This is not to politicize Chris Kyle’s death, but I think we need to say something now rather than later. We’ve got a gun murder epidemic in this country. It needs to stop.
I’ve probably mentioned several times that my favorite NY Times article of all time is this one by David Brooks: Lunch Period Poli-Sci. In the article, Brooks speculates that we’re the same people we were in high school–jocks on one side who keep things simple and straightforward, and nerds on the other, who like to pontificate. In the end, Brooks says, we need both. Stuff doesn’t get done without the jocks leading, and the nerds help set the jocks on a deeper path:
The only real shift between school and adult politics is that the jocks realize they need conservative intellectuals, who are geeks who have decided their fellow intellectuals should never be allowed to run anything and have learned to speak slowly so the jocks will understand them. Meanwhile, the geeks have learned they need to find popular kids like F.D.R. to head their tickets because the American people will never send a former geek to the White House. (Bill Clinton was unique in that he was a member of every clique at once.)
When it comes to guns, it’s much the same: it’s generally the geeks (or jocks who work for the geeks) who are urging caution on guns, and it’s generally the jocks who want more guns. I say much the same, because since guns are the great “equalizer,” you’ll often see geeks who wish they had been jocks on the gun side, acting like stupid badasses (Seung-Hui Cho and Dylan Klebold come to mind). But in any case, it’s the same deal–jocks calling out the manhood of geeks, and geeks telling jocks to drink their carrot juice (or whatever will make them smarter.). In actuality, jocks and geeks both use their brains, but they use them in different ways, which I’ll get into.
In the most recent iteration of this battle between jocks and geeks, Chris Kyle, a decorated military sniper and “guns rights” advocate, was shot and killed by a man who was exercising the “rights” that Chris Kyle advocated. Kyle was supposedly the sniper with the most confirmed kills in the American military (the military doesn’t confirm numbers, so we have to take his word for it, but no one seems to be disputing it either.). Chris Kyle, according to reports, had taken Eddie Ray Routh and another man to the gun range as a form of “therapy”–the same kind of gun “therapy” that Nancy Lanza and Greg Griego reportedly (see below) used to “help” their sons–and Routh wound up shooting them both Kyle and his friend dead. See here for what Chris Kyle had to say about Obama and guns:
He says of Obama: “i don’t know exactly what he was doing, but I know he was definitely against the Second Amendment, and he was trying to ban everything.” Not only was his explanation simplistic, but it was also totally inaccurate.
The gun conversations coming from the Right (the jocks, as Brooks would describe them) are disturbing for their lack of critical thinking. G sent this one (thanks, G!): Travis Haley says to “think,” and then he goes off on an illogical and ignorant tangent that makes him look like a gun-toting religious fundamentalist who can’t understand that there are 20 dead children buried in Newtown. Haley makes some really ignorant, uneducated, and flat-out stupid statements like “Government has always been harmful to personal freedoms.” I actually couldn’t watch the whole thing; the lack of critical thinking was just too much for me.
But that’s the issue–critical thinking. It’s highly disturbing to me–and I believe it should be highly disturbing to all Americans–that a decorated veteran like Chris Kyle could so skillfully avoid getting killed in war, only to fall prey to a mentally ill man taking advantage of America’s easy gun laws, a man whom Kyle himself encouraged to shoot more guns. This was a decorated war veteran with two young kids and a wife, and his life was snuffed out like a candle. To die in battle as a hero is one thing, but to die because you were encouraging a mentally disturbed guy with PTSD to exercise his rights by shooting more guns? I’ve got all the respect in the world for Kyle’s military service, but that’s not a great way to die. Given that Kyle was raised with guns, became famous through his use of guns, and made a living with guns, it ought not to be surprising that he loved guns. But he’s not the only gun lover to get killed with one of the guns that he so loved and promoted: the same thing happened earlier this year to Keith Ratliff.
For the record, I don’t think that the nerds are smarter than the jocks. It takes a certain kind of mindset for the quick decision-making that fighting in war requires. You need great hand-eye coordination, a steady hand, a calm mind, good spatial reasoning skills, and a singular focus–traits that reside in the brain. There’s a kind of physical and spatial intelligence and quickness that nerds often don’t have. McFly was never smart enough to come up with a response to Biff’s “McFly, your shoe’s untied!” until McFly himself became a jock by punching out Biff. You don’t want to send the earlier McFly out into battle–he’ll trip over his shoelaces and wind up stabbing himself with a bayonet. He doesn’t have the spatial jock intelligence to succeed.
But back in society, jocks have to make an effort to use critical thinking and to look at issues from all angles. Just because they can fight doesn’t mean that their words should carry any more weight than anyone else when it comes to how we govern–our arguments need to rest on knowledge and logic. Jocks need to crack open a book once in a while, study the results of smart gun laws in other countries, and they have to compromise. Bad gun laws hurt everyone.
Chris Kyle, Rest in Peace. Your service was appreciated, and I hope we can respect your legacy and do right by your family by doing exactly the opposite of what you preached with respect to gun laws. Your mentally ill murderer never should have had the right to touch a gun. Let’s bring about some common-sense laws to prevent this from happening again.