Sniper (Analysis)

My short story “Sniper” was also written around 2001, a year I seemed to have a creative rush. I was 41 years old at the time, living with my family in Rio Rico, AZ. This was two years before my ex-wife divorced me.

Because this was over twenty years ago, I cannot remember many of the details of why I decided to write this particular story. But as mentioned elsewhere in this blog, the Civil War in the United States is another period of interest and fascination for me besides WW2.

When I would drive back and forth from Tucson to Rio Rico for my business (almost every day during this time if memory serves me correctly), to lessen the burden of the over one hour drive each way (two plus hours round trip), I would often listen to books on cassette tapes. One of my favorites was those on the Civil War by author Shelby Foote.

I loved these series! Driving for so many hours a week allowed me to escape into another world of actual history, and no doubt this was instrumental in the particular story line of Sniper.

I’ve been fascinated by the life and exploits of wartime snipers and the caliber and personality type of men it took to be “successful.” Sniper is my attempt to get into the head of a fictional character that engaged in this dark craft and some of the possible reasons for him doing so.

In reviewing this particular story, it is interesting to me to see the story as viewed from myself in his early sixties (I’m 61 as I write this) to the man I was in my early 40’s. I’m not certain I would have written Sniper quite like I did than as I would have now.

What I mean by this is not that I would change my viewpoints but specifically how I would write the story, i.e., the mechanics of the writing process. Perhaps I note of bit of “woodiness” in my style, a lack of flowing or too technical in some aspects that I know I am guilty of in my writing and now wish to improve upon. Too much head and not enough heart, perhaps.

But I like Sniper. I did research on the type of sniper rifle used in my short story and felt I reported accurately this particular firearm. This desire for accuracy in my writing stems from my journalistic training and the need to be accurate in all of my reporting, a desire I carry to this day when I write stories or blog posts that need to contain facts.

Sniper explores, for me, some disturbing aspects of human nature, one of them being revenge and vigilante justice. I have often struggled with both of these during my lifetime because of my Christian beliefs. The Bible seems to offer conflicting attitudes on this.

For example, in the Old Testament, the practice of revenge is often carried out. In the New Testament, this is unheard of: the teaching of Jesus and “turning the other cheek” now takes precedence, capsulated in this verse: “Vengence is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19) Though this verse originated in the Old Testament, it finds it greatest application in the New Testament and, in my thinking, at least at one time, the gold standard for Christian conduct. In other words, revenge for Christians are to be reserved for God and Him alone.

Now, I’m not sure I believe in this any longer. If this was true, why have courts of law to sentence murderers and other criminals? Why not leave all crime to be solved by the hand of God? My thinking, of course, was immature in this capacity, and as I have aged, believe I have come to more of a balanced belief system.

The fact is, humans yearn for justice. Every report of a crime committed against someone is, in a sense, an act of revenge: we want those who have harmed us and our loved ones to receive the righteous judgment for their crimes. We hope, when the rule of law is enforced, that criminals pay for their crimes. Call this justice, revenge or vengeance, the deep desire for each of us to see those who commit crimes pay for those acts is universal.

Sniper explores these feelings, fleshes them out, showing that revenge and justice can take on dark overtones, even to overt acts of cruelty, as seen when the protagonist thrust his bayonet through the eye of One Shot. Vengeance can be brutal.

Of course, my own sense and understanding of justice—ever evolving—is played out with the characters in Sniper. Too many times on this earthly pilgrimage does justice ever occur on even the slightest scale; Sniper gives me an avenue to express my own feelings on how I might see justice played out in a mythical situation. And in this, perhaps I find solace in the world of fantasy where in the world of reality, such justice is too often denied.