I remember a conversation I had with my brother a short time after I returned from Iraq back in ’05. He and I had differing opinions about displaying graphic images publicly for friends and family to view. I had several CDs of images when I came home that I didn’t feel totally interested in sharing with him. He insisted that visual stimuli was an important catalyst to encourage changes of hearts. I wasn’t so sure, believing folks’ morbid curiosity was a poor excuse for airing out bloody scenes of war. It was actually a fairly heated exchange, but we left the table on good terms nonetheless. We were living together after all, and neither of us was interested in getting home pissed at each other.
Today, I read THIS ARTICLE, which poses a similar question about graphic depictions of bloody war. It immeadiatley reminded me of that conversation. I still only hesitantly share the details of my time in Iraq, but only because of the emotionality of it, not becuase I think it is inappropriate to divulge them (I actually think it can be very healthy). The article also made me think of the ban on photographing flag-draped coffins returning home at Andrews Air Force base. It mentions the grotesque images that came out of Vietnam as well, which I think is important to remember. Did the free reign of the press during the Vietnam war contribute to it’s eventual end? If so, should that fact inform our use of images and media to similarly effect an end to this war, or would that be exploiting the dead?
The cynic in me remembers that the over 4,000 dead is actually only the number whose hearts stopped beating INSIDE Iraq. The number is controlled to represent a half-truth. Too many more brave souls who expire as a result of combat, but in Germany for example, are not counted in the popular number. The cynic in me reminds the rest of me that ANYTHING that can stop this bloodshed is worth considering. The patriot in me knows that this government is BY the people and FOR the people, and that it cannot in good conscience sterilize the public from the reality of what is going on in this, or any, war.
When you look at the picture above, if you feel angered, outraged, upset, or ashamed, maybe there is value in that. Maybe we are supposed to feel that way about war and the resultant death it brings. Who are we to isolate ourselves from our neighbors’ pain, those who may have lost a son, or God forbid – a daughter, in this tragedy? Maybe we are supposed to recognize the lost humanity and innocence that comes with corporate murder. Or maybe we are Cain, who insisted that he was not his brother’s or his sister’s keeper? Do we run and hide from our God-given responsibility to protect and nurture life, do we covet and destroy life instead? Do we shield our eyes from every stomach-turning, potentially heart-softening, image of war?
May God protect us from forgetting His Image in this and every soldier, civilian, and (gasp!) insurgent. Let us pray for those who curse us, that they may see the love we have for them, and may we all repent of our evil ways.