the daily show

Take My Picture

So, continuing yesterday's conversation... there are some good points out there as to why the administration should release post-mortem photos of one certain recently-deceased asshat. The points brought to my attention are so good, in fact, that I am no longer certain that I hold to my previous idea that it's a gloriously bad move to release said photos.Not flip-flopping. Not jumping on any bandwagons. I am legitimately conflicted. Yesterday I said that releasing the pictures would serve no purpose other than to satisfy bloodlust in a grieving country or further fuel the conspiracy theories. The international repercussions of such a decision also give one  pause. However, there are a few things that make me wonder if perhaps I don't give my countrymen-and-women enough credit. Perhaps, dare I say, I am wrong.

A good friend of mine going by the alias "Hoss" commented on yesterday's post saying:

I don't know if I can explain the rage that I feel. It's certainly not something I've nurtured or fed. But I grew up in the shadow of those towers, have uncles and cousins that worked there on that day, and watched while madmen destroyed them with fire and blind hatred and perversion in the name of God. I shed not one tear of remorse for the death of the author of that tragedy. And I DO want to see the body. Not to gloat, not to prove 'who gets the credit', not out of some twisted nationalistic pride.

I want a photo. I want something to scream at, and spit upon, and drown in rancid bacon grease, tear to shreds, and feed to a fire.

I want to be done with this rage, and I don't know how to let it go.

While worrying about people out there using these photos for political gain, fear-mongering and shit-storming, I forgot something crucial. Some out there may need to see the visual proof in order to heal. Some may need some physical totem to, as Hoss said, scream at. For some, these gruesome images may be a much needed catharsis.

So, last night whilst perusing Huffington Post, I saw a link reporting 3 gory photos from the compound. These were published by Reuters. (WARNING: These photos are extremely graphic depictions of dead men.) I looked. I saw pictures of real corpses, not just dummies or actors. Looking at those--then promptly going to Zooborns.com for some soul balm--I wonder if sterilizing our media to exclude this is more harmful than allowing people to make up their own minds of what to click. I have provided the link to those pictures here because I try to treat you, my readers, like grown ups. I trust your judgement. I'm wondering, now, if maybe our leaders should offer the same courtesy.

I found an article by photojournalist Deborah Copaken Kogan speaking to that. She offers her opinion that to "sanitize photos is to distort history". She talks about her experiences of going from life as an American "steeped in movie violence" to witnessing and recording death on a very real scale. It's an informative read and I encourage you to check it out.

Another series of good points was made on last nights episode of The Daily Show. Jon Stewart had this to say:

Now, I agree with Mr. Stewart that photos will not end the debate that this man is dead. People will say it's 'shopped or staged or whatever... photos will not definitively solve anything. Also, I agree that the Muslim world is used to such. I think Stewart's juxtaposition of an Al Jazeera clip of a dead body with the phrase, "and sometimes they don't even have to see it on tv. Just look out the window," is particularly haunting and illustrates the gap between our cultures.

We are lucky in this country. We don't see this in the streets every day. We don't see the aftermath of what we politicize. War? We ignore the visceral details. We don't see the maimed or murdered civilians caught in our crosshairs. We don't see our troops struggling to cope with what they've seen and done in the name of Freedom. We don't show that stuff. Sure, we'll watch hours of violence and crime dramas...but we know that's fake. In the end, we know that this week's dead hooker on CSI got up off the table and went to audition another day. (I admit fully that it's Thursday and tonight my friends and I will gather for our weekly dinner and CSI night. Yes, I'm still trying to figure out why we always seem to be eating during the autopsy scenes.)

But we're lucky that we can turn it on or off at our leisure. We're lucky that it's not something we see in the streets. I can't find an argument with Stewart's idea that maybe we should show pictures of war so that we don't confuse it with video games. In fact, I am hard pressed to find any issue with his stance, Hoss's or that of Deborah Copaken Kogan.

Maybe the problem is that we, as a society, have stripped death of its dignity. We've forgotten, on a large scale, just what we ask of our soldiers when we send them to kill. This isn't Call of Duty 4. There is no save game or option to turn it off. The bodies are not pixels. We have forgotten just what it means to take a life. Maybe we should release the photos so that we don't forget what we're doing when we go to war.

I don't know the answer.

What do you think?

Getting Better

So, this past month has been crazy busy. Just last weekend two of my favorite people got married. No, I'm not talking about Kate and Will. Two of my dearest, Patt and Jaileigh, tied the knot with humor, grace, and delicious desserts. Other than the coughing fits, I went to be quite blissed out that night. I saw the single most powerful force in the world at work: human connection. Joy. Laughter. Love. I'm not saying this to gush, I'm saying something I truly believe - being able to connect to someone else, to empathize, to share tears and laughter, to talk, to unabashedly be with one another ...these are powerful things.
I'm glad that I have a coffee mug and some pictures to go with the memories of Saturday night's festivities because over the course of these past days, I've seen a lot of ugly things spreading about the internet.
Rage is a strong drink. There are several brands on the shelf, some more potent, more distilled than others. Thing is, though, that no one is a happy drunk when imbibing rage. Rage makes us all ugly. Just look what it does to your face. It twists it about, scrunches you up. If you're crying, you get all red and puffy. Rage is never a pretty thing. Sometimes, though, it is necessary. And it's natural. It's part of being human. Cut deeply enough and you'll get rage from someone: anger, passionate vitriol, sadness all mixed into one cocktail.
For more than 10 years, Americans have put a particular name to some heinous crimes committed against ourselves and against others in the world. We've put a specific face at the bullseye of our dartboard, blaming him and him alone for the horror of one Tuesday. We were hurt that day, as a country, when 3000 innocent people died. When first-responders were buried in rubble. When we watched live footage of people jumping to their deaths. Since that day, more people have died to find those responsible, to try to undo what was done, to make sure it never happens again. I have friends who have served. All have come home, so far, and goddammit, Matt Tydings is coming home, too when all is said and done. Some of my friends missed years of their children's lives. Some left a piece of their soul over in the desert. All of them sacrificed something to bring justice to the world.
That man we've named as the architect, the man cursed by so many is now dead.
There is relief in that statement. There is hope that my friend Matt and his brothers in the service can come home and stay here, hold their families and live with joy. There is hope that now, 10 years after the event itself, we can rebuild rather than tear apart the Middle East in an angry man-hunt. I would be lying if I said that a part of me didn't take a bit of wrathful glee in knowing that this hateful fucker has finally (FINALLY) been brought to justice.

But....

...I'm seeing something that scares me more than conspiracy theories or zombie scenarios. I'm seeing good people go the way of the mob. I'm seeing my Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded vile sentiments like, Pics or it didn't happen. Why did we give him a proper Muslim burial at sea? He didn't give that respect to his victims, why should we give it to him?
 
First of all....do you know what happens when someone is shot in the face with a high powered firearm? It's not fucking pretty. It's gruesome. What you're asking to see isn't some special effects make-up, computer imaging or a scene from last week's episode of CSI. It's real. It's the honest, ugly truth about what happens when physics meets flesh and bone. I've never seen such a thing and I am thankful that I haven't. I'd like to keep it that way. What good would it do for you--Joe Schmoe who works in a cubicle farm in the middle of Indiana with a wife and two dogs--to see the postmortem photos of a jackass genocidal fuckhead? You want proof he's dead? Fine, grab a scuba mask and head for the Arabian Peninsula. Otherwise, I'm wondering if all you want to see is some blood and guts. You want that? Take the place of any man or woman in the military and you'll get a similar view.
And why give him the respect he couldn't give his victims? I'll tell you why. Because we're better than him. Because we aren't the monsters we're fighting. He may not have respected others' religions, cultures, lives...but we--the same people who boast that Superman fights for the American way, the same people who believe we are the voice of reason on this planet--we say that we believe everyone has a right to choose how to live. We say that people can worship as they will and that we will honor that. Sure, our hypocritical nature is showing in that we don't give that same respect to our neighbors, but we'll give it to our Most Wanted felon...but if we forget for one second that this poster boy for terrorism was a man with a mother, a father, children...if we forget that Osama bin Laden was a human being, we join him in his ideology.
Come on, guys. We're better than this. The bickering over who got the job done, Bush or Obama? Navy SEALS got the job done, let's just go with that, okay? The conspiracies that he's actually still alive and this was done to boost Obama's numbers and provide an excuse to interrupt the latest episode of Celebrity Apprentice...the lists of how Obama screwed this up, too...the dancing in the streets singing "Ding Dong the Dick is Dead"...the bloodthirsty throngs wanting to see photographic proof (which would then, at the very least, be scrutinized as photoshopped)...just stop. Please?
Let's not spend a moment longer glorifying that bastard with airtime. Take his picture down and erase his name. Let him serve as a lesson of what NOT to be because he embodies what is sick and twisted in humanity, not as a lesson of what happens when you "mess with Texas". Let's move on, heal and take care of our wounded...the men and women who have been working so hard for these past 10 years. Let's take care of each other and the challenges we have at home. I dare you to do better. WE need you to be better.
Seeing the news these past few days is enough to drive anyone to drink. It's hard to find something pure and good to hang onto. Thankfully, I have that coffee mug to remind me of some of the simplest, most powerful joys. I have a husband, daughter, and friends who laugh often. I have enough around me to remind me that humanity is greater than the lowest common denominator. There's more to life and the world than some dead terrorist.