A friend said to me online tonight: “I feel like the world is slowly imploding.”
After the news last night of the brutal execution of American journalist James Foley, I’m inclined to agree.
* * *
Larry’s phone pinged just after he came back tonight with an armful of ice cream for me and his parents.
“Who died?” I joked. (Larry gets AP Mobile Breaking News Alerts on his phone. It’s become a running joke between us that when it goes off, usually someone famous has died.)
“Some American journalist was beheaded by ISIS.”
I stuck a spoon into my peach ice cream. “Who?”
“James Foley?” he said, checking his phone.
I felt the taste disappear from my tongue as I remembered that Foley was a journalist captured in Syria almost two years ago. As I ate my ice cream and tried to watch Master Chef with my husband and in-laws, I couldn’t stop thinking about the news. I headed to Gawker because of course Gawker would cover this.
I was not expecting to see a still from the beheading video as the article’s leading image: this gaunt Caucasian man with his shaved head, draped in an orange robe, while his captor, dressed all in black and an AK-47 slung over his shoulder, stands ominously behind him, the pair against a desert backdrop.
The video description is far more gruesome than what this one still image portrays and yet, this image haunts me even this morning. I just can’t shake it – that orange robe a swath of deadly color burned into the brain.
His mother, Diana, posted this last night:
We have never been prouder of our son Jim. He gave his life trying to expose the world to the suffering of the Syrian people.
We implore the kidnappers to spare the lives of the remaining hostages. Like Jim, they are innocents. They have no control over American government policy in Iraq, Syria or anywhere in the world.
We thank Jim for all the joy he gave us. He was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person. Please respect our privacy in the days ahead as we mourn and cherish Jim
* * *
I have always admired the People Who Run Towards The Chaos.
My father, a photojournalist for over 40 years, is one of those people. As floods of people ran from NYC on September 11th, he loaded up his car with his camera gear and drove in. Just as he had during the first Iraq War. Into Quaddafi’s inner circle in the 80s in Libya. As the Berlin Wall crumbled at his own feet.
The capturing of journalists is nothing new. Even when my dad was in Operation: Desert Storm in the 90s, he had to stay an extra couple of weeks on assignment to assist when one of his paper’s reporters was captured in Kuwait. Thankfully, that journalist made it home alive.
James Foley is added to a list of journalists far too long who have been kidnapped or killed – simply for doing their jobs.
Shedding light on the dark truths of the world we live in has never been more pervasive – I think of the Egyptian, Iranian and Syrian uprisings broadcast across sites like LiveLeak, YouTube, and Twitter.
For those whose job it is to run toward the chaos, I feel like it’s never been more dangerous for them.
* * *
Between the Gaza conflict, the down civilian Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine, and Ferguson, Missouri, how can I not feel like the world is slowly imploding?
It’s easy to feel this way, as current events swell and recede, expand and contract in waves of conflict, war, and destruction. As Yeats once wrote: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” This is the world we build. This is the world we destroy.
The human race dances like the mad Kali, crushing all that we’ve built into the dust beneath our feet. Who will it take to stop her mad dance? Who will throw herself at her feet before we are all consumed? I don’t have the answer. But something – something has to change. And we must each do our part.
I have to believe that it’s possible to build a better world without tearing it right back down again.
I have to believe that. I need to believe that.