James Foley

James Foley

I first learned my journalism skills from a man who was old school. He started when electric typewriters were just beginning to make their appearance on the scene. There were a few things he believed in that he passed on to me that I can never forgot and use to this day; truth in all writing, facts that can be proven and good solid research. The most valuable lesson was that a writer should never be afraid to write what is true but should also be prepared to stand behind his words at any cost.

Last week I heard about the death of James Foley and it hit me hard. He isn’t the first to die for his words and, sadly, he’s unlikely to be the last. Writers have been imprisoned, tortured and killed for their words for centuries. It’s no surprise, really, writers are dangerous. Writers have ideas and they question things. Most of all, they shed light on things that want to stay in the dark.

Foley is probably one of the bravest men I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing about. He died for the stories he brought to light. It makes me ask myself if I could do the same thing if I were in those circumstances. I don’t know the answer to that.

As a writer I’ve always been a bit edgier than most, touching on those subjects that many find distasteful or taboo. I enjoy digging into the darker aspects of the human condition or exposing the sheep factor (that thing that most media says everyone must agree on or think or feel). I think back on the many things I’ve written and wonder if I’d be willing to die for them.

I’ve always felt that writers have an obligation to bring things to light and tell the truth. There is a reason why terrorists fear writers so much they murder them publically. We have a great deal of power. Ours is the power to inspire change, to create ideas and to enable people to think for themselves. You can send all the soldiers, all the guns, bombs you want to deal with terrorists and it won’t make the kind of impact one writer will.

Terrorists need the dark. They need lies, hate and fear to survive. They thrive in the minds of those who are ignorant to the truth. They deal in destruction and death. Journalists, writers, educators deal in truth, facts and learning. Terrorism cannot survive that and they know it. If we want to win this war against terrorism we will continue to speak the truth about them. We will continue exposing their lies and ignorance.

Most of all, remember the sacrifice those like James Foley made. He is a true hero.