When something like today’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the suicide bombing of her and her supporters occurs and it actually makes the nightly news or the papers of record, you’ll usually see a photo like this, conveying the shock and horror of another observer to the carnage without showing you the carnage. This doesn’t show you that the photographer is standing in a pool of blood from someone recently deceased, or the mutilated bodies at this man’s feet because an editor somewhere has decided that you don’t need to see it to understand. Maybe they’re right, but having seen the raw photos, I don’t think so today.
The below photos are from Getty Images, and many of them are extremely graphic. If you’re going to be offended, just stop now.
For my part, I think we see a hell of a lot of graphic fake violence at the movies, in video games and on the news and we know that it’s not real and there’s so much of it that it has lost its power to offend. But, when it comes to real violence to real people, we all turn away and thus make it less real than the fake violence. These are pictures of real violence, and of the horrible things people all over the world will do to one another, and it isn’t conveyed by seeing the reaction of another person. This look of this man’s pain, and shock, and horror doesn’t do justice to the carnage at his feet, even as real as that pain on his face is.
And, of course, there are much, much larger political implications to Bhutto’s assassination and so the news tonight will likely focus on the implications for us as a country and on the campaign and blah blah blah, yes, it’s all really important. But, also, a lot of regular people died today, too. Some of them were poor, some were old, and they died taking advantage of their (current) right of free assembly, which most of us probably take for granted. They died and were horrifically injured participating in the political process of their country, even knowing that in the end it might not make any difference because they might still end up under the thumb of a dictator. And every single person in the pictures below is brown, and likely all of them are Muslim. These are the people that some people would like to send back “to their caves“, these are some of the people we mock as poor cab drivers or accuse of taking “our” jobs or simply overlook even when they are in front of us. They had families and lives and probably jobs when they left their houses this morning to see a political candidate speak who probably half-suspected she wouldn’t make it to the election alive but ran anyway. And it makes all the backstabbing and machinations of our candidates trying to plant stupid rumors about drug use and out-of-wedlock babies and all the rest of it seem that much more nauseating and petty to me today.
So, does this make it more real for you? Or does it desensitize you? Is this the first time that you’ve really seen what it really looks like after a suicide bombing, before the talking heads start debating “suicide” versus “homicide” bombers and people start trying to explain to you the larger context? Because I saw part of one of these photos and realized that pictures of Bhutto, her coffin, her supporters or her mourners didn’t begin to make real for me what is going on there, but these started to do so.