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Proof: What is a Picture Worth?

Although I’d like to put Dead Prez on blast–like I planned on doing last week–I think it would be most appropriate to follow up last week’s post.  I can’t believe I’m about to force my fingers to type the following sentence, but here goes: I agree with the Obama Administration’s decision not to publish the photos of Osama Bin Laden.

One moment, please.  I feel a little dirty.

In fact, although I know such a desire exists, I’m not even sure I could wrap my mind around the idea of actually wanting to see them.

I think Photoshop and other similar kinds of programs indicate that photographs can’t really be regarded as any kind of evidence that certain events occurred.  So, the argument that circulating these photos as sufficient proof to assuage the curiosity of even the mildest conspiracy theorists or latest Republican presidential candidate, or quell any of those “OBL ain’t really dead,” whispers seems a bit misguided to me.  Frankly, technology has reached such a level that it seems like we can only believe those things we actually saw–and maybe not even then.  Either way, eventually a documentary delineating why this latest “victory” on the War on Terror was a total fabrication or hoax will make its way to Youtube.  And I will watch it.

I also agree with the Obama Administration [lord, help me] that circulating pictures could incite or further exacerbate violence in other parts of the world.  I won’t deny the possibility.  Yet I imagine what would make the possibility of such violence even more highly probable isn’t simply the circulation of them, but how Americans might use them.  Forgive me for having little faith in some of my fellow citizens, but images of the absurdly inappropriate acts some of them might engage in once they printed a copy or several just flooded my mind’s eye.  Such moments would also make their way to Youtube, and although I wouldn’t watch it, my guess is a montage of these scenes would appear on the evening news and computer screens in other parts of the world, yet again proving to observers how little we understand of US foreign policy.

Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the circulation of the photos would not necessarily usher in a deluge of closure.  Admittedly, I did not lose anyone close to me on 9/11 or in these wars; still today, my heart goes out to those who have, just as it would to anyone who lost a loved one in an unexpected tragedy–both those that garnered national attention and those that did not.  Yet I wonder if the relief one might feel by gazing upon the picture of a dead Osama Bin Laden may be only temporary.  Is closure that can only be attained through (the confirmation of) violence closure at all?

For those arguing that seeing the pictures would help heal a decade-old national wound, I ask them to remember that this picture is more than Osama Bin Laden, more than proof, more than a thousand words.  That picture is not simply every life lost in those towers.  That picture is every dollar spent on these wars.  That picture is every life lost–both soldier and civilian–since the United States started Operation Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Whatever Freedom.

So is it worth as much as some of us thought it was?


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