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American Sniper: Sheep, wolves and sheepdogs

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in "American Sniper."

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in “American Sniper.”

American Sniper, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood, is one very intense movie. It tells the story of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper with 160 officially confirmed kills, although in his memoir of the same title Kyle says he probably killed twice that number.

Regardless of what Lovefraud readers may think about war, guns, the military, Iraq, etc., I want to talk about one scene from the beginning of the movie.

In the scene, Chris Kyle is a boy of perhaps 11 or 12, sitting at the dinner table with his family. Earlier in the day, he got into a fight to protect his younger brother. Kyle’s father uses the incident to gravely address his boys. He says:

“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.

“Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. 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.”

Wow, I thought when I heard the words. What a statement.

This movie pointed out the fact that predators live among us. It’s an idea that we usually only see in movies starring comic book superheroes.

Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

The description, it turns out, was not original to American Sniper. It was from an essay in the book On Killing, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (ret). And Grossman credits the analogy to a retired colonel who was a Vietnam veteran.

Here’s the most famous passage from Grossman’s essay:

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

Read the entire essay here:

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs – Dave Grossman, on mwkworks.com

Grossman’s essay says that most average people live in denial of evil, which makes them sheep. It characterizes soldiers and police, who know that evil exists, as sheepdogs. He exhorts the sheepdogs to always be prepared, which to him means, if they are authorized to carry weapons, they should carry them at all times.

Opposing view

Grossman’s essay has become somewhat of a rallying cry for police, military, and people who believe in the right to bear arms.

And that means the idea of “sheep, wolves and sheepdogs” has been attacked by people who think the analogy is too simplistic, and an excuse for racial profiling.

For example, Elias Isquith wrote on Salon.com:

At heart, the sheepdog analogy, at least in the context of “American Sniper” and the Iraq War, is a kind of Aesopian repackaging of the hoary idea of American exceptionalism. Rather than view every human being as an individual, capable of making any number of decisions based off of their history and circumstance, the sheepdog worldview essentializes its targets, divorcing action from identity. It’s not that wolves are wolves because they kill; sheepdogs do that, too. Wolves are wolves because, well, they just are. They’re the “bad guys.” It’s as simple as that.

And Michael Cummings and Eric Cummings wrote on Slate.com:

While Grossman does have a Ph.D. in psychology, his analogy has zero basis in science. Good and evil aren’t scientific phenomena. While some humans have inclinations toward aggression and violence, it is not a gene that some people have and others do not. Yet Grossman still teaches more than 300 seminars a year on the sheepdog analogy and “conditioning the mind.” Conditioning it for what? We live in the safest times in human history. True “random acts of violence” are incredibly rare in our society; terror events rarer still. But the sheepdog analogy wouldn’t exist if people weren’t afraid.

It seems to me that the authors of both of these critiques are sheep.

Isquith sarcastically writes that, “Wolves are wolves because, well, they just are. They’re the ‘bad guys.’ It’s as simple as that.”

Well, yes. That’s exactly right. Sociopaths just are. In fact, that’s one of the lessons all of us who have been victimized struggle to learn. Sociopaths are exploiters. This is what they do. And they’re not going to change.

Then Cummings and Cummings write, “While some humans have inclinations toward aggression and violence, it is not a gene that some people have and others do not.”

Well, they’re wrong. Sociopaths, the wolves, do have different genes, and these genes, combined with harsh or indifferent parenting or other childhood deprivations, can turn them into predators.

These authors, by perpetuating the myth that evil doesn’t exist, are harming anyone who believes what they write. By dismissing the idea of inherent evil, they lull their readers into denial, making it easier for the sociopaths among us to snag unknowing victims.

We are the sheepdogs

Here’s the problem with the sheep, wolves and sheepdogs analogy: Most people interpret it to mean that all soldiers and police are sheepdogs. This is incorrect.

Some soldiers and police are, in fact, predators. Plenty of Lovefraud readers were involved with sociopaths who were police officers and members of the military. These predators used their roles to further their exploitative plots and scams. They are the worst of the worst — pretending to be our protectors, when, in fact, they are our exploiters.

I think we should interpret the analogy like this: Sociopaths are wolves. People who don’t know about sociopaths are sheep. And people who do understand that evil exists, that sociopaths live among us, are sheepdogs.

Once we were sheep. We were attacked by wolves. Now, as survivors, we become  sheepdogs.

Maybe we won’t join the military or carry concealed weapons. But simply by knowing the traits and warning signs of a sociopath, and educating our friends and relatives when we can, we can protect ourselves and others from the predators living among us.

 



5 Comments on "American Sniper: Sheep, wolves and sheepdogs"

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  1. Jan7 says:

    Very Profound statement:

    “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.”

    THIS is very very true!! I have been up to ranches in Montana where the sheep dogs protect their herds of sheep. It’s heart wrenching to hear the stories of these beautiful dogs being killed by wolfs while protecting the sheep or barely being able to come back down to the ranchers homes in need of dire medical care. I was a sheepdog before meeting my ex h but he turned me into a sheep, thank goodness for lovefraud which has awaken my senses again and now I am a very educated sheepdog!!

    Bill Maher stated this week that Chris Kyle was a “psychopath” and this is why he killed so many. I was thinking Bill Maher loves his freedom of speech which men like Kyle afford him this opportunity while staying in a safe country but I do not know if Kyle fit the traits of a sociopath. For one thing he was brain washing & mind controlled by the Military specially the Navy Seals which is a whole different mind control manipulation the military uses just like a cult leader mind controls their followers…. the question is what kind of man was Kyle before he entered the military, that answer will determine the answer. The irony is I always thought that Bill Maher fit the bill of a sociopath just by his behavior.

    I certainly could not do a job like Chris Kyle did but I am thankful that he did kill evil people including many, many psychopaths.

    Thank you Donna for posting this very profound article.



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  2. Escapefor1 says:

    Ah, but we do carry a weapon at all times. We carry hard-won knowledge, and we spread that knowledge. That is our weapon to help those we care about avoid and escape from evil, as unscathed as possible.

    I like what you say, Donna. We ARE the sheepdogs. We have seen the evil and we have returned, perhaps not unscathed, but with tougher scar tissue.



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  3. NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

    in this analogy, wolves murder. sheepdogs kill. and sheep either evolve or die. there is a difference. the critics don’t seem to understand that.

    ps The critic is either a sheep or a wolf in sheep clothing. We don’t have enough into to assume they are a sheep.
    pps Hmmmm. Think I’ve proven your point. I am a sheepdog, ~ am keeping watch…



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  4. carriesguns says:

    it’s an inadequate simile. for one thing, chris kyle was a sheep or he likely wouldn’t have been in training as a sniper. neither a sociopathic personality nor especially a psychopathic one would likely have sustained the self-control to successfully attain the skillset for sniper. the problem here is that sociopathic skills are a subset of normal human survival skills. and in order to become a sniper, one must take a sheep/sheepdog and train them into a specialized set of sociopathy, then expect them to exert such self-control as to return to a normal sheep.
    lol.
    but this is the price of war, of conflict; of the history of mankind.
    (as i see it, we have never had such a huge population of over-protected sheep, with such an extremely proficient media governing (& heralding)their perceptions. to be a sheep now is truly to be one of those sheep born and raised in a warehoused-livestock situation, devoid of real-world stimuli to ascertain differences?)
    it’s a sliding scale…but as we become much more highly urbanized, our environment becomes one governed by human interaction, as opposed to environmental interactions…and the rate of sociopathy & psychopathy rises tremendously.
    as will the rate of conflict.
    if one is looking for psychopaths, look for rage with an immediate,final solution. if one is looking for sociopathy, look for long-term,controlled situtations. very sophisticated strategies. shadow strategies…. Kyle is neither.
    a sniper is a sheep, trained to be a wolf-on-demand; then to calmly return to sheep or sheepdog status.
    it isn’t actually possible, but this is the expectation of those who are completely sheep, and wish to remain untouched by ugly realities. the most passive of the sheep?
    Chris Kyle is the sacrifice and a specific, highly specialized form of sheepdog; to expect him to conform to profiles consistent with normal sheep/sheepdog personalities is actually a criminal offense….
    he did this to protect all of us- the sheep/sheepdogs/even the wolves amongst us. we aren’t qualified to judge him.
    he’s a HERO. before vietnam, we knew to accept the results of his experience, and to forgive and aid his resulting problems. we, the sheep, require this to remain sheep. this is the price our HEROES pay for our genteel expectations. the lost perspective. the DELIBERATELY eliminated definition.



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  5. Delores says:

    My thanks go out to Chris Kyle for doing a job that needed to be done in times of war. He was a hero. We are at war and a nation of sheep will not save us. The sheep are why we are constantly at war because they will not let the sheepdogs win the war and drive off or kill the wolves. It is a great analogy, but our enemies are worse than wolves. Our current enemy is a political regime that promotes psychopathy. Wolves are only feeding themselves. People like Bill Myer are evil. I can now see through their sheepskin covers. I guess I was always a sheepdog, now I am an advocate for both sheep, sheepdogs and wolves against the worst enemy the world has ever encountered…psychopaths, not just in our midst, but now infiltrating our country and society with the plan to destroy us and kill all infidels in the name of a barbaric Sharia Law disguised as peaceful sheep.



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