In his “Media Equation” column in the New York Times of July 28, 2014, David Carr reminds us that television brought the Vietnam War into our living rooms and around our supper tables. The first war to “invade” our homes with graphic, moving pictures of atrocities happening half a world away albeit delayed by the technology of the time. Today on phones, tablets and computers, via email, facebook or twitter the horrors of war are at our fingertips in real time. Not only can we view the images, but we can be subjected to the commentary of the sender. Of course we can hit the delete button or “unfriend” the images. But, as Susan Sontag reminded us a few years ago, we humans are entranced by the “perennial seductiveness of war”.
Some who forward images of war from the actual site, be they professional journalists or ordinary by-standers, make such comments as, “I’m glad that it wasn’t me” or “That was close. How much danger am I in?” Again, as human beings, we instinctively look out for our own welfare. We are not masochists or heroes, for the most part. However, there are other instant images associated with war. Those are the images of the grieving. Perhaps it is my age. I have no way of proving this, but it seems to me that recently, we are seeing on television and in newspapers more images of the grieving.
No matter in what part of the world the tragic incident may occur, be the victim friend or foe, humans mourn their loved ones. Grief is universal. We are mesmerized by war; but, we turn away from grief. We turn away rationalizing that grief is a private affair. In reality, we turn away in order to desensitize ourselves. If each of us allowed ourselves to empathize with the grieving, to sink into the morass of sorrow, to ask, “Why?”, we might find the best and most enlightened part of our humanity. We might find the courage to end all war.