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.

5 thoughts on “Photo-Graphics

  1. The image and writing together create an emotion of sadness. I also served in Iraq and have seen some pretty gruesome pictures taken by other Marines. I couldn’t bring myself to take the pictures but others had no problems with it and I even sent some to my family when I was still in Iraq. The hardest thing for me is to see a journalist videotaping or photographing a murder or execution or torture without trying to do something to stop it. Displaying the pictures are good to help people understand the reality of war, but those taking them should at least make some effort to prevent the crimes taking place before them. Unfortunately some people cheer and laugh when they see pictures of death and gore. There is so much hatred in the world that I just don’t get. Can I truly hate an Iraqi or Afghan or Communist or Nazi simply because they are labeled such? No. Just as I can’t hate a Republican or Democrat just because of their affiliation. It is the person behind the label that must be looked at.

  2. i agree, a human life MUST be deemed valuable enough to put the camera down to render aide. i have seen this in the civilian sector, with cell phone cameras and everything. its really disgusting to think that people think more about the shot and their 15 minutes of fame than to do some basic first aid….

    thanks for visiting the site scotty

  3. When we send our soldiers off to war, I believe we owe it to them to bear witness to their sacrifice. We may differ in our politics, even in our expressions of faith, but make no mistake of this – as Christians, we are one in the body of Christ. To bear witness to sacrificial death is our sacred duty. What we do afterwards is our expression of Word made Flesh.

  4. I was drawn to posts like this that you left a year ago and wondered what time has revealed to you in the light of Obama’s dilema with Afghanistan?
    What kinds of reflections do you have when you think back on these posts?

  5. Pingback: Video of Civilian Deaths in Iraq and America’s Culture of Violence : DMZ Hawai'i / Aloha 'Aina

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