I watched the video.
I had to.
I watched them pour gasoline on a man and set him on fire.
I watched them kill Daniel Pearl, too.
That was the first one, only I didn’t know it would be the first. I thought it would be an abberation – a glitch in the flow of compassion, of decency, of HUMANITY.
I sat at my desk on my Apple G4, the internet trickling in through the phone line. I had dialup. It was that long ago.
I spilled the cup of tea next to me.
I screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed until the neighbors pounded on the door.
“Why would you watch that?” they asked.
Later, I told my mom what I had seen — when the light went out of his eyes, the world got a little darker.
“Why would you watch that?” she asked.
Well, I’ve watched more since then — there have been too many more between then and now.
And I’ll watch more, later, too, because there will be more as the world gets darker.
“Why would you watch that?” you ask.
I watch these videos because I have to.
While I seek the good that there is in this world, and while I imagine the better than can be, I make myself remember that there is evil, too…. evil as pure as as the gasoline used to light that fire, evil as blinding as the glint of sunlight off that steel blade…
There is evil in the steady camera that filmed a human being’s last moments of agony. There is evil in the crisp sound quality, mixed down by men who watched another man die while they turned the nob for a stronger base, a clearer treble. …. I see evil. I hear evil.
And I will speak against evil. Even if I have to scream.
I hug the people I love a little harder. I stand up for my family, for my country, for my people, for ALL OF US from every culture and religion and walk of life who are willing to work together to make a better world.
And I think about this:
The Germans claimed they “didn’t know” what happened in the ghettos and on the trains, in the camps, and in the ovens.
“We didn’t know!” they cried when the pictures of my great uncles and aunts, and cousins leaked out… the walking cadavers, the piles of bones.
“We didn’t know!”
Islamic State posts these horrific videos and pictures to taunt us and terrify us.
And worse: To make us bear witness to their socially sanctioned psychopathy…. whether we watch the videos, or see the pictures, or not… we KNOW what’s happening.
It doesn’t matter that I didn’t light that match, or swing that blade. I bear witness.
I know what they are doing and I’ve known for years, now, and still…
And all around us on all sides, the world darkens, and fear grows… and fear, oh what fear can do… it’s poison, leaking through, making everything darker still.
So what? I sip my cappuccino — extra foam, nonfat milk. I keep on living, keep on loving… I keep seeking light. Great, wonderful. Maybe that’s enough to get me through the day. But at the end of the day, I know there is darkness, fierce and hungry darkness…. And I refuse to let my eyes become accustomed to it.
But seeking light is not enough.
We need to be the light.
For a Spanish version of this article, please click here.