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Would You Write
the Truth?

When Art Demands Courage

Words and pictures matter.  Recent events have highlighted the danger some people face when seeking to find the truth and write about it.  The videos released by Islamic extremists lately showing the beheadings of two American journalists, and a British journalist, emphasize this danger, especially in a religious context.

This brief news story from the Washington Post (Source) summarizes the situation, though even more beheadings have since occurred.

The bloodlust behind the Islamic State’s beheading of Steven Sotloff

By Terrence McCoy | It began with a knife, an orange tunic and a name. “I am Steven Joel Sotloff,” the bedraggled journalist said. “I’m sure you know exactly who I am by now. And why I’m appearing before you.” Sotloff paused for a long moment, kneeling on the desert floor, and looked directly into the Islamic State’s camera. He neither wept nor begged. There was only resignation. “And now,” he said, “it is time for my message.”

The beheading of Sotloff, two weeks after journalist James Foley’s decapitation, is an Islamic State calling card. In the last week alone, militants decapitated a Kurdish man and then days later beheaded a Lebanese soldier in an additional video. The decapitations are brutal and terrifying. But are they politically motivated? Or do they instead betray an unhinged brand of violence that is ultimately self-defeating?

U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, left; journalist James Foley, right. (Left: The Daily Caller/Handout via Reuters – Right: Steven Senne/AP)

U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, left; journalist James Foley, right. (Left: The Daily Caller/Handout via Reuters – Right: Steven Senne/AP)

Terrorism’s objectives are usually clear. “The purpose of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of opponents in order to win political concession,” wrote Timothy R. Furnish in “Beheading in the Name of Islam,” published in the Middle East Quarterly.

Words and pictures can change the world.  Those who dare to write or display art that challenges the world as it is run the risk of offending those who like the status quo.  In this experience you will look at two instances in which artistic choice included the need for courage.  Art with no cost, no danger, and no risk is one thing; but finding that your life is in danger due to your choice of words or artistic expression is another.  That brings us to the main question of this course experience: “Would you have the courage to tell the truth even if it brought you danger?”  What truth is worth dying for?

Version 1.3