04 May 2011 @ 1:23 PM 

Baser Instincts


Graphic images of violent death are not good for the soul. Whether in person, video or pictures, we do not need to see the images of a corpse torn asunder. Suffice to say that he is dead. The President says that we don’t need to “spike the football.” He’s right about that, but it’s more than that. You may be curious, but some things are best left a matter of unsatisfied curiosity. It’s not good for you. Our baser instincts are not always good to satisfy. Most of us have already seen enough; civilians included. Cries to the contrary are that baser instinct begging for satisfaction.

It’s best to acknowledge the thought and just… let it go.

It’s not about his dignity, it’s about ours. Yours. Mine. I’ve seen my share of death. Any share is more than enough. It’s not like the quiet violence of seeing a family member die of disease, nor of seeing them in made-up repose in a casket. As a young man, I held my father’s hand and looked into his eyes at the moment of death as the light of life left him. It was a remarkably spiritual experience, but balanced with a certain horror. The horror was in one of the earliest fears of a child coming true; I had lost a parent. But, there was no dehumanization. Our rituals surrounding death serve a purpose in letting go of a loved one while preserving their humanity. Seeing human beings reduced to remarkable similarity with road kill is just not good for the soul. Yes, we saw pictures of Zarkawi. We saw pictures of Uday and Qusay. We didn’t need to and, I strongly submit, we could all have lived the rest of our lives without having done so and been the better for it. It’s not about the sacredness of bin Laden’s life, it’s about the sanctity of human life and what seeing the results of extreme violence does to that sanctity in our own souls.

In early September of 2007, I lost four Afghan National Police to an IED. It was tremendously violent. As the Special Forces medic understated it, they had sustained, “injuries incompatible with life.” I don’t have bad dreams about it, but I can see those moments in my mind’s eye, and I can smell the mixture of blood, bowel and… fresh death… as clearly as if those men were still in front of me. There is no dignity in that moment, other than in the dignity of men who died for what they believed in; and that is such an abstract concept at that moment that it does not overwhelm the purely visceral horror of human beings torn asunder by massive violence wrought by other men.

I had to go through their pockets, having that OJ Simpson moment of trying to work rubber-gloved hands into close fabric. I had to, because the amount of facial deformation and the transformation of death made it difficult to positively identify the bodies. I had to find the ID cards. Their body fluids on the blue gloves caused their own sensations of horror. In looking into the faces, trying to remember, trying to identify the dead, the lifeless eyes stared out. Horror. No light of life, the spirit gone and the eyes not just unseeing but violently decoupled. I lost a part of myself that day. It was not an exercise of mental muscles but the slow, painful and violent amputation of a bit of my soul.

The horrible expression of death will never leave me. I did what I had to do, and soon enough it was over… but is never over. My soul is not stronger for having had that experience, it is the poorer for it. Painted by a brush that leaves an indelible mark. Now, much of that is lost in a photograph; but you can and hopefully will live the rest of your life without having that baser need satisfied and that brush paint your soul more than it has been painted to this point.

And you will be the better for it.

I say this as only those who have given the last semblance of God-given innocence blithely away and lived to regret it can. Jealously guard what innocence you still hold, for it is wealth in your soul; not weakness, but strength. As the voices of the baser instincts of our national character cry out for satisfaction, I encourage you to simply acknowledge that in yourself and in the human character and… let it go.

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Categories: analysis
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 04 May 2011 @ 01 23 PM


Responses to this post » (9 Total)

  1. louisa howard says:

    well said.
    thank you

  2. Jean says:

    Well said, Blue.

  3. elf` says:

    I don’t much care whether or not the pics are released.

    And I don’t much care if looking at UBL’s stiff takes part of my soul (kinda doubt it).

    I only care about winning. That’s my only metric.

    funny, if this were a ball game, a power game, whatever my fellow American’s would be all insisting on measuring up. But a genocidal war? Well what is “victory”. And we’re gonna finally dig in our heels on principles. We’ll compromise on everything else. But not this!! We have to “live up to our ideals”.

    Sorry this is a bit tangential to the thread….

  4. Max says:

    Yeah, I don’t need to see the pictures. I believe. The US government knows there’s too much riding on this one to try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

    I am sorry for your experiences, but am thankful for your sacrifices so that America can remain free!

  5. Lunchbox says:

    Posting the pic’s of UBL does only one thing, in my book; it puts us on par with al Qaeda and the radical Islamists. How did Daniel Pearl’s beheading serve purpose? It terrorized us, angered us, gave us resolve to take the fight to our enemy. So, again, what good does posting the pictures of a dead UBL accomplish?

    It’s said, by speaking the devil’s name we give him life. The publishing of those photos is tantamount to speaking the devil’s name.

    and…. I very much like your statement, Jealously guard what innocence you still hold, for it is wealth in your soul”. Perfectly said. Thank you.

  6. OldSoldier54 says:

    I think you’re, Blue. It’s about our own soul’s good, nothing else, IMO.

    Well said.

  7. Kirk says:

    I listened to John Tesh on the radio last night and during one of his, “Inteligence for Life”, segments in which he was talking about “Strategies to increase your happiness”. 1. Try doing something you enjoyed at age ten; 2. Seek out novelty and challenge; 3. Read memoirs of others misfortunes.


    Your poignant explanation about the devastation of war increased my awareness that my life is filled with wonderful people and to continue being thankful and enjoy every moment with them while in this realm.

    God bless and thank you for your service! Memorial Day – In rememberence for those who gave the ultimate sacrafice during service – their life!

  8. I’ve tried to teach my kids in Sunday School about what they watch, what they see, and what video games they play because some of them I feel have become desensitized to violence and death. I read this and my heart broke for you man. I thank you for writing this because it encourages me in what I am doing by trying to teach young kids about life.

    What you have written here is beyond true, and beyond wisdom.

  9. Andy says:

    Beautifully said.

    A human being can never truly appreciate the beauty of love until they experience its painful extreme in times of loss. I know it’s been said many times, and many different ways, but through loss we grow a little inside, and with each passing year gain a little more wisdom. The less wisdom we possess, the more we succumb to our baser instincts…

    Not religious, just an observer in life…

    Once again, beautifully written…

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