Kyle cast his own character, and his own motives for promoting himself as “the most lethal sniper in American military history,” into question.

Kyle, you see, told some brazen lies.

Upon his return to the states, Kyle said that he killed two would-be carjackers at a gas station in Texas.  However, attempts to verify this with the local police have proven as fruitless as attempts to verify Kyle’s claim that he was hired to shoot—and, in fact, did shoot—(some 30 or so) armed rioters in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Both stories have been discredited by sheriffs and military personnel.

Yet it was Kyle’s claim regarding his confrontation with Jesse Ventura that was verified—or should we say, falsified. 

Contrary to what some Kyle worshippers would have us think, one needn’t be a fan of Jesse Ventura—and I certainly am not—to face the fact and embrace the truth that Chris Kyle lied about knocking out Ventura in a bar, and he lied  about Ventura loudly expressing his desire for the deaths of more American soldiers in Iraq.

Those in the “conservative” media who deny this are guilty of intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy.  Mike Gallagher is one host who really ought to know better.  When the Eric Garner jury decided against indicting the officer in question, Gallagher rightly took to task those who pretended to know more than the grand jurors who spent months canvassing exponentially more evidence than anything to which the rest of us were privy.

But a jury of ten people spent considerable time evaluating Ventura’s claim that he was defamed by Kyle.  In spite of the enormous bar that Ventura—a public figure—had to hurdle in convincing the jurors that Kyle had “actual malice,” i.e. that he knew that what he alleged was false and/or that he acted in “reckless disregard” for the falsity of his allegations, Ventura ducked the odds and did it.

The jury awarded him 1.8 million dollars in damages: $500,000 dollars for “defamation” and the remainder for “unjust enrichment” (Kyle, it was determined, monetarily benefitted from defaming Ventura).

Kyle, here, acted neither honorably nor honestly.

None of this, of course, is meant to suggest that Kyle didn’t act heroically while defending his fellow soldiers.  Much less is it meant to suggest, as some self-styled deep thinkers in some quarters would have us think, that Kyle was nothing but a liar and, worse, a “psychopath.”

Yet the man, who was doubtless damaged by both his own actions as well as the horrors that he witnessed in war, was flawed.

The Kyle worshippers—the Iraq War’s strident supporters—shouldn’t pretend that this isn’t true, let alone significant, for in doing so, they reveal themselves to be dishonest, self-interested ideologues.

 

 

 

 

 

Muslim-on-Christian Persecution Around the World

posted by Jack Kerwick

Since at least the time of the outset of the Iraq War—and quite possibly well before then—there has been much debate among those to the right over why Islamic militants have set their sights upon America and the West.

George W. Bush expressed the consensus among most Republican politicians and commentators when he remarked that they hate us because of our values.

Ron Paul, in contrast, represents most libertarians when he attributes to America’s enemies a hatred of, not American liberties, but American foreign policy. 

Both groups are both right and wrong.  For failing to see this, they argue past one another.

Paul, Pat Buchanan, and others are indeed correct when they note that jihadists in places like Iraq and other Middle Eastern lands despise America because of what has been called an “interventionist” foreign policy.  Yet they are mistaken—sorely mistaken—insofar as they assume that if only America disappeared from the Islamic world, so too would our problems with Islamic violence disappear 

Republicans too are correct in charging jihadists with despising American and Western values.  But they are incorrect inasmuch as they imply that Islamic militants have a problem with liberty, equality, etc. as such.   In other words, they are incorrect insofar as they imply that it is the specific content of these value that elicit the homicidal ire of jihadists.

The latter certainly do hate our values.  But that’s only because they are our values—and not theirs.

In short, they hate our values because they are not Islamic values.

And this gets to the heart of the matter: the “Bush” and “Paul” camps argue past one another because both fail to reckon with the role played by Islam—not “Islamism,” “Islamo-Fascism,” “Islamo-Nazism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamic extremism,” or some other politically acceptable fiction, but Islam—in these violent clashes with Muslims.

Muslims around the world routinely engage in unspeakable acts of cruelty toward their neighbors in contexts that obviously have nothing whatsoever to do with American values, American foreign policy, or, for that matter, America.

The fierce persecution of Christians courtesy of their Muslim neighbors is an epidemic—and yet it is among the least talked about forms of contemporary oppression.  In Nigeria, for instance, the persecution is “extreme,” according to Open Doors, an organization dedicated to combating anti-Christian persecution.  There are 183 million Nigerians, of which 89 million are Christian.  Yet Boko Haram—an Islamic militant outfit—has rendered peaceful co-existence impossible. In northeastern Nigeria, Muslims have declared a caliphate.  Hundreds of children, boys and girls, as well as women have been abducted, and thousands more have been rendered homeless upon the destruction of their homes.  In the twelve northern Sharia states, Christians have been all but squeezed out.

Oliver Dashe Doeme of Maiduguri, a bishop and the head of a diocese in northeastern Nigeria, gave an interview with Catholic On-Line.  He relays how over the last five years, Muslims have all but reduced his diocese to ashes. Over 50 churches and chapel have been ruined, and hundreds have been abandoned.  Worse of all, more than 1,000 Catholics have been murdered. 

The Bishop reports that Catholics are forced at gun-point or knife-point to convert to Islam.  If they fail to do so, they are slaughtered.

For the sake of saving the lives of Christians, not just in Nigeria, but in the region, he pleads with “Western powers” to intervene.  Only something of a military onslaught against Boko Haram can stop it, he believes.

But it isn’t just the Christians of Nigeria that agonize at the hands of Muslims.  Nigerians have it bad: according to Open Doors, out of 50 countries worldwide, Nigeria is the tenth worse place for Christians.  And it’s true that Muslims aren’t the only persecutors of Christians.  But in 40 of the Earth’s 50 countries where Christians are made to suffer because of their faith, Muslims are the culprits.

Open Doors evaluates global persecution of Christians in terms of degrees.  The worst is “extreme persecution.” Eleven countries are named here.  In 10 of these, the persecutors are Islamic.  The second worst type of Christian persecution is “severe persecution.”  In 11 of 14 countries, the culprits are Islamic.  Next there is “moderate persecution.” In 10 of 14 countries, those responsible for the persecution are largely Islamic.  Finally, there is “sparse persecution.”  In nine of 11 countries, Muslims engage in the persecution of Christians.

In none of these instances of Islamic violence and oppression does “American values” or American foreign policy play a role.

Islam, however, most certainly does.

 

The American Sniper: A Symbol for All Ideologues

posted by Jack Kerwick

With all of the talk of Chris Kyle, the subject of Clint Eastwood’s latest blockbuster film, American Sniper, a politically naïve spectator could be forgiven for thinking that it really is Chris Kyle of whom people are talking.

But he would be mistaken all of the same.

The person Chris Kyle is of little to no interest to media commentators.  Rather, and as always, it is their own ideological fixations that preoccupy these partisans—and Kyle, courtesy of Eastwood’s efforts, has become a symbol, a prop, for their purposes.

The late Kyle was a Navy SEAL who served four tours of duty in Iraq as a sniper with more confirmed killings—160—than anyone on record.  When he finally returned to the States, Harper Collins published his memoir: American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American Military History. 

Neoconservative Republicans—i.e. those who ardently supported, and who continue to support, the invasion of Iraq and the decade-long enterprise to democratize it—have fallen in love with this film.  It is not hard to understand why they have every interest in canonizing Kyle.

The vast majority of Americans have long held that the war in Iraq was a mistake of epic proportions—a belief that they expressed in no uncertain terms in the elections of ’06 and ’08.  Today, Iraq is substantially more of a mess than it was at the time of the invasion in ’03.  For now, we needn’t debate why this is so; it is so, and everyone knows it.

But in promoting and convincing legions of enthusiastic movie goers that Kyle is this generation’s version of General Washington and Audie Murphy, that he is a war hero extraordinaire who risked his life in Iraq so that we can be free, the war’s supporters can hope to persuade Americans that Iraq wasn’t only a just cause; it was a necessary one: No Iraq War, no more American freedom.

American Sniper supplies the Iraq War’s supporters with one more opportunity to redeem themselves or, more exactly, the ideology that motivated and justified the project in Iraq.

This, in turn, also explains why neoconservative Republicans tolerate no criticism of Kyle—even when these criticisms are both sound and revealing of the man’s character flaws.

Yet it isn’t just the champions of the Iraq War for whom Kyle serves as an ideological symbol.  He has just as much symbolic significance for the war’s critics.

Those “libertarians” who tirelessly decry America’s robust “interventionist” foreign policy generally and the wars that this often entails especially reserve nothing but the severest comments for Kyle. The latter they’ve characterized as a “psychopath,” a “sociopath,” a “liar,” and, of course, a “murderer.”  And for good measure, upon quoting Kyle’s own derogatory remarks on Iraqis to the effect that they are “savages,” these “libertarians” insinuate that he is a “racist” or bigot, etc.

However, in blasting Kyle, it is crucial to grasp, it is ultimately the ideology and policy prescriptions of their political rivals who they attack.

Finally, for those on the recognizable left, Kyle has become the most potent of symbols, the single greatest threat to their agenda to “fundamentally transform” both America and the West.

It isn’t, of course, just that Kyle represents, or can be seen as representing, a vindication of the war that they (eventually) inveighed against. It is much more than this:

Chris Kyle was white. He was heterosexual—(with a wife and children to boot!).  Kyle was a professing Christian. And—get ready for it—he was a Southerner!

But it gets even worse for the left.

Kyle wasn’t just from any old Southern state: He was a resident of Texas, quite possibly the most conservative state in the Union.

So, at this moment, massive numbers of Americans, most of whom are white themselves, are heralding as a hero a white, heterosexual, Christian, Southern, married Texan man.  And they are praising him as a hero even though his heroism was earned while shooting and killing Third World, non-white Muslims.

Wow.

To add injury to injury, as American Sniper becomes all of the rage, on this 50th anniversary of Selma, the film of this same title fizzled before it even got started.

Indeed, the real Chris Kyle is gone in more ways than one.  He is, for the moment, at any rate, a symbol for all partisans.

The Charlie Hebdo Attack and American Political Correctness

posted by Jack Kerwick

The attack on Charlie Hebdo has had the predictable effect of uniting Western politicians and media personalities from across the political spectrum in an orgy of self-aggrandizement—which is to say an orgy of self-delusion.

First, Charlie Hebdo is hardly the beacon of liberty that it is being made out to be.  Though concerned to insure that its speech was “free,” Charlie Hebdo is a leftist rag that is about as interested in protecting the speech of those to its right as is any other leftist socialist organization.

And we need no reminders of just how concerned “progressives” everywhere are to defend free speech: Courtesy of left-wing “progressives” in the vein of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, “hate speech” laws are legion throughout the “democracies” of the contemporary Western world—nowhere more so than in France.

Second, had this attack occurred against a Tea Party rally, a rightist European party, a “white nationalist” or an Islamic “watch” publication, would the whole Western world right now be identifying with the object of the attack?  I’d like to think so, but I’m doubtful.

Third, to be sure, we in the West must either hang together or hang separately, to borrow Franklin’s phrase.  Still, the truth of the matter is that the Charlie Hebdo massacre was not so much an attack on some abstract principle of free speech as it was an attack against the left’s worldview.  The symbolism here is rich.

(a)As was mentioned, Charlie Hebdo is a militantly secularist, incorrigibly anti-religious, socialist publication that has regularly mocked, not just all religions, but their rightist rivals who have been sounding the alarm for decades over France’s Islamic-friendly immigration policies and the nation-corroding Political Correctness that these policies both reflect and perpetuate.

Yet it was this expression of leftism, not the French Right, on which Islamic murderers set their sights.

(b)Muslims launched this murderous assault in Paris, France—a place that, from at least the time of the French Revolution, has been about as eligible a candidate for capital of the “progressive” world as any, a bastion of “enlightened”—i.e. leftist, “social-democratic”—thought.

France, at least in the popular imagination, is the embodiment of leftist ideology.  And yet pluralistic, multi-cultural, egalitarian France now finds itself under siege by just that subset of its population that is the creation of its own dogma. In a nutshell, here’s how it works: The champions of Equality—which, today, almost invariably assumes the form of “anti-racism”—blind themselves to the (not infrequently staggering) cultural differences between racial, ethnic, and religious groups in order to justify “inclusionary” national polices that essentially welcome, not the world as such, but the non-white, non-European, non-Christian world. However, though leftists refuse to recognize it, their ideals are not universal; they are specific to a Western or European civilization to which the immigrants whom they accommodate in the name of these ideals have little to no interest in assimilating.  In fact, a not inconsiderable number of these foreign peoples hold Equality, Multiculturalism, and the like in contempt.

To put it another way, the attack on Charlie Hebdo exposed the internal, the fatal, contradictions of leftist, “progressive” ideology.

Finally, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: Who is this “we” that is supposed to value freedom of speech?  In America, tragically, both “liberals” and “conservatives,” “the left” and “the right,” all too often reveal the extent to which they fear tipping Politically Correct sacred cows.

For instance, how many of our champions of free speech, whether they are on Fox News, “conservative” talk radio, NPR, or at The New York Times would be willing to allow satire regarding, say, Martin Luther King?  Imagine that some brave (or possibly suicidal?) cartoonist ridiculed Dr. King for having plagiarized his doctoral dissertation, or for his pathological infidelity?  Mainstream “conservatives” no less than “liberals” don’t permit such topics to be addressed in serious venues.  The outcry from the former would be just as deafening as that of the latter regardless of the genre in which King was critiqued.

There would be a fierce competition to see who could decry “racism” most loudly.  And in the event that those in the GOP-friendly press would argue in favor of freedom of speech, you can bet your mortgage that the argument would all but disappear under the mountain of assurances with which the person would qualify it, assurances that he or she finds the controversial material just as “reprehensible” or “racist” as everyone else.

Immigration is another issue.  Because the topic of immigration today is practically synonymous with Hispanic, i.e. non-white, immigration, even those, like Sean Hannity, who argue against illegal immigration are always quick to establish their “anti-racist” bona fides by qualifying their position by a gazillion assurances that they are all in favor of legal immigration.  And it doesn’t matter where the immigrants hail from or how many want to come to America, for as long as they do so legally, so goes this line of reasoning, it is just fine.

As some have suggested, the Charlie Hepdo attack is a “teachable moment.”  Let’s hope that Americans generally, and “the conservative movement” in particular, have gleaned the right lessons from it.

 

Previous Posts

Questions For the Hero Worshippers of "the American Sniper"
Chris Kyle, the “American Sniper” who Clint Eastwood has immortalized in his latest blockbuster film, is widely being heralded by die-hard Iraq War supporters—i.e. neoconservative Republicans—as an unqualified “war hero.”  Some thoughts: (1)Given that we ordinarily reserve the distin

posted 10:31:02pm Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Muslim-on-Christian Persecution Around the World
Since at least the time of the outset of the Iraq War—and quite possibly well before then—there has been much debate among those to the right over why Islamic militants have set their sights upon America and the West. George W. Bush expressed the consensus among most Republican politicians an

posted 9:29:57pm Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

The American Sniper: A Symbol for All Ideologues
With all of the talk of Chris Kyle, the subject of Clint Eastwood’s latest blockbuster film, American Sniper, a politically naïve spectator could be forgiven for thinking that it really is Chris Kyle of whom people are talking. But he would be mistaken all of the same. The person Chris Kyle

posted 10:43:02am Jan. 23, 2015 | read full post »

The Charlie Hebdo Attack and American Political Correctness
The attack on Charlie Hebdo has had the predictable effect of uniting Western politicians and media personalities from across the political spectrum in an orgy of self-aggrandizement—which is to say an orgy of self-delusion. First, Charlie Hebdo is hardly the beacon of liberty that it is being

posted 9:35:39am Jan. 12, 2015 | read full post »

More American, and "Conservative," Hypocrisy on France
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Mt. 7:5). Listening to the American media coverage—particularly the coverage of those in the “alternative media”—of the latest outburst of Islamic mas

posted 10:59:33am Jan. 09, 2015 | read full post »


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