With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

Reflections of a Group Tour of Memphis’s NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

IMG_5379MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., Strategizing With The President


This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to MLKJr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.



Thanks to friend Meg for her suggestion to write this post.  Meg is one of about a dozen of us UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER folks who toured the world-renown, one-of-a-kind museum, THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.  What follows is  a brief sketch of our experience.  For readers in far-away places who may not be familiar with Memphis, Tennessee history, we are the place in which the gifted and unrelenting  leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought bravely, risking his life time after time to gain equal rights under the law for all races, was assassinated.  In about 1968, Martin led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  He won that fight when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law an assurance that no potential voter could be hindered from registering.  This was a breakthrough, long-overdue, for Blacks who indeed registered and voted out of office White oppressor officials of Selma, and against Alabama Governor George Wallace, who maintained that the status quo was the way folks preferred things to be.  Martin fought further for the dignity of being human and the equality of all people under the Constitution of the United States.  Sadly, his work was divisive, disruptive; James Earl Ray assassinated Martin in Memphis April 4, 1968.  Martin stepped out onto the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel and took a bullet that detonated inside him.  Martin and entourage at the Lorraine were lodging at Mulberry and Huling Streets, perhaps the only hotel admitting Blacks at that time.  The Lorraine is now the site of the world-renown museum, having received millions of dollars from local corporations, after languishing for many years.

The Lorraine Motel is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

The Lorraine Motel of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exuberant.  He was an older African American whose passionate storytelling pulled us into the fray, starting with life-size models of chained slaves brought to the Americas to increase wealth of plantation owners and continuing to the centuries-later burned-out Greyhound Freedom Riders bus.  After touring the room with exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement gaining footing, a footing that was a nonviolent strategy rooted in Mahatma Gandhi’s success in gaining India’s independence from England, we visitors had our attention drawn to Malcolm X, a leader planting the seed of Black entrepreneurial necessity, turning from White institutions, a “Black Power” strategy that did not embrace nonviolence.

Malcolm X Embraced A Different Approach From MLKJr.

Malcolm X Embraced a Different Approach Toward Advancing Blacks That Countered the Nonviolent Peaceful Demonstrations Led By Martin Luther King, Jr.

 The walls of the museum presented us with the rise of and demand for Black arts and literature, termed “Black Is Beautiful.”  This visual art was so engaging that it was easy for me to fall behind the tour group.  Thus I had both a group and a single experience.  The advantages of group touring are obvious: one gains so many details from the storyteller and energy for extensive exhibits requiring hours. Going singly would have the advantage of focusing on a particular slice of the history of African-Americans, from the beginning of slavery in 1691 through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the present.

In Selma, Alabama, Applicants Attempting To Register To Vote Were Humiliated.

Young Protestors Coming Of Age To Vote

SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE FACES

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

Coretta Scott King, Widow  of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

Coretta Scott King, Widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.