Is American Sniper “Unsafe”?

On January 16, 2015, I went to the movies with my mom and sister to see the highly anticipated film “American Sniper.” Knowing the hype surrounding the film due to the infamously tragic story regarding the man whom the film is based on, Chris Kyle, we expected the theater to be crowded so we purchased our tickets early online.

When I got to the theater about an hour before our showtime, I was in awe. I’ve been to several midnight premieres for blockbuster hits like The Hunger Games, Avengers, and more and I’ve seen a packed movie theater. The night I saw “American Sniper” the movie theater was busier than I’d ever seen it. A full hour before our showing started, the line for our theater wrapped all the way around the auditorium and was approaching the entrance.

It was like this at theaters throughout the country. Men and women, old and young. People of all different walks of life came out to see the movie about Chris Kyle, the man known as the most lethal sniper in American history. The film shows Kyle’s life with his wife, Taya, his four tours in the Iraq war, and his struggle with PTSD following his return home.

Although many aspects of the film became talking points, the ending of “American Sniper” is what truly affected people because it left both those familiar and unfamiliar with Chris Kyle’s story speechless. During a trip to the gun range with friend Chad Littlefield and Eddie Ray Routh (a young man struggling with PTSD that Kyle was trying to help), Kyle and Littlefield were shot to death Routh. “American Sniper” ends by showing a scene of Kyle (Bradley Cooper) leaving his home for the last time and a screen stating how Kyle was murdered. As the credits begin to roll, footage of the vehicle procession of Chris Kyle’s funeral is shown. In every theater there was absolute silence with the exception of crying.

The film which was directed by Clint Eastwood went on to become the highest-grossing domestic film of 2014, making more than $540 million at the box office. It was also nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Cooper).

Recently, colleges throughout the country have been canceling planned screenings of the movie because Muslim student organizations have claimed that the screening made them feel “unsafe.” This happened at University of Michigan, University of Maryland, and University of Texas. At University of Michigan, the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim Students on Campus released a statement regarding the film stating it the university was “tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA propaganda.” The statement went on to claim that “Chris Kyle was a racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians.”

imageBased on the egregious claims in their statement, I’m fairly certain that the group didn’t actually watch the film and is merely protesting the screening based on conjecture they’ve heard from other pro-Muslim sources. Anyone who has seen the film can testify it clearly depicts Chris Kyle’s struggle while serving in Iraq. Kyle viewed his duty as a sniper not as “anti-Muslim,” but rather a force of protection for his fellow soldiers.

While it would be foolish to judge an entire body of people, there is no denying that radical Islam which was the cause of the 9/11 attacks that lead to the Iraq war is a threat to the United States of America. Nevertheless, this film does not focus on vilifying all muslims, but depicting the heroic and life saving actions of a single man. The screening of this film in no way threatens the safety of any student: muslim or not.

Regardless, the University of Michigan responded to the statement by canceling the screening, but after a wide range of media coverage against the cancellation, the university reversed its decision and kept the screening. This same problem is erupting at colleges throughout the country.

Is it just or is this blatant double standard ridiculously ironic? For those who don’t know, this amazing thing called the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech– both for those hosting the “American Sniper” screening and the Muslim student groups protesting. Just because another group on your campus is doing something you don’t like (I’m pretty sure the college Republicans and college Democrats face this quite often), it doesn’t mean you have to demand it be canceled. SHOCKER: If you don’t like an event… don’t go to it.

No one is making the screening of “American Sniper” an event that’s mandatory for all students to attend. If that was the situation, these groups would have an actual reason to protest. However, that’s not the case. They’re just mad that something that doesn’t align with their viewpoint 100% is being allowed.

Last time I check, college is supposed to be a place where you learn other world views and expand your education to challenge yourself, not to reject and try to shut down every little thing that you disagree with. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Richard Dawkins hit the nail on the coffin with this single tweet:

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