Foley must be remembered for how he lived…and how he died

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I read an interesting tweet last week from Kelly Foley, a journalist and the cousin of James Foley.
“Please honor James Foley and respect my family’s privacy,” she wrote. “Don’t watch the video. Don’t share it. That’s not how life should be.”
James Foley, as you may know by now, was beheaded somewhere in the Middle East at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Before pulling out the knife used to decapitate him, his masked executioner explained that he was killing the 40-year-old American journalist in retaliation for the recent United States’ airstrikes against the terrorist group in Iraq.
Certainly, his family’s privacy should be respected, but his mother and father’s press conference at their home in Manchester, N.H, was incredibly moving. Watching these grieving parents face the microphones and cameras and express love for their son and admiration for his work was truly inspiring.
Meanwhile, the video of their son’s beheading went viral and sparked outrage as well as considerable debate over whether the horrific images should be restricted online.
Those who oppose distributing the image online do so because it will give publicity to ISIS. One the other side of the debate, NPR said, “there are those who see the video as proof of the militants’ barbarity and of the tragedy of Foley’s death. Some see the restriction of images as censorship. “
I tend to side with those argue that that video must be available. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that Americans need to see it to fully comprehend what we’re up against when it comes to ISIS.
I posted a news story on Facebook that included two photos: one of the ISIS executioner holding a knife to Foley’s neck, the other of President Obama swinging a golf club.
Obama, you see, hit the links shortly after giving a speech in which he condemned ISIS. I don’t care that Obama golfs or, for the most part, how often he golfs. But surely someone could have told him that golfing immediately addressing the Foley tragedy was in poor taste.
I received the following response about my post from a Facebook “friend.”
“Your political statement showed more of the gruesome killing of this man than I wanted to see—more than any post up until now in my feed regarding this issue. I totally don’t appreciate it.”
It’s a curious response, to say the least. I didn’t go out of my way to find the most gruesome photo that I could find. It was an existing post, but the gruesome imagery was all over social media.
My aim was to contrast Foley making the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of ISIS barbarians with Obama shooting a leisurely 18 holes after addressing the tragedy.
The person who called me out wants to bury his head in the sand. He prefers not to come face-to-face with the brutal acts of bloodthirsty terrorists nor does he believe the president is deserving of criticism for golfing as the world comes to terms with the heinous act.
Heck, another person responded to my Facebook post justifying Obama’s decision to golf, saying the president needs to rest and refresh so he can work at his best.
The truth is, we must not ignore James Foley’s death. Indeed, the way he died must serve as a stark reminder that we are at war with radical militants who do not value life and of the freedoms were enjoy.
In many ways, Foley represents us all. He’s an American, a journalist who valued free speech and was drawn to conflict journalism to tell the stories of those who could not speak for themselves.
He was a man of faith, a graduate of Marquette University and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. He believed he could make a difference and was brave enough to cover unrest in the most dangerous parts of the world.
Watching the planes crash into the twin towers on Sept. 11 remains a horrific image more than a decade later. Thousands of Americans died that day. But the beheading of Foley is tougher to grasp, more gruesome to watch. It’s one man, helpless against his captor, who has no conscious, no soul.
“It’s not how life should be,” Kelly Foley reminds us. Simple yet powerful words.
Don’t forget James Foley—how he lived and how he died.