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Opening Arguments


I'm not going to watch the video of American journalist James Foley being beheaded. At one time in my life, I probably would have, giving some justification about "needing to see what evil looks like," but in reality just indulging in the ghoulish voyeurism of the young. Today, I don't need to be reminded of what evil looks like; we've experienced too much of it to not recognize it.

Besides, the still photograph, taken just before the beheading, is chilling enough. It joins the two others I have seen that will haunt me forever. One I saw when the Anne Frank exhibit was in town. The other is the one from the Vietnam war we've all seen.

Notice anything in common? I was struck by this observation about the World War II picture, and I think it applies to all three cases:

More troubling (maybe) than the mass grave the man is about to fall into, the frosty, casual calculation of the man with the gun or the Nazi soldiers watching nonchalantly from the background is the expression on the doomed man’s face. There’s no terror, panic or obvious despair- just steely resignation and an unflinching gaze at the camera’s lens. His expression suggests that’s he simply reconciled to the same death that had already found 28,000 of his friends, family and neighbors.
"Steely resignation." Death is just an instant away, and there is no hope, nothing to be done. So we are "simply reconciled." That is why we can never make peace with evil, right? It is relentless, it will never compromise or give up.
These were Foley's last words: "“I wish I had more time. I wish I could have the hope for freedom to see my family once again.”Yes, steely resignation. So sad. No, make that infuriating.