The Eyes (Don’t) Have It

I have not watched the recent ISIS beheadings. Each time I come across links to the too frequent gruesome videos, I hover my mouse over them—and move on. The hovering is less a function of making a decision as much as a sign to myself that even though I am not going to click, neither am I ignoring the acts of barbarism.

I don’t want to see them because once I do they will be seared into my brain. When we see something, versus hearing about it, it is almost impossible to expunge from our minds. For this reason, I did not see the movie Saving Private Ryan, despite my interest in World War II. In general, I avoid violent visual content. I even limit my reading. I appreciated (the word enjoyed would be wrong) and am glad I read Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides depicting the treatment of American POWs by the Japanese in W.W.II. However, I wasn’t ready to read a similar book for many years. If the written word can haunt me, pictures and particularly video content interfere with my daily functioning.

I do not need to see the beheadings to know that ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups are a threat to everything I hold dear. Nor do I need to see the beheadings to know that the human desire to focus on one’s own life and well-being leads us to ignore evil until it engulfs us. Phrases like “Better Red than dead,” from days of the Communist threat or foolish and untrue slogans like, “War never solved anything,” are often shortsighted and cowardly attempts to justify fear and selfishness.

Visual images bombard us. They speak to our hearts. While arousing sympathy and empathy is good, there is a downside as well. Our hearts are easily manipulated and they often lead us to make poor choices. Images such as the beheadings can properly arouse fury and indignation, but they can also cause us to become either overwhelmed with futility or, conversely, desensitized.

I choose not to watch. What do you do?

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13 thoughts on “The Eyes (Don’t) Have It”

  1. Thank you for clarifying for me why I cannot tolerate violence in books or movies. I read a book while in junior high about a POW in Viet Nam and still cannot expunge the mental images at age 54! I refused to watch “The Passion of the Christ” and could hardly stomach the first “Lord of the Rings”.
    I appreciate your good thoughts on this horrible subject.

  2. You are so correct, Lynn, that pictures are used to manipulate us. Islamic terrorists understand this well, which is why they place babies and children among their rockets.
    Politicians also understand this and they frequently count on us responding to a picture rather than actually investigating the reality of the situation and whether what they are proposing will have an effect.

  3. Susan,
    I was exposed to pictures on Twitter and they have haunted me. I had been so careful and then one day they were right in front of me. Using and abusing children is about as debase as anyone can be. Your statement, “Visual images bombard us. They speak to our hearts.” Reminded me of how we have been exposed to heart wrenching pictures for years by Extremist Islamic groups to manipulate us. I remember the Israeli/Lebannon war, and there were pictures of those killed by Israeli air strikes and then another picture would be posted of the same scene but the dead were up and walking. But that is how terrorism works. Nothing is off limit. Decernment is something we need to pray for daily. You always inspire me to think. Thank you. Blessings.

  4. Cheryl, You are raising a good point. I’ve heard discussions about whether violent video games lead to violence. A completely separate issue is if they damage sensitivity- people’s hearts.

  5. I have been taught to protect my heart and mind from such things for the very same reasons. I choose NOT to watch or listen to things of a violent or evil nature. …whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8

  6. Well put, and I agree. I’ve been taught to be discerning about what I allow myself to listen to, and see, to protect my heart.

  7. Judy, We just finished writing an ‘Ask the Rabbi’ that will post in the next few weeks. As part of the answer (on a topic that is neither abortion or beheadings) we question if there is a difference between killing one person or many people. Your answer made me think of that. I think abortion is a serious breach of respect for life – but I think these beheadings are at a completely different point on the same spectrum.

  8. I also choose not to watch. The barbarians posted it so people would watch. Why would I give them what they want? A woman posted the video of the abortion of her baby. Parents who are supposed to love their children beat them and kill them? How is it any less barbaric? We have a nation that supports the murder of babies in their mother’s womb. Are the beheadings a way for people to excuse their own barbarism? “See, it’s worse than anything ‘I’ would ever do.”


    I don’t watch them either for the exact same reasons….I don’t want that image in my mind…

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