Movie Review: American Sniper

Before I dive into my critique of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, I want to elaborate on why I do film reviews. First, it goes without saying that I am an ardent cinephile. I’ve been in love with the art of filmmaking for as long as I can remember. If it wasn’t for my aversion towards the celebrity lifestyle, I definitely would have pursued a career in Hollywood (or Bollywood).

Second, I’m not the only one who loves movies. Everybody loves watching  movies. Everyone can quote random dialogues from films released twenty years ago. Some of our most cherished memories have been shaped around the movie-watching experience.

Therefore, films are one of the best mediums for social commentary. For decades, Filmmakers have utilized their craft to convey an important lesson to their audiences. Born on the Fourth of July poignantly captured the anguish and pain endured by numerous Vietnam veterans. Mummy Dearest (despite the unintentionally laughable acting) exposed the prevalence of child abuse. Inside Out persuaded us to get in touch with our inner emotions. Therefore, cinema has an incredibly tremendous impact on our culture.

This brings us to American Sniper. Clint Eastwood has continuously proved himself to be a sage in filmmaking. American Sniper is no exception. It was, no doubt, a brilliantly-produced masterpiece. In addition, Bradley Cooper was exceptional in the biographical role of Chris Kyle. In terms of film quality, I have nothing negative to say.

I watched this movie a year and a half ago in theaters with a couple of my friends. I remember the theatre room was packed, unsurprisingly. Upon the film’s conclusion, with the credits rolling through the depiction of Chris Kyle’s real life funeral, the theatre room fell into an eerie silence. As the screen went pitch-black, the silence continued. After a few moments, as my friends and I gathered our belongings, a spontaneous applause erupted. Some of the audience members had tears running down their cheeks.
The reason I’m telling this is to illustrate the depth of emotions this film evoked from the American public. In post-9/11 America, this movie had a cathartic impact on its viewers. Because of this film’s monumental significance, I’m even more disappointed by its distorted depictions of the events following 9/11.

The movie implies that 9/11 was the primary motive behind the US invasion of Iraq. That botched episode, which basically annihilated George W Bush’s credibility as president, was glorified in the film as a noble cause.

Ironically, Clint Eastwood is known for being firmly anti-war. He has vocally disapproved of American military engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. Furthermore, Eastwood insisted that American Sniper was written to be an anti-war film!

Although most have doubt his assertion, I actually believe him. Eastwood aspired to depict the disastrous effects war has on one’s mental health. He never intended to produce a historical documentary. Eastwood primarily wanted to illustrate how PTSD not only affects soldiers, but their families, especially their spouses who are pressured to pick up the pieces.

In order to accurately depict the impact of PTSD, Clint Eastwood did a character sketch of Chris Kyle and portray the battlefield through his eyes. Unfortunately, Chris Kyle’s subjective perspective completely obfuscated the historically-factual account of the Iraq War. Therefore, future generations watching this movie will have an inaccurate picture of the Iraq War.

American Sniper attempts to humanize a person famed for his 150 kills. Chris Kyle is depicted as being helplessly trapped in the shadows of moral ambiguity that envelopes over the reality of the battlefield. However, Chris Kyle’s autobiography confirms that he is a self -aggrandizing liar and a sadistic psychopath who takes pleasure in shooting defenseless Iraqi children! Kyle represents the worst of the US armed forces and does not deserve to be lionized in an cinematic production!

Iconoclastic Hellraisers: George S. Schuyler

This series, Iconoclastic Hellraisers, will be featuring a number of intellectuals and public figures who espoused unconventional, and often, controversial views. Whether you agree with them or not, it can’t be denied that these men and women ventured outside the realm of the intellectual orthodoxy, and for that, they deserve our admiration. Our first subject of interest will be journalist and author, George S. Schuyler.

George Schuyler embodied an idiosyncratic stream within the Black intelligentsia. His george-s-schuylerperspective on the Civil Rights Movement and Black culture is rarely discussed in the mainstream media or even in the narrow corridors of academia. Nevertheless, his voice deserves to be heard.

Schuyler was originally from Providence, Rhode Island and spent the majority of his childhood in Syracuse, New York. Upon reaching adulthood in 1912, Schuyler joined the US army and was stationed in Seattle, and later Hawaii. His experiences with racism within the armed forces persuaded him to go AWOL, for which he was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to prison for five years.

However, after nine months in prison, Schuyler was released on good behavior. He relocated to New York City and did a number of odd jobs to support himself. Seeking intellectual stimulation, Schuyler immersed himself in Socialist circles despite his slight disagreements with the ideological discussions. His astute writing abilities and sardonic wit earned him a position as a columnist for The Messenger, a political and literary magazine founded by A. Phillip Randolph and Chandler Owens.

Schuyler’s column, “Shafts and Darts: A Page of Calumny and Satire” caught the attention of Ira F. Lewis, manager for the Pittsburgh Courier. In 1924,  Lewis offered Schuyler a position at her paper, which he accepted and subsequently wrote for the Pittsburgh Courier for the entire duration of his career.

Schuyler completely disavowed Socialism by 1925, asserting that socialists were frauds who were only utilizing Blacks as tools to advance their own ambitions. In 1926, Schuyler became chief editorial writer for the Courier. In that same year, he published a very controversial essay called “The Negro-Art Hokum”, in which he lambasted the very notion of ‘Negro Art”, asserting that there was no such thing as a “negro style” in art. Furthermore, he insisted that Blacks were “merely a lampbacked Anglo-Saxon”, thanks to 300 years of Euro-American dominance, and art should be judged by merit and not by racial standards.

In 1931, Schuyler published Black No More, a tale of a scientist who constructed an experiment that turns Black people to White. In his novel, Schuyler chastises organized religion, particularly Christianity. He maintained that both the Black and White churches were led by conniving preachers who perpetuated racism and mass ignorance. In an article for H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury, Schuyler wrote “In the horizon loom a growing number of iconoclasts and Atheists, young black men and women who can read, think and ask questions; and who impertinently demand to know why Negroes should revere a god that permits them to be lynched, Jim-Crowed, and disenfranchised.”

In addition to Black No More, Schuyler published another novel, Slaves Today: A Story of Liberia, which, controversially, described how freed Black slaves from America settled in Liberia, a West African nation established by the American Colonization Society, and, ironically, enslaved the native African tribes in the region. Goes to show that truth is a lot stranger than fiction.

During the late 1940’s and 1950’s, Schuyler shifted further to the Political Right. He joined the John Birch Society, a staunchly anti-communist organization, and became an avid supporter of Joseph McCarthy’s crusade against potential communists residing the country. Schuyler’s anti-leftist persuasions and strong aversion to Christian preachers catalyzed his antipathy for the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition, he was vehemently opposed to MLK’s recognition as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, stating “Dr. King’s principal contribution to world peace has been to roam the country like some sable Typhoid Mary, infecting the mentally disturbed with perversions of Christian doctrine, and grabbing fat lecture fees from the shallow-pated.”

Furthermore, Schuyler justified his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by writing “a country like America, which grew out of conquest, immigration, revolution and civil war, is prone to speed social change by law, or try to do so, on the assumption that by such legerdemain it is possible to make people better by force…..it takes lots of time to change social mores, especially with regard to such hardy perennials as religion, race and nationality, to say nothing of social classes.” In other words, Schuyler echoed a common libertarian belief insisting that federal imposition is an infringement of individual liberty and the Civil Rights Act exemplifies government coercion.

schuyler-the-schuylers-at-home-in-harlem-1950sIn addition to his contrarian views, Schuyler did something no Black man in his time would dare. He married a White woman. As a staunch opponent of anti-miscegenation laws, Schuyler practiced what he preached and married an aristocratic White Texan named Josephine Lewis Cogdell, proving that he, indeed, had cojones! The couple had a daughter named Phillipa who followed her father’s footsteps and became a journalist before she was tragically killed in 1967 while on an assignment in Vietnam. Unable to bear the pain of her daughter’s death, Josephine committed suicide two years later.

After his heart-wrenching losses, Schuyler continued to write, contributing to a syndicated column for The North American Newspaper Alliance. As he became older, Schuyler gradually evaporated into obscurity. After all, people like Martin Luther King, John Lewis, Rosa Parks and even Malcolm X secured a place for themselves in the pages of history, leaving no room for the likes of George Schuyler. In fact, by the 1970’s, it was taboo to mention Schuyler’s name in Black circles. And so, unattended as his bedside, George Schuyler died in 1977, at the age of 82.

Writers like Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell could aptly be referred to as the intellectual heirs of George Schuyler. After all, they echo similar free-market conservative views and  contrarian opinions on Black culture. I think it’s a shame that George Schuyler is never mentioned in the classroom while a halo is hoisted on the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Personally, I can’t honestly say that I agree with George Schuyler on everything. I don’t think I can identify with his unconditional faith in the free market. However, his perspective on the Civil Rights Movement opens a lot of room for a productive debate. The outcome of the Civil Rights Act, while well-intentioned, could be scrutinized and critiqued even today. Was the bill an unnecessary infringement on private businesses? Did integration exasperate racial hostility? I think we should be able to openly discuss these questions without fearing accusations of bigotry.

 

“The White Working Class”

So remember when I said that I was going to refrain from political commentary until the Inauguration? Well, this wouldn’t be the first promise I’ve broken…

In the aftermath of the election results, in which Donald Trump was anointed as the president-elect (to the shock of many), Democratic party strategists, left-leaning PoliSci professors and liberal media pundits have dived into a whirlpool of soul-searching and naval-gazing, wondering how on Earth could White Working Class folks vote ‘against their interests’.

If you ever need to look for conclusive evidence indicating the elitist snobbery of limousine liberals, look no further. Of course, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that well-educated, upper-middle-class suburbites might be slightly out-of-touch with average working folks.

White Working-Class folks are being treated as a monolith. After all, what do farmers, factory workers, waiters/waitresses, domestic servants, grocers, oil-rig workers, technicians, and coal miners have in common? Have we deluded ourselves to assume that they all share the same interests, just because they can’t afford to reside in notably affluent suburbs like Bel-Air, Fairfax, or Grosse Pointe?

Liberals unconsciously assume that the Democratic Party (or even the Green Party) will never fail to address the concerns  of the working class. But do we really expect coal miners and oil-rig workers to identify with a political party that aims to implement green initiatives that potentially threaten their job security?

Personally, I think that the transition towards sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy is welcoming and necessary. However, it’s naive not to expect a backlash from forty and fifty-something year old coal miners, who lack the time to abruptly learn a new job skill to sustain their families.

And it definitely doesn’t help that their economic concerns are ruthlessly dismissed while undeservedly referred to as ‘rednecks’ and ‘hillbillies’. It doesn’t help that their voices are being ignored while Democratic strategists blatantly, and shamelessly, attempt to secure the minority voting bloc.

It can’t be denied that there are more than a handful of racists at those boisterous Trump rallies. However, to disparage all Trump voters as bigoted and misogynistic is myopic. I (reluctantly) voted for Hillary Clinton, despite my opposition to the military intervention of Libya, drone strikes and other hawkish policies endorsed by her, along with the Obama administration. Like many Trump voters, I held my nose as I submitted the ballot and I walked out the voting booth with a cold chill running down my spine.

Hey, at least I got a sticker!

If the Democratic Party is really interested in securing the White Working-Class vote, then maybe they should tap into the concerns and anxieties of the blue-collar workers, rather than conjuring fanciful assumptions about them. Maybe these liberal pundits should acknowledge working folks as real people, rather than a monolithic voting bloc.

White Privilege 

This term tends to be frequently espoused by left-wing academics and sociopolitical commentators. It’s one of many overused buzzwords that distorts the perception of race and class relations in today’s America.

Imagine yourself as 50-something year old, working class White factory worker. Because of your lack of educational credentials, you were forced into this unremarkably menial career. Despite living from paycheck to paycheck, you were able to provide your children a decent life in a suburban one-story house.

All of a sudden, your supervisor informs you and coworkers that the company is gravitating towards automation/outsourcing and is considering downsizing their labor force.

Now, you’re spending sleepless nights wondering how you’re going to pay the house mortgage and your children’s college tuitions while still having money left over to pay the bills.

One night, you’re sitting on your tattered couch watching CNN, while nursing a glass of whisky to pacify your nerves. As you take a sip, you see, through your 7 inch TV screen, some affluent, well-educated person of color pontificating on ‘White Privilege’.

“Spend a day in my shoes and I’ll show you White privilege!” You mumble to yourself.

There are millions of White people who have yet to benefits from the perks of ‘White Privilege’.

We forget a major component of social privilege is income. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you’re Black or White. As long as you have enough Greens, you’re set for life.

I’m not denying that there are ethnic communities that have been historically marginalized and oppressed, such as Black Americans and the indigenous tribals. Their descendents are blatantly affected by the residual effects of racially-biased legal measures including Jim Crow Laws and redlining.

The reality of social privilege in America is a lot more nuanced. Not all White people, or even the majority, are WASP elitists residing in the Hamptons. And just because we have a Black president, doesn’t mean Blacks (and other minority communities) aren’t disproportionately marginalized by implicit racial biases within the legal system.

Words like ‘White Privilege’ not only oversimplify comtemporary racial relations, but they fuel resentment, exasperating racial rifts and hindering social progress

What I Learned From This Election Cycle

The 2016 Presidential race has been one of the most bizarre periods in modern political

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“Neither the firmness of a man nor the tenderness of a lady”                            Oh No He Didn’t!!!!

history. Even Thomas Jefferson’s accusations of John Adam’s hermaphroditic traits are incomparable! This election cycle has taught me a lot about political tactics and the potent effects they have on potential voters. Let’s analyze what we can learn from the 2016 election

 

Loaded Buzzwords

The political sphere has always been plagued with slogans, buzzwords and platitudes. However, we’ve seem to have received an extra dose during this election cycle. During the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders was brutally lambasted for his ‘socialistic’ ideals, even though terms like ‘socialist’ and ‘capitalist’ are barely relevant in our post-Cold War world. Candidates including Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were disparaged for being ‘establishment politicians’, though, technically, anyone holding political office is part of the ‘establishment’. Donald Trump elevated himself as the ‘pro-life’ candidate while unhesitatingly proposing to carpet-bomb the Middle East. These examples of buzzwords were formulated to viscerally sway potential voters, who lack both critical thinking abilities and basic knowledge of the hot-button issues.

Speaking of buzzwords….

Sticking it to the Man

2016 has been marked by a peculiar revival of the 60’s Countercultural rhetoric. Although groups like Weatherman Underground remain dismantled, ‘anti-establishment’ politicians have swept the nation, inspiring the old and young alike with their fiery rhetoric and romanticized vision of a better America. Obama’s ‘Yes We Can” couldn’t compete with them!

Until now, an politically-inexperienced businessman has never won a major party nomination with his ‘can-do’ attitude. And, just four years ago, it would have been considered impossible for a proud socialist senator to ignite a mass movement, even potentially threatening Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the Democratic primary.

Socialism is no longer a dirty word and now liberals are wearing the label as a badge of honor. The so-called Alt-Right has successfully counteracted the dominance of traditional conservatism with their nebulous political platform that strangely hints at White supremacy.

Every politician is attempting to brand himself as ‘anti-establishment’, including Hillary Clinton (former Secretary of State), John Kasich (former Chairman of the House Budget Commitee and current Governor of Ohio), Ted Cruz (currently Chairman of two Senate subcommittees), and, of course, Jeb Bush (former Governor of Florida ….and a member of one of the most influential political clans in the country!)

No one knows what it means to be ‘anti-establishment’  yet we can’t help but be seduced by the term’s intoxicating allure.

Why Third Party Candidates Suck

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have notably been distinguished as two of the most disliked presidential candidates in recent time. For the average, hapless citizen, it is tempting to see what the pantheon of third-party and independent contenders has to offer.

However, there’s a reason why third parties have never gained any momentum in any presidential race. Their candidates suck!

The candidate for the Green Party was a physician who barely has any grasp of the nuances of foreign policy. The Libertarian Party was sponsoring a man who has trouble identifying Aleppo on a map. The relatively new Solidarity Party bases its campaign on a platform  which most Americans would find socially regressive and politically draconian.

Until a third party is able to nominate a competent, politically-savvy candidate who is in touch with the concerns of the average American, they don’t stand a chance in the presidential race

Those Were the Days

It’s not enough that we have to be subjected to low-grade reboots of Star Wars and saccharine TV shows from the ’90s (i.e “Fuller House, “Girl Meets World…barf). Now, our addiction to ‘memberberries has fueled the Donald Trump campaign. Trump’s campaign slogan evokes a nostalgic picture of an America from the before-time.

‘Member when marriage was between a man and a woman?

‘Member when there weren’t any Mexicans?

‘Member Reagan?

‘Member feeling safe? 

As heartbreaking as it is for us to believe, these are sentiments echoed by millions of people throughout this country. And don’t forget, their vote counts as well.

08fa14825e197e8503f32a9071eba888‘Member Archie Bunker? He was the main character in a 1970’s Norman Lear sitcom called All in the Family. An aging, cantankerous family man, Archie Bunker clung to his old-fashioned values as he uncomfortably watched the world of his childhood being swept away by the Counterculture of the 60s and 70s. In his frustration, Archie became more and more reactionary, to the point where he accidentally joined the KKK in one episode.

Every era has its Archie Bunkers. Middle-aged men (and sometimes women) who scorn at modern social trends while longing for the “good ‘ol days”.However, they’re no longer the lovable bigots lampooned for our amusement. In 2016, the Archie Bunkers have become a powerful political force in America.

Single Issue Voters

Although I’m not a practicing believer, I still maintain vague connections to my family’s Catholic parish. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Catholic Church is known for his uncompromising opposition to abortion (under any circumstances). Despite their reservations of Donald Trump, many devout Catholics are unapologetically supporting him due to his stance on abortion, ignoring his vitriolic remarks and appalling track record on basic ethics. And because of her support for Roe V Wade, Hillary Clinton is practically the Anti-Christ.

It’s amazing how, despite the range of issues associated with a political campaign, some people are so blinded by their ideological (or religious) lens that they’re unable to see past one issue on the ballot.

Tampering With Democracy

I’m no fan of Wikileaks. Although I’m a staunch proponent of government transparency, I think Wikileaks oversteps ethical boundaries in revealing information that often compromises the lives of undercover intelligence operatives. Its creepy founder, Julian Assange, has actually done more harm in the quest for government transparency.

That being said, I’m more horrified by the deplorably sneaky tactics of the Democratic National Committee. Their blatant favoritism towards Hillary Clinton has taken the shed of the respect I had for the Democratic Party. Despite my agreements with the party’s platform, I don’t think I will ever become a registered Democrat.

 

Assuming Donald Trump doesn’t cause an apocalyptic nightmare, I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring!

 

Rip It From the Womb

As we approach the conclusion of one of the most contentious political seasons in modern history, I thought it would be timely to tackle the most divisive issue in the American political arena: Partial-Birth Abortion.

Looking forward to reading those hate comments!

Unsurprisingly, the term ‘partial-birth abortion’ is actually one of those misleading political buzzwords devised to emotionally manipulate voters and the general public. The actual medical term is Intact Dilation And Extraction (or D&X).

During one of the presidential debates, Donald Trump eloquently described this procedure

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“Of course I’m pro-life. I’m the MOST pro-life person EVER in history. In twenty years, those fetuses will be dating me!”

as ‘ripping the baby from the womb’. Obviously, that is a gross mischaracterization.

D&X is one of several abortion procedures used for terminating a pregnancy within the last four months. The cervix is dilated, allowing for the passage of the head of the fetus. The head of the fetus is reduced in diameter by puncturing.

Contrary to popular belief, the procedure is not performed while the woman is in labour (as the term ‘partial-birth abortion’ might suggest). After all, it’s unrealistic to picture a woman, during the last moments of her labor, arbitrarily deciding that she doesn’t want a baby. It would be even more ludicrous to suggest that medical professionals would comply with the woman’s request for the sake of upholding feminist ideals.

Late-term abortions are performed on women who were hoping to give birth to their child. In those particular cases, something has gone dreadfully during the pregnancy. Either the mother’s health is at risk or the baby is deformed to the point where it has minimal chance of surviving. D&X is usually performed when the head of the fetus is abnormally large, due to a terminal birth defeat called hydroencephalitis. However, the procedure is also typically performed when the woman is suffering from internal bleeding.

One of the most irksome features of modern American politics is the prevalence of politicians attempting to play doctor. Fueled by ideological motives, they propose these ridiculous laws to curtail access to abortion. Many even aspire to overturn the 1973 Roe V Wade decision and transform America into a ‘pro-life’ nation.

I find it more disturbing that some physicians refuse to perform abortions for their patients. Furthermore, there are pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control pills to their customers. They hide behind the cloak of religious freedom. Yet, they’ve become so blind by their religious beliefs that they’re inadvertently sacrificing medical ethics.

I’m no fan of abortion. Neither are most who advocate for abortion rights. Termination of a pregnancy is sometimes necessary. I don’t think a female patient should die in a religiously-affiliated hospital because its medical professionals refuse to perform an operation that could have saved her life. I don’t think politician should write legislative bills on issues of which they know very little. And I don’t think we, as the citizenry, should be so easily swayed by buzzwords, emotional rhetoric and bumper-sticker slogans.