Saturday, September 5, 2009

An "Unseen War" for All to See

I've begun to get used to seeing my daughter's picture on the internet. It's strange seeing someone who lives under your very roof, someone you know inside and out, someone you are committed to protecting with everything that you have, on a site that is visible to anyone anywhere. She has a "social networking website." I am one of her "buddies" and I monitor her settings and posts, trying to keep an eye on who is watching her. But to see her on a site I don't control, in a picture I didn't take, can be a little unnerving.

When I see her there, in her dance class, independent of me, growing up so quickly, I can't help but think of the family of 21 year old Joshua Bernard. My daughter is there, front and center, her cheeks pink with life, her body strong and moving to the beat of the music she loves to hear. In the picture splayed on newspapers across the country, of a soldier dying for his country, I see a son, a young life abruptly brought to an end, the music quieted.

Parents, John and Sharon Bernard were shown the picture of their mortally wounded son during an interview, prior to publication; they requested the Associated Press not use the photo. Later, in a phone call, Joshua's father requested again, more strongly this time, that the AP refrain from causing the family undue grief and strain. The outcome is obvious.

Associated Press, in a statement, said the photo depicted "a story that people needed to see and be aware of." (Their grammar, not mine.)

The Wheeling WV Intelligencer defended their actions by stating that "some Americans see only the statistics... We believe it is important for us all to understand that behind the numbers are real men and women, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice for us." I think the Intelligencer needs to read their own copy -- behind their "numbers" are real survivors of those men and women.

The Huffington Post made it front page news -- "Snapshot of an Unseen War." What is so "unseen?' Turn to any media outlet; it's everywhere! Maimed soldiers trying to rebuild their lives once back at home, stories of courage or cowardice, the names and faces of those who will never return.

In this day and age, when we can turn on CSI at 6PM and see all the gore we can handle, does the AP really think our desensitized society will flinch when presented with a photo such as this? Is there anyone who enjoys American freedom that thinks it was earned by cartoon characters being flattened by anvils and appearing without blemish in the next scene? Should we begin to publish pictures of electric chair executions to deter crime? or perhaps, burn victims can be included in a campaign to advocate the use of smoke detectors.

When a family is grieving -- newly grieving -- the death of their son who had barely earned his right to belly-up to the bar, shouldn't we cut them some slack? Does anyone think the Bernards love the war? Are they trying to cover up the fact that young men and women are dying? Are they seeking to have their son's heroism forgotten? There are entire volumes of Civil War black and whites that are not vague about the blood shed or lives lost for convictions, right here on our own soil. Those families grieved; those families were given the time and respect due parents that have offered the second-most selfless sacrifice for freedom. I don't know the Bernards and I don't pretend to know how they feel, but given the proper privacy and reprieve they may have wished their son's offering to one day be shared with the entire world.
Mr. and Mrs. Bernard, I am sorry for your loss and so sad that there are those who would dismiss your grief and ask you to, once again, sacrifice -- your pain, for their gain.

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