In Memory of Steven Sotloff

Humanity is but a single Brotherhood: So make peace with your brethren ~ Quran, 49:10

September 2, 2014

I had another post lined up for today, but then this happened.

Another American journalist has been killed by ISIS or ISIL or IS or whatever it is they’re calling themselves these days. To Steven Sotloff’s family, I express my deepest sympathies. Steven did not brush up against war like the many of us living in this country – he lived it and died by it.

The people, and yes, as much as we want to call them demons and terrorists and scourge them with the hell fire of our rage, they are still people, who did this, have a powerful weapon at their disposal. They have the internet. Within minutes of the video being posted there were hundreds of versions of it on YouTube. There were stills being proliferated by western media outlets. The home page of CNN featured an image of Steven Sotloff in an orange jumpsuit. He was on his knees in the middle of the desert. An ISIS fighter dressed in what looked like a bad ninja costume stood by his side, holding a hunting knife.

Anger welled up inside me. I’m sure I’m not alone in jumping to a rash decision. Immediately upon hearing the news my knee jerk reaction was to combat war with more war. I wanted President Obama to send every fighter jet we have in the Middle East directly to Iraq and Syria and unload millions of dollars of bombs onto the monsters who did this. I wanted them wiped off the face of the earth. I wanted to never have to hear about ISIS or the Islamic State or Jihadists ever again. I wanted blood and death. Because that’s what I was raised on. That’s what the people who are members of ISIS were raised on too, but I knew that I was right and they are wrong.

They were monsters in my mind, not people. The media helps us with that too. They make them into monsters so it’s easier for us to destroy them. They desensitize us.

And maybe they are monsters, but I don’t know, and when I had time to let the anger burn away, I remembered that they are people. People who are doing horrible things. But what made them into monsters?

Thomas More in his book Utopia rather famously said, “For if you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from their infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this, but that you first make thieves and then punish them.”

I believe we made ISIS. But I also believe that that means that we now have to deal with them. I don’t know if we can negotiate with them or if we should. I don’t know if bombing the hell out of them will get rid of them or make the situation worse. Maybe it will make something more evil than ISIS. We thought there could be nothing more evil than Al Qaeda and yet, here it is.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that when I looked at those pictures, because I had to, because I couldn’t look anywhere and not see them, I thought – is this what we want? Is this what we want our children seeing on the five o’clock news? Is this really something we can watch while eating dinner without blinking? Are we really so numb to the situation that this is just something else we shake our heads at before we go on to read about Angelina Jolie’s wedding dress and nude pictures of Jennifer Lawrence?

We made ISIS, but we made something dangerous in our society as well – apathy.

Because I doubt Steven Sotloff’s family watched with a sense of detached curiosity.

Whatever you do, however you celebrate Steven Sotloff’s life, please celebrate his life and don’t glorify his death. Don’t give these people what they want. I urge you all not to click on the link or watch the YouTube videos or post to Facebook or tweet or retweet this horrendous crime. A human life deserves more respect than that.

Steven Sotloff

Photo (c) Getty Images

If you’re interested in reading some of the articles written by this incredible journalist, a very nice compilation was put together which you can read here.


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