Years ago, I got into an argument with some people over the fact that American Sniper sidestepped all the crazy stuff Chris Kyle had said. The man had said that he was hired to shoot at looters following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. He said that he had killed two people in some Texas town outside Dallas who tried to carjack him. But since he was a war hero and Navy SEAL, the police covered it up. He also claimed to have gotten into a fight with Jesse Ventura, a former SEAL himself, who later sued his estate and book publisher.
All of these claims were never substantiated. But still some people claim that just because they weren’t substantiated, didn’t mean they didn’t happen. And then I ask does it make it right for Kyle to say that he shot people who were waist or chest deep in water trying to find food and supplies? Does it make it right that he defamed a person who didn’t share his political beliefs? Also, he’s admitting to getting away with murder and implicating a law enforcement agency. None of this stuff was true. There were even questions about his military service.
The military gives some people the big heads. They think they can do whatever they want. But if you were to look at all the people who serve and have served, you’d realize they’re not as special as they like to think they are. How many have served? Millions? Two people have successfully performing the triple axel. That’s very special. Twelve people walked on the moon. That’s very special.
Some people see military service as a family issue. Others see it as a rite of passage as Americans. Some see it as a career. It’s different strokes for different folks. I don’t know how Daniel Penny, only 24, a Marine vet, hoped to achieve while in the service. But he should’ve known better on May 1 when he put Jordan Neely in a fatal chokehold on a New York City subway train.
If Penny was old enough to serve in the military, he’s old enough to face the consequences of his actions. As a Marine, he knew how dangerous it could be to hold Neely, 30, a homeless street performer, like he did for so long. Witnesses said that Neely was making threats and scaring passengers. But was Penny in a fight or flight mode? Was Penny’s immediate life threatened?
What boggles my mind is that even though Neely was in a chokehold, two other passengers also held his body down. There comes a moment where it’s not restraint but cruelty. People are saying that Penny should not have been charged with second-degree murder because he was a vet. That doesn’t absolve him. Military personnel past and present should be held accountable the same for speeding as they are for homicide.
This also begs the question is if Penny should get special treatment because he’s white. What if the roles were reverse? Neely was a black man. If a black military man felt threatened by a white man, would we really be calling for him to be released and the charges dropped? No. We know they’d find everything he had done since pre-school to justify why he should be charged. Yes, Neely had previously been arrested. But what matters is what happened on the subway train.
Again, just because Kyle served during war times doesn’t give him carte blanche to be judge, jury and executioner anytime he saw fit here in America. (And the man should’ve had more common sense than to hand a firearm to a person he just met who was struggling mentally.) The same people saying Penny should be released are the same ones who said Gregory Jean McMichael and his son, Travis James McMichael, had every right to think that Ahmaud Arbery was a burlgary suspect when they gunned him down in south Georgia for just jogging.
The problem with our society is that we’ve been taught to believe everyone white is the good guy and everyone black is the bad guy. But there’s a big difference between being legitimately threatened and just being uncomfortable. It happens when you take public transportation. The other day I was in Tulsa waiting to get on to the freeway at a stoplight and a man in the vehicle next to me was jamming out to the music. I just had to laugh at his happiness and joy. I didn’t feel threatened. I was in their neighborhood. I don’t like the idea of vigilante justice because it’s a thin line between justice and anarchy. It’s like Rocket Raccoon not understanding the concept of theft by rationalizing that “I want it more.”
People have been shot for knocking on doors, playing hide and seek and the simple mistake of getting in the wrong car. You have to say enough is enough at some point. Because the next time, it could be you or someone close to you who just gets shot just for walking towards someone in a parking lot or a store.
And if military vets don’t think the rules apply to them, then what’s the whole purpose of their service anyway?
What do you think? Please comment.