American Sniper. And what it was about.

OK. So I saw American Sniper. Not that anyone cares, but here’s my take.

Given it’s context and for what it is supposed to be, it was an excellent film.

And here’s the context: it was a biopic of top notch American sniper who did his job bravely and efficiently. It shows the challenges he went through, the horrors of urban warfare, the toll the war took on him and his family, the brutal effects of how our and the insurgents’ actions took on the innocent local population, and a cultural mentality that I may not fully share but accept.

That’s it. That’s what it’s about. It glorifies the warrior – perhaps a bit too much at times – but nevertheless ends up being antiwar. It’s not a political movie, although because it is based upon an actual individual, it allows for his political thoughts to be presented. It’s not anti-Muslim, nor is it anti-Arab. It’s not about WMDs, votes in Congress, “Mission Accomplished”, Abu Graib, or neoconservatives. It is about what Bradley Cooper says it’s about: “For me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier.”

Again…that’s it. That’s what it’s about.

The film effectively portrays Kyle’s devotion to his fellow soldiers. It shows the struggles they endure in a hostile environment. Yeah, I know. We helped create the environment and tore that country up.  We can’t fully blame the resistance. I know. I get that. But again, that’s not what the film is about. It shows the struggles his wife had seeing him go off to war again and again. It shows Kyle’s political mentality. Whether one agrees with him or not is less important than the fact that he, as an individual, is going to have a political mentality…and the movie is about him.

If you start understanding this, and understand that the movie is not about what you may want it to be, then maybe you will appreciate the film a bit more.

The objections I see are largely political…people on the left objecting to what they feel should have been in the film…some sort of political statement that shows what we were doing was somehow wrong. To me, I think the film DOES do that to an extent. But the point is, once again, THAT’S NOT THE FOCUS OF THE FILM. It shows at least three scenes in which – if one keeps an open mind – how the whole war affected families. And, yes, it can partially reduce our “enemies” to being “savages”. But take note: many were. And two points to that. One is that the use of that word isn’t really a big deal to me. That’s because I’m smart enough to know that people on any side in any war characterize their opponents that way. It doesn’t make it right. But it lessens the importance of warriors labeling their opponents in certain ways. The second point is that, yes, our warriors are savages as well. They are trained to kill. They end up doing horrible things. Intentionally and unintentionally. That’s war.

I look at the political criticism of the film as I did with the political criticism of the 1987 film “Hanoi Hilton”. Bitter commentary spewing out from some leftist self-appointed and self-important critics who hated the film because, as one said, “it’s on the wrong side of history”.

I understand that the film went “easy” on it’s portrayal of Chris Kyle’s harsher side. Fair enough. He’s probably someone who I’d often disagree with politically. Often strongly so.

But I came away from the film believing that Chris Kyle, while being a flawed individual (who isn’t?), performed heroically in what he was supposed to do…in a fucked up environment that was not of his doing for a cause and a war that I disagreed with.

I’d see it again.


On Ferguson and what I don’t know

Like many, I’ve gotten caught up in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  Regardless of whom is at fault, it’s a tragedy.

One of the things that disappoints me the most is the absolute close mindedness of many who have been following it. It is insane.  I challenged a bunch of people on an online forum on Facebook as to what they would do if they were proven wrong in their beliefs.  Barely anyone could answer.  They HAD to counter the concept that they may be wrong.

That’s weak.  That’s pathetic.  Especially since none of the people commenting were actually there in Ferguson that day.

As far as I’m concerned, I have no idea what actually happened. My “hunch” had always been that the shooting was unjustified. Why do I feel this way? Because all of the initial witnesses came out saying that Brown had run away from the cop car and then turned around and put his hands up but didn’t rush at the cop. I have no reason to think they’re lying.

I realize the the cops said that they had witnesses – black witnesses who lived there who testified otherwise. And that these witnesses didn’t want to come out public for fear of retaliation. But that info came out later, after the several witnesses came out saying that Brown had effectively surrendered. I understand these witnesses fears.

By then, I figured that regardless of whether or not Brown had actually reached for the gun in the policeman’s cruiser, that particular event changed the whole scenario. Scary shit indeed. My thoughts are perhaps both Brown and Wilson freaked out, with Brown starting to run away. Wilson gets out of his cruiser and points the gun as Brown turns around, maybe slightly moving toward Wilson. But not rushing at Wilson – because there were a bunch of witnesses who said he did not rush at Wilson. The cop, both furious and scared, shoots Brown, not knowing what Brown is going to do next.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I have an open mind. Either way, I think it’s tragic.

After the incident, I soon saw all of these (somewhat racist?) insinuations about Brown regarding his rap lyrics and or pictures of him giving the middle finger…all of which had nothing to do with his death. The only legitimate part may be to counter those who were trying to position him as a wonderful sweet young man.

It’s possible he was neither a sweet young man or an actual thug.

Now I see ridiculous stuff like articles posted by shrill leftists saying that Wilson was in the KKK.

What I will say is this:

You’ve got people on the left and you’ve got people on the right who have already made up their mind as to what has happened. They will only believe stories that back up their views. They will read obviously biased publications that have obviously biased articles. They will disregard well researched info that contradicts what they believe.

I see conservative types who say they fear the government automatically siding with the cops…and saying nothing about the initial show of force when the police used military vehicles and equipment. Or they have no problem with the police enforced “no fly zones” that the police themselves said that was imposed to prevent media coverage. Hypocrites.

I see liberal types who have already convicted of Officer Wilson of first degree murder and are almost willing to give him the fate so many black men have met through our nation’s history – a lynching.

In the meantime, I mourn for the loss of an eighteen year old.

That’s where I stand.

My friend, homeless no more…?

Apparently, my homeless friend is in the process of getting a place to live.  The place he found is near the college he wants to start taking classes at.

The amazing thing is that it took someone (me) to simply say to him that his situation is unacceptable – for him.  For six months, he accepted being homeless for reasons I don’t understand.

Maybe sometimes people get so use to accepting a negative fate that they don’t see that that same fate is something that can be overcome.

Maybe some thing that to challenge and fail to change that fate will result in a worse condition than the unacceptable present.  I don’t know.

Either way, I’m glad I was their for him.

So many are hurting, so many aren’t caring…

In my previous post, I talked of how I know someone who is homeless.  He’s a co-worker that I’m determined to help.  And it got me to thinking…

Each of us go through our private hells.  Whether it’s large or small, a sudden crisis or a long term issue, we all have to deall with tremendous difficulties from time to time.

It could be our health, or a concern about a loved one, a financial problem, a romantic relationship in trouble.  It could be something internal.  A crisis of confidence, a realization and acceptance of a long term or even permanent condition.  It could be based on something that can’t be reversed.

Right now I know someone who recently had a foot amputated because of diabetes, I know of a woman who had lupus and can’t find a job, I know of another woman whose mother as cancer, and I know a single mom of two kids who can’t make ends meet because her ex-husband is a deadbeat.

I got to wondering…why is it that so many of us almost willingly show no concern for our fellow man?  Meaning in general…many of us may show some sympathy to specific individuals who are struggling with life.

Is it because we’ve seen an overall breakdown of family that makes us less caring of our communities?

Is it because we’ve become to self-absorbed with trying to “get ahead” that we fail to take time to see deeper meanings in life?

Is it because we’ve used up some sort of sympathy quota that we have and wish to not spend any more time on it?

Is it because we want to stigmatize those that are struggling in order to position them as being “different” from us in order to reassure ourselves that we would never find ourselves in their position?

Is it because, for some, showing concern makes us appear to be weak?

I dunno…but I figure with all of the problems out there, one would thing that there would be a greater “brotherhood of man”.

Just sayin’.

One person’s plight…

A couple of nights ago I got in a conversation with a guy I know. He told me that he felt that he could put his trust me. We’re not really friends…co-workers for the most part.

He’s 43, Vietnamese American, about 5’2″ tall. He’s an extremely hard worker, one of the hardest I’ve ever met. Very professional. Very conscientious.

His personality – and his appearance – is similar to that of the minions in the movie “Despicable Me”. Tiny, determined, always willing to please. He’s the type of person that others will find somewhat hilarious…in an affectionate way. At his previous job, his nickname was – to no surprise – “Turbo”. He’s the type of person that most women would describe as being “cute”…most men may subconscioulsly think that as well, although we don’t use that word.

Last night he told me he was homeless. He’s been homeless since last August.

It’s been subfreezing here for about ten days now.

His biggest dream has been to get a four year degree in biology. I’m not sure why as I don’t know if he is looking to do something in related fields. I get the sense, at the very least, that it’s actual concept of having that degree. He’s determined to get it. It aches at him because he doesn’t feel complete. And I think that the reason that it aches him so much is because he’s lost both parents (something he often mentions) and he sees a degree as a way of fulfilling his own dream…a dream made possible through the sacrifices that his parents made by emigrating here years ago.

So each night, around midnight, he pulls into a covered parking lot of a gym, pulls out his sleeping bag that he says is made for temperatures that can get to -20 F and hopefully gets some sleep. He can shower in the gym because he’s a member…the monthly fee of $49 provides him this opportunity and is a de facto paying of rent. He’s got his rice cooker in his car. He still has his dream, but he has this fear that it’s slipping away.

And I’m the only one who knows this.

Shanty Irish, Swamp Yankee, and some things are better left unsaid

When I was a young lad growing up I developed a keen interest in my ethnicity.  Rhode Island is one of those areas of America where people can maintain their ethnic character and culture while carry with it a sense of pride, all the while treating others of different ethnic backgrounds as family.

I was quite often told I was “mostly Irish with some Swamp Yankee and a bit of Scottish”.  So I’ve always felt a certain sense of pride in this.

The shanty Irish were those early poor immigrants that came over during the potato famine and settled into the great cities of the Northeast and Midwest, changing the cultural face of America permanently.  Likely, I would hazard a guess, the same way Latinos are changing American these days.

Swamp Yankees were considered to be hard-working industrious rural folk, honest to the core.  Plainspoken, thrifty, and uncomplicated.

So tonight, after chatting on Facebook with a women who knew my parents, I decided to Google “shanty Irish” and “Swamp Yankee”.  Here’s what I came up with…

For the Shanty Irish, it was

“poor or disreputable People of Irish decent”
“also known as brick-throwing Irish””Irish descended people who live in filthy dwelling slums. They have a culture that consists of getting drunk until the room spins, surviving off of T.V. dinners,and counting their freckles”
Then a quote to describe them…
“Regular hooligans in their neighborhood bar…They smell like old baloney.”

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!!  What horseshit I thought…who writes this stuff??

I then began to think back of the stories that I heard about my great-grandfather’s drinking exploits, along with that fact that his brother was banned from the city of Providence for some reason.  How do you get banned from an entire city?

I then realized that those stories that I was told about my great-grandfather – that he spent half his money on booze, the his family (with eleven kids) were so poor that t hey had, um, baloney sandwiches for Christmas, that my own grandfather had to quit school after four grade to help support the family, that it was quite clear that there were many freckles counted at the Trenn household 100 years ago.

So I then looked up the term “Swamp Yankee”.  Here ya go

“New England trailer trash or northern redneck.”
“Someone whose family has been in America for generations (several of which may actually reside together) but has never gotten off the ground, couch, or smack long enough to build a functional family or become a redeeming member of society.”
Followed by a quote to describe them…
“I immediately noticed the unmistakable scent of pot after the Swamp Yankee drove by me in his rusty Dodge Monaco with a rotting muffler.”

Couldn’t get any worse.  We smell like pot and baloney.

I’m still proud though.  🙂

A sort of accurate political poll of me

So I took this online test from Time Magazine to measure my political leanings on a conservative/liberal basis.  I’ve always considered myself to be a centrist and this test confirms that.

I’m 43% conservative, 57% liberal.

Where I lean liberal, I:
– have a messy desk
– think self-expression trumps self-control
– like fusion cuisine
– think government should treat the lives of its citizens as equal to those of other countries (not really)
– use a modern browser
–  prefer the Met to Times Square (sort of, depends on the mood)

When I lean conservative, I:
– like dogs more than cats
– prefer action movies to documentaries
– think kids should learn to respect authority
– don’t think that a person’s partner should be looking at porn alone
– think that the world benefits from nations and borders
– am proud of my country’s history

The explanations don’t show how the test measures level of agreement with the statements offered, but the overall result does seem to be accurate.