‘American Sniper’ takes viewers to the front line of war

American Sniper follows Navy Seal Christopher Scott Kyle, the most decorated sniper in United States military history with 160 confirmed kills and another 95 claimed, through his military career of four tours in Iraq. The film, which follows the tradition of Saving Private Ryan, succeeded in being extremely graphic and honest. Slow scenes that are completely free of violence break the tension, but remain riveting. The movie perfects the art of emotionally affecting viewers. The opening scene sets the tone. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) stares down the barrel of .300 Win Mag sniper rifle at a young Iraqi boy who appears to be carrying a RKG-3 anti-tank grenade towards U.S. troops. Kyle must to decide to shoot the potential threat or let what could be an innocent child get dangerously close to the marines below him.

The scene cuts and shows a younger Chris Kyle at the dinner table with his southern father who explains that there are three types of people in the world: sheep, wolves, and sheep-dogs. The sheep do not know how to protect themselves, the wolves use their strength to prey upon the weak, and lastly the sheep-dogs, “are those who have been blessed with the gift of aggression and the overpowering need to protect their flock.” This short flashback shows Kyle’s self image as a sheep-dog who lives to confront the wolf.

Kyle spends his four tours protecting the troops despite a $20,000 bounty on his, and all other sniper’s, heads.
Bradley Cooper, formerly known for his comedic roles in The Hangover series and American Hustle, broke out of his comfort zone with a stellar performance. He essentially “brought Kyle back to life,” according to writer-producer Jason Hall. Cooper gained 40 pounds of muscle and watched hours of Kyle’s interview film to perfect his role.

Cooper handles the emotional jump between scenes in Ramadi, looking down a sniper rifle, and scenes where he holds his newborn child at home. He captures the blank stare of a traumatized soldier. Kyle’s wife Taya (Sienna Miller) tells him that she can see him and feel him, but he’s not really there. Miller shows the physical, emotional, and psychological stresses of standing by her husband’s side while he endures the dangers of multiple tours in Iraq. While the movie belonged to Cooper,

Miller accents him perfectly. The pair pack a punch.

Critics have accused Eastwood of glossing over the United States’ involvement in Iraq. But the movie is about one man’s controversial military life and his struggles at home, not about Eastwood’s politics. The already two-and-a-half hour long film focuses on a warrior’s life, struggles that United States military personnel face on a daily basis.

Was he a hero? Maybe. Was he a killer? Yes. Did he deserve the attention his memoir and film has received? Absolutely. The movie finishes without music and people file out of dark movie theaters all over the country in complete silence.

~gavin cranford, co-editor in chief

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Transgender comes to forefront; Students share stories, advocate for chosen gender identities

Check one box: male or female. Gender is ingrained very early on; however, not everyone feels as if they belong exclusively on one side of the traditional male-female spectrum, nor do they necessarily conform to the gender they were assigned at birth.

2014 alumna Gabi Arvelo is genderqueer – a catch-all term for people who identify as both genders, or none at all, or who generally fall in between on the spectrum of male and female.

“Being genderqueer means that you pretty much don’t identify as one gender,” Arvelo said. “It falls under the huge transgender umbrella, and there’s different types of genderqueer. Some predominantly dress in a masculine or feminine way, but others try to look as androgynous as possible and avoid using any gender-specific pronouns.”
Arvelo believes that society does not accept transgenderism in part because of a staunch opposition to attempting to understand it.

“Being genderqueer is mostly met with confusion because it’s like it isn’t even a thing – it’s just such a small amount of the population who identify as [being genderqueer],” Arvelo said. “Sexuality is more easily accepted and understood, but the matter of gender is completely different. I went to a gender therapist for a while, and I liked it because you figured things out about yourself. It was kind of weird because gender is something you’re born with and should understand, but for people like me, it isn’t as easy. Some people can’t or simply don’t want to understand genderqueers.”

Sophomore Darcy Fitz (whose name has been changed to protect privacy) was born a girl but identifies as male.
“As a female, I noticed very early on that I never gained any respect, but that males did. I was neglected and rejected just because of my gender,” Fitz said. “I realized that I didn’t hate myself, or how I looked, but that I hated my gender. Even the feminine pronouns annoyed me. For a time I even asked people to call me by my given name, because it’s more traditionally masculine.”

Fitz is hesitant to fully come out to his peers because of fear that they’ll reject him. Fitz believes that society harbors many misconceptions about transgenderism.

“I’m reluctant to tell people because they can be very judgmental. There’s the big fear of being rejected for my preferences. If I told people, they’d probably know me as ‘Darcy, the girl who is very confused,’”  Fitz said. “A lot of the time when people think ‘transgender,’ they think of weird guys with breasts, or drag queens, or that they’re just doing it to become pornstars or something. But what they don’t realize is that when people do this, they just aren’t comfortable with who they’re being perceived as. You can’t make judgments on someone based on stereotypes.”

Sophomore Morgan Fayette (whose name has been changed to protect privacy) identifies as being non-binary, which refers to gender identities that don’t fit within the accepted binary of male and female. Fayette prefers gender neutral pronouns such as “them” or “their.” However, other non-binaries and genderqueers prefer alternative pronouns, such as “ze” or “hir.”

“For  a while I was mostly just really confused and uncomfortable about it until I discovered that things outside of male and female actually existed,” Fayette said. “It was around puberty when I first started freaking out about my body, and that was tolerable for a while until I started becoming uncomfortable socially, too. I would get irritable whenever people would call me a girl, or if we were divided up into groups of girls and boys during gym. I always felt uncomfortable.”

Overall, Fayette says that they’ve been warmly received by those they’ve come out to.

“I’ve already told a lot of my close friends and all of them have reacted really well,” Fayette said. “There are certain people I’m avoiding saying anything to because I’m not sure about how they would react, but so far everyone I’ve talked to about it has been really great and supportive, and they’re all making an effort to use my preferred pronouns.”

Transgenders often experience dysphoria, a state of extreme unease or dissatisfaction with the gender assigned at birth.

“[Dysphoria] is when people don’t recognize you as the gender you identify as, or you don’t feel as if your appearance corresponds with your gender,” Fayette said. “It’s a terrible feeling, and really lonely in a way.”

Fitz plans to eventually undergo sex reassignment therapy.

“I want to do it the moment I turn 18,” Fitz said. “Being referred to as a gender you aren’t is a psychological trigger – imagine feeling uncomfortable every moment of every day. As a female, people don’t know who I really am – it’s a sense of wrongness, both internally and externally.”

International attention was brought to the subject of transgenderism following the suicide of transgender girl Leelah Alcorn, who was raised in a conservative Christian household in Ohio with disapproving parents. Alcorn left a suicide note to her Tumblr blog, on December 28, 2014, highlighting societal standards that affect transgender people in the hope that her death would highlight the treatment and perception of transgender people.

“It’s sad that it took the suicide of a beautiful girl for [transgenderism] to gain awareness,” Fitz said. “But it was a spark. There was a whole war based upon slaves getting their freedom, and things have to change for [transgenders], as well. I know how it feels to have your identity put down, and when people have their identity, their gender shunned, it’s an injustice.”

According to the Williams Institute, approximately 41 percent of transgender people attempt suicide, which dramatically exceeds the U.S. overall average of less than 4 percent. Additionally, 69 percent have been homeless at one point, and approximately 70 percent report experiencing sexual or physical abuse at school.

“I don’t know why it was this suicide that’s been brought to international attention,” Fayette said. “It’s certainly not the first. I’m just sad that somebody had to die.”

Fitz believes part of the opposition to transgenderism stems from religion.

“Some religious practices are against transgenderism because they state that God gave us our bodies, and that it would be blasphemous to change it,” Fitz said. “But God also gave us freewill, and the ability to do with our bodies what we’d like.”

Fitz hopes for eventual transgender acceptance.

“I think [transgenderism] will become normal, in time,” Fitz said. “I feel like gayness is more easily accepted because with transgenderism, you’re actually altering the body; it can be hard for other people to accept.”
And statistics look promising. Sixty-seven percent of Americans aged 18-29 support making it illegal for a workplace to discriminate against a person due to their sexuality, including transgender people, as opposed to only 42 percent among seniors.

“We’re all still just people,” Fitz said.

~lana heltzel, online/associate editor

New eight-foot-tall fence encloses FHS courtyard

An eight-foot tall iron fence, consisting of square steel posts with tube steel rails, now runs from the cafeteria to the annex (42 ft), from the top of the annex to the 1979 building (80 ft), and from the 1979 building to the PE building (20 ft), according to FCPS Area Building Manager Fred Lester. The goal is to close off the courtyard and make FHS a safer place.
Since he first came to FHS, Principal Tripp Burton has been concerned with the safety risks that the open campus generates.

“From the first time I walked around this building in the spring of 2013, this bothered me,” Burton said. “[The fence] makes us safer. I want students to feel safer in the interior area. The fence will give us less area we have to supervise.”
Students taking classes in the horticulture building are directly affected by the fence, which costs approximately $30,000. Since the gate is locked during school hours, students must go through the annex to get to their classes. Freshman Somer Kelly has to travel to the horticulture building for homeroom.

“I hate the fence,” Kelly said. “I go straight through the courtyard and walk around the annex to get to homeroom, and when they put up the gates, I will have to go out of my way and take the longer route through the annex. I wish they spent the money on the bathrooms [in the horticulture building].”

Junior Daniel Thomas has homeroom and fourth block in the horticulture building.

“It’s stupid,” Thomas said. “It takes more time for me to get to class and defeats the purpose of the open courtyard.”
Other students have more positive opinions about the fence. Sophomore Parker Culver feels safer with the courtyard fenced off.

“The fence makes the campus look classier; it’s a brand new, shiny fence and makes the courtyard safer,” Culver said. “It makes our school look better and shows that they’re trying to protect us. Anyone could have just walked in through the back parking lot and be right in the middle of our school. I really like it.”

According to Burton, the purpose of the fence is not to keep students in, but to keep intruders out.

“It’s not about trying to keep kids in; they will always find ways to leave campus,” Burton said. “The gate will be open in the afternoon for kids to leave, but it might not even be open in the morning because we have the main door.”

Senior Alex Parker doesn’t believe that the fence will serve the intended purpose to keep intruders out.

“Do they really not think that we can take care of ourselves? What does this fence do besides waste taxpayer’s money? Not a single thing.” Parker said. “If someone wanted their way into the school that badly, it would be easy.”

Although the fence has received some negative feedback from the students, Burton emphasized its purpose is to help ensure safety.

“It is extremely worrisome for a school administrator because anyone could walk in here. It is not supposed to give us any type of ‘prison effect’ or anything. It’s all for security,” Burton said. “That’s my number one job, to make sure we’re as safe as possible all the time. Now the entire interior that makes Fauquier High School unique is safe.”

~madeleine lohr, staff reporter