Regardless of whether or not Clint Eastwood intended to make a highly controversial and political movie, American Sniper has become just that. Support for the movie seems to be split strictly down partisan lines. Liberals criticize the movie for not being historically accurate and for progressing damaging views of Islamophobia while conservatives praise the movie for honoring a brave American patriot who risked his life fighting enemies of the United States. So, what side is correct?
It is important to first acknowledge that of course there are going to be some historical inconsistencies in American Sniper. Seemingly every movie that portrays a historical event is criticized for this reason. Simply put, it's a movie, not a history book. Nevertheless, if you want to read about the main criticisms concerning the historical accuracy, this article from Vox is a good place to start.
Disregarding any inconsistencies in American Sniper, the main problem I have with the controversy surrounding the movie is labeling people who find faults in Chris Kyle's character as being anti-patriotic. To be able to accuse someone of not being a patriot, there must first be an agreed upon set of characteristics that define patriotism and then you must also have a quantifiable way of measuring patriotism to determine what a less patriotic person even looks like. The controversies surrounding American Sniper is proof that everyone has a different idea of what being a patriot actually means.
We throw around the term "patriot" or "patriotism" quite loosely in modern political discussions. Referring to an idea/person/object as patriotic is a foolproof way in gaining immediate support. Who really wants to be seen as unpatriotic? Regardless of political ideology, this anti-patriotic witch hunt perpetuated by many supporters of Chris Kyle has uncanny parallels with the Red Scare and other communist hysteria from the 1950's and it simply needs to stop.
Chris Kyle has 160 confirmed kills as a sniper in the United States Navy. Many people see this statistic and immediately conclude that he was a patriot. But what if he would have killed less people? Would that have made him less patriotic? What if he would have killed more? From one perspective Chris Kyle is a great American and a patriot who served his country proudly. From other perspectives he is an Islamophobic American soldier who loved to kill. Chris Kyle wasn't a perfect human being. None of us are. Perhaps it's unfair for someone to be judged so critically, but this kind of criticism comes with the title of "most lethal American sniper in U.S. military history." You might agree with Chris Kyle's actions and you might not, but that has no bearing on your level of patriotism. Patriots can be supporters of war, supporters of peace, and anything in between.