Dear Liberals, There is No Satisfaction to Be Had in the Tragic Death of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle

Photo credit: Facebook

 Joanna Schroeder is stunned by the ways in which some liberals are responding to the murder of former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle at the hands of a Marine with PTSD. 

At a firing range outside of Fort Worth, Texas, two men were killed. And the story is so extraordinarily evocative for America in this exact time and place that it takes your breath away.

One of the victims of this murder is Chris Kyle, a former U.S. Navy SEAL with a unique distinction: He is credited with being the most prolific sniper in American history. During his four deployments to war zones, Kyle was credited with 160 confirmed kills. That’s 50 more than the previous record-holder. Kyle is also the author of the best-selling book “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History”.

Breitbart.com reports that the decorated veteran was killed at a charity event at a firing range, where he was helping a member of the military learn sniper technique. A Marine, Eddie Ray Routh, suffering from PTSD, then allegedly shot and killed Chris Kyle at point blank range, in addition to shooting another man who has yet to be identified.

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Early reports of incidents like this are rarely totally correct, and so I hesitate to offer commentary on the details. However, I cannot help but marvel at how the story itself serves as a snapshot of America at this exact moment in history. Here we have a celebrated military hero, a Navy SEAL, the literal “best of the best” of military service, and he is killed by a firearm in the hands of a Marine with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s hard to even grasp the complex layers of despair here.

First, there is a man who single-handedly killed at least 160 people. He has spoken publicly about how hard it can be to transition to civilian life after a long military career, noting to The News last year that life in the military consists of doing everything for the greater good. Everything is life and death, every action you take is designed to protect your team, your nation.

But Chris Kyle also explains how the military does not prepare you to enter the work force, to start a business. But that’s what Kyle did. He built a business called Craft International, which Reuters explains provides weapons, supplies and training to the military and police, among other organizations.

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And then, in an attempt to do good, Chris Kyle is murdered at a firing range by a fellow member of the military who was allegedly battling PTSD brought on by serving in the very war that made Chris Kyle famous.

It’s hard to talk about this without mentioning the word “irony”, but I am going to try to avoid it. Why? Because while irony is often painful, it is also often associated with a level of humor or a sense of justice. And when I saw several Facebook friends posting this story with the word “irony” attached, I was sickened. Certainly there is irony to the fact that this man who is considered the most skilled sniper in the history of the United States was killed by a gun. But all I can see is tragedy.

All I can see is a young life cut short.

All I can see is that this man made it through four deployments only to die of the strangest and most disturbing form of “friendly fire” — most likely as a consequence of war.

And all I can see is that Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine, a man suffering from PTSD, will also be losing his free life in a way yet to be determined by the Texas criminal justice system.

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People are finding even more irony in the notion that Chris Kyle was recently quoted after speaking publicly about gun control, insisting that gun control was not the way to keep our children safe. If you’re strongly pro-gun control, and advocate for the very strictest forms of gun control like they have in England, for instance, it may be hard to avoid feeling a little smug.

But try to resist it.

Chris Kyle risked his life daily for the war effort. And if you have a problem with the war, that is separate from having a problem with Chris Kyle. It’s fine with me if people object to the wars we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Wars over oil shrouded in freedom, wars against ideology rather than distinct enemies. I admit that I simply do not know enough about international relations and foreign policy to comment on whether these wars should have happened.

But what I know is that Chris Kyle’s 160 confirmed kills were undoubtably ordered by his superiors. And I also know that any of the American service members that you and I know would follow the orders of their superiors and kill 160 people, were they asked (and if they had the skill). Some were not ever in the position to do so, but all had the potential.

So when I hear my fellow liberals and advocates of gun control somehow implying that Chris Kyle’s death anything other than a horrifying tragedy, I’m enraged. I’m as enraged as if you said it about any other veteran.

There is always something akin to irony when someone who is actively against gun control is killed by a gun. But to many people who are fervently against gun control, this is a risk they knew they are willing to take. Certainly Chris Kyle understood that at any moment someone could kill him. I have no doubt he didn’t expect it to be then and there, but having served in war four different times, it’s likely Chris Kyle was comfortable with the notion that one moment it may all end.

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So go ahead and object to the war in Afghanistan. Object to the war in Iraq. Object to Vietnam and Korea and World War II if you like (my father, grandfather and great-grandfather all objected to the wars of their generations and held Conscientious Objector status, which exempted them from service). But if you hate violence, and if you want to end the killing, then don’t give into the temptation to be self-satisifed over the death of Chris Kyle. Your problem is with the war, it isn’t with the service members.

To me, the death of Chris Kyle is a snapshot of today for many reasons: First, because it is yet another tragic death caused by a firearm. In this case, it is the death of a person who was fervently against gun control, and spoke publicly about his opinions, which opens up the debate about whether Chris Kyle would be alive today were it illegal for Eddie Ray Routh to be shooting at a gun range.

This death also captures a moment in our history when the debates about war and gun control are so polarizing that there are people willing to use the story of Chris Kyle to their own political gain.

And while I think we should all take a moment and examine the system that created shooter Eddie Ray Routh, that examination should be done with total and un-compromised reverence for the life and service of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who left behind a wife and two children yesterday, and who served his country honorably.

Also read The Breech, Sean Davis’ chilling first-person account of the humanity (and inhumanity) of war.

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About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is the type of working mom who opens her car door and junk spills out all over the ground. She serves as Executive Editor of The Good Men Project and is a freelance writer whose work has appeared on sites like Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane, MariaShriver.com, hlntv.com, and more. Joanna loves playing with her sons, skateboarding with her husband, and hanging out with friends. She just finished her first novel. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Tom Genin says:

    Why oh why would anyone be surprised by the liberal response to Kyle’s murder? I, for one, have no doubt the following quotes will be made by any vairiety of liberals,

    “Now that’s it’s “one of theis” and not a kid, will the gun nuts care?” ”
    “At least it was a gun nut that got killed, and not a bunch of kids.”
    “Finally! A shooting at a gun range proving being armed can’t save anybody!”

    But will any liberal connect the PTSD mental issue with all the other shootings that may take their eye off of guns, and onto the deserved mental illness isue? Will Obama order that Obamacare include insurance coverage for those commited with mental illness (which shockingly, is not currently coverd?)

    Nah….they want the guns, and they don’t care about snipers…or the kids.

    • What do you think the chances are that a Republican Congress broadens Obamacare to include those with mental illness?

      Liberals have been working to help the mentally ill for decades.

    • That’s a fun little fictional scenario you’ve dreamed up, proving that liberals are heartless and hateful hypocrites… in your imagination.

      Meanwhile, I check the article in vain for any indication whatsoever that liberals are rejoicing over this incident, acting ‘smug,’ or crowing over how the sniper’s death is a victory. But it’s good to pre-empt these despicable behaviors before anybody actually, you know, DOES them.

  2. Joanna, I understand your desire to humanize the man who we only know in an objectifying way: a soldier, a sniper, a homicide victim, as also being a husband and father. Being able to have a family life is part of the pursuit of happiness, but it doesn’t tell me what kind of man he was. What I know about him, you’re right, is terribly, horribly ironic. We agree that Kyle might have been fully aware that those who live by the sword, die by the sword, while still finding the actual moment of death a total surprise. This is irony. It is also a reminder to each of us to use what agency we have to be the change we want to see in the world. You cannot simultaneously be at constant war, and find peace. You cannot end murder by killing the murderers. And we cannot end a war on terror, ever. What kinds of lives do we want to have? The means are the whole blessed thing; the end is the same for us all.

    • True words. Hate begets hate.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      I really like your perspective here, Justin.

      It’s easy to scapegoat a single sniper than to look at the whole war. The truth is that we simply do not know what type of guy he was, but from all accounts he seems to have been a highly patriotic and deeply idealistic guy. I don’t know whether he was good or bad, but I can tell you for sure that it’s not my job to decide.

      Some of the stuff I’ve seen anti-war and pro gun control folks saying about this guy has been heartbreaking. Wish they’d taken him to task when he was alive, so at least he could defend himself.

  3. Thanks Joanna,
    Its good to be reminded of our humanity at a moment like this. The point, I think you are making is, that it is borderline obscene to leverage an argument for or against some political issue as these men have just died. Yes, we need these discussions to continue, but not at this moment. Not in this place. Because there is such a thing as respect for the dead. Whomever they may be.

  4. There you go, the law of attraction at work at its most un-ambiguous.

  5. The Wet One says:

    Ummm yeah….

    I was going to say a few things but I’ll respect the tenor of your article even though I completely disagree with it.

    My comments on another thread are more than enough.

    RIP dude.

  6. If anyone does actually plan to leverage the “irony” that does not exist, if anyone plans to dance in arrogant perverted victory over a hard-spun gun-control argument, may you be reminded in the most severe mode that Navy Seals never forget, and they will not forget YOU!

    • That’s right, the Navy Seals will find you and kill you. With their guns.

    • Now make more threats to imaginary people who might someday do something you find outrageous, even though they actually haven’t. That’s manly right there.

      “But that strawman offended me! He must DIE!”

  7. I wonder how quickly NRA would spin this to their advantage, had the killer been shot by another “responsible gun owner.”

  8. Hi, I’m liberal. I haven’t seen anybody rejoiceing in this tragic death. If anybody has brought up the story its as a piece of anecdata that the oft repeated line by pro-gun people that “if only a good guy had been there with a gun everything would be better.” The entire gun discussion if filled with simplistic and shallow talking points on both sides. Just having trained , brave people packing weapons will not “solve” gun violence. What would be useful is if both sides spent a bit more time being thoughtful instead of repeating talking points.

    RIP Chris Kyle. And save the cheap shots at the political groups you don’t like.

  9. Joanna, I think it’s sad that you have tainted this thoughtful article with the typical “us and them” mentality. I’m so tired of thoughtless people putting me in a box and deciding what I think and feel because I’m a “Liberal”
    I find no joy in any death. These issues are very complex and frightening for all of us. We get no where when we sit around and call names and point fingers.
    I’m disappointed that you choose to take stabs in your attempt to be a “better person than those other people”.

    • @Jo Ann: I don’t see the piece as anything but a great and factual/neutral acknowledgement of a polarity regarding the shooting-death of the king of the “gun-nuts,” then going on to chastise grave-dancing. There are zillions of Muslims doing that now. THEY are celebrating the death of an American hero.

      Liberal or not; gun-nut or gun-hater, that polarity and smug comments of irony is sick. The article does that perfectly.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      First, I’m a liberal. I’m a pretty serious liberal from a long, long line of liberals. I am actually a HUGE proponent of gun control, and feel strongly that our country should be utilizing control laws similar to those in the UK, which have been proven effective.

      This is a highly complicated issue, however, because of the amount of guns already in possession in the US, and I think this is a VERY long road full of a lot of issues that cannot be disregarded.

      That being said, I do not believe gun control would have done a single thing to have kept Chris Kyle alive. I don’t believe anyone wants to ban guns at a firing range, and that’s where Kyle was killed. Beyond that, there isn’t a gun advocate that believes that guns will prevent ALL murders by gunfire, so even if this argument weren’t exploitive of the dead, it’s still pointless because it’s illogical.

      To be clear, unlike Rob above, I do NOT believe the solution to gun violence is more guns or armed guards or anything of the like.

      But I do NOT believe that the death of Chris Kyle should have a single thing to do with this discussion. As I said above, you can talk about the war critically, and that makes sense. But Chris Kyle was a man who served his nation honorably.

      • Really? You don’t think this incident is relevant to the discussion of policies on keeping weapons out of the hands of emotionally disturbed people? Because I see a pretty clear connection here.

  10. Terry Washington says:

    First of all who PRECISELY are these “liberals” who allegedly rejoiced over former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s death?- no names were cited- and so it is not clear whether they represented more than a minority of liberal thinkers and commentators. Secondly note the wider hypocrisy implied here: some conservatives haved crowed over every disaster( natural or man made- be it 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina) but of course nobody blames conservatives ( Patricia Heaton, Angie Harmon, James Woods, Kelsey Grammer) en masse for the sins of their fellows! Twowrongs may not makes one right but they sure as hell make sense!

    Terry

  11. The Editor-in-Chief of Mother Jones sits at the top of the Google search along with pages of tweets from other liberal sources before the backlash brought it into check. That’s hardly the point, Joanna understood that some people may react in an inappropriate manner based on current issues. Both sides of this issue have people who for one reason or another will see this an an opportunity to push their agenda. I agree with her, there will be better opportunities to have meaningful discussions on how to prevent tragedies. This isn’t an event to be used as a political tool for either side.

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  1. […] Well, I care about everybody who gets killed in war zones. Yes, I care about the needless death of women and children. But I also care about the needless death of the men who fight them. […]

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