Heroes and Villains


Wait a minute: was Obama supposed to conduct a seance to contact Chris Kyle after his death? I’m very confused.

Everytime President Obama says something nice about anyone, conservatives will compare the complimentee – unfavorably – to Chris Kyle. I’ve noticed this often enough that I feel the phenomenon deserves a name: the Obama-Kyle Law. If you don’t have conservative friends on Facebook, you might not know who Chris Kyle was. Allow me to enlighten you: Chris Kyle was a sniper in the Navy SEALS; in fact, he has the dubious honor of being the most lethal sniper in American military history. Seriously, this guy was a one-man epidemic. The Iraqi insurgents referred to him as the “Devil of Ramadi” and placed a bounty on his head that eventually amounted to US$80,000.

Chris Kyle and a friend named Chad Littlefield were shot and killed by a deeply troubled fellow veteran – a former marine named Eddie Ray Routh – at a Texas gun range. By all accounts, Routh suffers severely from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has great difficulty distinguishing reality from his own dark, terrible fantasy world. On February 2, 2013, Kyle and Littlefield took Routh to the gun range as a sort of therapy. Routh became convinced that Kyle and Littlefield were trying to kill him, so he struck first. May Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield rest in peace.

The details of Kyle’s life and death are complex, and he was not without flaws. Kyle served his country proudly, and his superiors’ reports were glowing. On the other hand, he made no secret of the fact that he hated his targets. He saw his mission in Iraq as sort of a holy war, and he spoke of the insurgents in terms that, if they had been said by a Muslim about Americans, would have had him branded a terrorist and a jihadist. After his honorable discharge, Kyle made real efforts to help other veterans readjust to civilian life, perhaps driven by his own struggles with PTSD. Then again, he also fabricated wild stories about shooting would-be carjackers in Texas and perching atop the Superdome in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pick off armed citizens who were contributing to the general chaos. None of these stories has been authenticated by local authorities. He has become a historical figure shortly after his own time, and like other historical figures, the fact and the legend have become…muddled.

So is Chris Kyle a hero? I’ll be honest: I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s a thorny question.

It comes as no surprise that the meme’s author does not consider Jason Collins a hero. Jason Collins did not kill 160 insurgents in Iraq. Jason Collins did not dedicate his life to helping veterans. Jason Collins just announced he was gay, which lots of people do all the time…except that Jason Collins is a professional basketball player. He is a high-profile individual, and his announcement is seen as a step toward LGBT acceptance. President Obama recognized that when he congratulated Collins.

I have no idea why President Obama did not mention Chris Kyle after Kyle’s death. Imagine that Obama had issued a declaration of gratitude for Kyle’s service. Imagine that Obama had spoken at length about Kyle’s selfless devotion to his nation, painting Kyle as a Real American Hero. What would the Anti-Obama Club say about Chris Kyle then? My prediction is this: Kyle would be the one on the left side of this meme with his warts exposed for all to see, and some other unsung hero would take Kyle’s place on the right. You see, this meme pulls double duty. Not only does it downplay Jason Collins’ bravery (since nothing associated with homosexuality should be portrayed as heroic in any way), but it gives the Anti-Obama Club yet another reason to gripe about something Obama did (or did not do). What’s not to love?