Sheep, Wolves and Sheep Dogs

Sheep, Wolves and Sheep Dogs

"There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheep dogs."

As spoken by Chris Kyle's father in the Clint Eastwood directed film "American Sniper" (2014), said to be "loosely based" on the real live story of Christopher Scott Kyle 1974-2013. The real Kyle was a highly decorated Navy SEAL sniper who served four tours in Iraq with over 150 confirmed kills. A hero in any sense of the word. 

I don't know anything about Kyle except the portrayal in the film and the Wikipedia page about him. And I mean no disrespect, but based on the narrative in the film Kyle is just as messed up, just as much a butcher as the Iraqi portrayed in the film who used a drill and amputations to terrorize. Kyle's weapon is a bullet, from up to a mile away.

Let's revisit that quote from early the the film:

Wayne Kyle: [to his sons] There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn't exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn't know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep.

Wayne Kyle: Then you've got predators who use violence to prey on the weak. They're the wolves.

Wayne Kyle: And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Chris Kyle has been raised to be an aggressor. He's acclimated to killing and guns as a child, he finds ordinary life unsatisfying and joins the SEALS because he's "looking to be of service" and "likes to fight".

He ends up in Iraq as a highly trained sniper. In one scene he shoots a child carrying a grenade, then a woman presumably the child's mother, also carrying a grenade. 

So he has picked himself up, flung himself halfway around the world, to kill people he's never met and have done nothing to him or to anyone he knows, other than the other soldiers with him who themselves came from halfway around the world looking to fight.

Yes, sure, he has saved lives. And taken lives. And yes, the butcher of Iraqi and many of the others on his side are brutal, ruthless, savage people.

By all conventional measures Kyle is a bonefide hero, doing just what he was raised to do, what his country taught him to do.

Is he really so different from the Iraqi butcher? The butcher too is doing what he is convinced is necessary to protect what he considers valuable. The butcher too is risking everything. Surely the butcher sees himself as the sheep dog, protecting his flock.

The wolf and the sheep dog are not all that different. 

The real life Kyle was killed by a fellow vet, a 25 year old with PTSD who, according to Wikipedia, shot Kyle with Kyle's own gun and said:

"I was just riding in the back seat of the truck, and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range, so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn't talk to me. I'm sure they've forgiven me."

There are no good guys with guns, only damaged people convinced at the moment they pull the trigger they are doing something perfectly reasonable. 

Kyle looks like the all American hero. Raised by a preaching in good old American values, clean cut, volunteer, with a fine loving wife and kids waiting for him. He's just struggling with the understandable stresses of battle. And all that's true. He's also deranged. He can't see that in the end all he's accomplishing is adding fuel to the fire, propagating the anger and suffering to future generations. 

Yup, I'm a sheep. And it's true, if a wolf shows up at my door I wouldn't know how to protect myself. But I can't tell a sheep dog from a wolf. All I know is I don't want to be either one.