As I drove to work this morning, I listened to the story of James Foley on NPR. While I heard about his work and his shocking death, I found myself full of heartache for this man and his family along with admiration for his work. The American photo-journalist went missing in Syria back in November of 2012, and a video recently surfaced that depicted his gruesome death at the hands of ISIS in Iraq. The terrorist group that has recently been aggressively making their way through Iraq stated that the death of James Foley was in response to the recent U.S. military operations within the Middle Eastern country.
I am not writing this to give my opinion nor spew details and data about the violence ISIS is using to take control of the predominantly Sunni country. There are much more qualified writers to inform the public on the events happening in Iraq and the evolution of ISIS. Instead, I wanted to focus on how the story of James Foley depicts the uncertainty of this world and the dangers that lurk. It makes me fearful of even seemingly safe travels, but it also makes me yearn for the courage to travel for a purpose greater than my own selfish pleasure.
I have always been a relatively fearless person, but the more places I travel and the older I get, the more aware I am of my surroundings. Gone are the days of leaping before I look, and I feel the pull of hesitation as I dream of new horizons. I also realize that some of the arrogance I carried as a young American blinded me from truly experiencing the culture and often times the suffering that happened around me as I snapped pictures and bought trinkets from children on the street.
Never did I consider that my spare change might have been used to buy the only food a family would eat that week. I never thought about the young girls I passed on nameless streets that seemed to be eternally waiting. Waiting for the next customer as they were forced into a life of sex-trafficking. Mostly, I thought I was somehow immune to all of these atrocities. These things didn’t happen in my own little world at home. It happened in the papers and on the news, but even when I traveled, I felt as if that bubble of safety traveled with me. It, however, does not.
While it was my arrogance that made me blind to this, people like James Foley and Daniel Pearl, were all too aware of the senseless cruelty in this world. They put themselves in harm’s way in order to expose the horror that exists in our lifetime and inform the public. These are the men that bring awareness to the unjust and expose acts against humanity.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he courage they possessed is beyond my comprehension, and their stories make me want to travel as they have. I wish for the strength these men had to be so aware, to be so determined, to be so dedicated to travel into war zones in order to carry out a sense of truth.
I may not ever develop such a sense of bold discovery that I am willing to risk my life, but I will always be reminded of James Foley and his death each time I set foot on foreign soil. We are all connected in our humanity no matter what race, religion, or residing country. Our sense of loyalty to the preservation and protection of life should expand all borders.
However, it is easy to forget those far corners of the earth. It is easy to lose sight of what is important when we are so fortunate to live lives of luxury compared to others. Yet, journalists like James Foley bring worlds that we will never know right into our living rooms. They teach us about our neighbors near and far. They bring to light the evil in this world so that it may be corrected.
If we close our eyes to the things that we fear or remain ignorant to world around us, the deaths of men like James Foley will be in vain.
Each time I travel I will understand that there is so much more than what meets the eye. Every place on this earth has a history of humanity and conflict. It has a story that stretches far beyond my knowledge in this small snippet of time. I will be aware of how I present myself to this world and unfamiliar cultures and offer respect. I will know that no one is impervious to the threat of violence whether they are home or faraway, but we must keep living, learning, and understanding to create a stronger sense of humanity.
I must recommend the book A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl. It is the the story of Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2002 and beheaded weeks later. His wife tells his story in heartbreaking reflection. During his kidnapping, Mariane was pregnant at the time and waiting endlessly in Pakistan as they searched for her husband. It is a moving and incredible read.