Chou: Citizens should support our policemen, troops


Curtis Chou, Columnist

The world is not perfect. And despite our best overtures and intentions, it never will be.  As such, when the embers of malcontent and misguided righteousness threaten to plunge our world into chaos, it will be defended by imperfect guardians.

Since its release, the Clint Eastwood-directed film “American Sniper,” based on the memoir of former Navy Seal Chris Kyle, has attracted a litany of debate. Despite the movie’s strong showing and staying power in theaters across the country, the film has endured unsurprising backlash from those who proclaim that it is both a discriminatory portrayal of a violent soldier and a misleading narration of the Iraq war.

But what these detractors fail to understand is that American Sniper is not a war film in the sense that it is about war itself.  The film offers very little commentary, if any at all, about the Afghanistan or Iraq wars. Rather, this is a story about a singular warrior that is meant to convey a larger tale of struggle, guilt and courage – yes, courage, Michael Moore’s words notwithstanding – that permeates the United States veteran population. Its ideas could be extrapolated to any conflict. No, not all soldiers are like Chris Kyle, who reportedly referred to Iraqi insurgents as “savages.” But like Chris Kyle, all soldiers chose their profession in spite of its inherent risks, a sign of the human capability to fight for a greater good. Despite Kyle’s personal character flaws, which have offended some, to cast aside his record of heroism in defense of his fellow soldiers for a focus on shallow labels is far more criminal.

Similarly, throughout the course of the past year, several fatal incidents involving police officers have thrown the issue of police conduct into the national spotlight. Police departments have come under intense scrutiny and criticism regarding both their use of inappropriate force and the perceived disparate patterns in their actions. Much of this debate has been framed with the issue of racial discrimination due to a few high profile cases such as the Michael Brown and the Eric Garner cases.

The public reaction in the wake of these tragedies has given way to an angry clamor that has gotten to a point where some police officers are feeling under siege. Last month, some New York police officers turned their backs to Mayor Bill de Blasio in multiple incidents to protest this treatment after two of their comrades were assassinated by a gunman who implied that the deplorable acts were retaliation for the Brown and Garner grand jury decisions.

There are political and economic motivations that drove U.S. involvement in the Iraq War. Some aspects of the institutions that investigated the Michael Brown case were downright incompetent. This is not about that.

In these instances, our trust in institutional leadership failed us. But this should not erode our support in our everyday neighbors who trample through the dust of the battlefield and patrol our city streets at night.

It is infuriating that the men and women who commit their lives, literally, to the defense of their country’s citizens must also face the widespread contempt from those they defend. Are our legal, judicial and law enforcement institutions flawed? Maybe. Are people flawed? Undoubtedly. Do some things need to change? Yes. But unless we one day find ourselves in their precarious positions, straddling the line between life and death, we can never understand what it is like to make their decisions, no matter how many times we see or hear about it.

These men and women deserve our support. Darren Wilson does not represent the entirety of our police ranks. And not all soldiers are Chris Kyle, regardless of whether or not you revere him or despise him. But they are men and women who chose to assume the identity of our protectors, knowing that it could cost them their lives. Police officers across the nation and soldiers in all branches of the military are the ones protecting the freedoms we are born with, who promote the ideals that make the United States the greatest country on earth.

The controversies surrounding Chris Kyle and Darren Wilson reveal the sometimes fatal flaws and complexities in a few of our protectors and what they do.  Those who abuse the power of their badges and rank deserve the derision and blame that they illicit. But the rest deserve what we have failed to give them — our respect, our support and our thanks; because collectively they do more for the rest of us than we do for them. Despite their imperfections, we need them to do what they do. And they need us.

Curtis Chou is a Communication senior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].