Why We Need to See What the Monsters Look Like

I work in a safe, dry, air conditioned library where the occasional late fee upsets a patron, but life is usually simple. Yet today, I am conflicted.

On one hand, as I sit here and look at a cherished birthday gift, a signed and framed black-and-white photo of the famed WWII United States Marine Corp fighter squadron VMF-214 -- the legendary Black Sheep, led by Gregory "Pappy" Boyington. Boyington and the 20 other smiling and happy young pilots are posing with baseball equipment on a tropical island presumably taking a break from fighting the Japanese. They have almost a careless and perpetual optimistic quality about them. The truth is they were fighting an enemy that they weren't sure they could beat and surely knew that many of their friends a squadron-mates were going to die and soon. Add to this the vile tropical hell of heat, filth, poor rations and disease that was rife. I'll be honest, these men are heroes of mine for what they did and how they lived.

In my other hand is a copy of the recent Rolling Stone, with color photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover. The Boston Marathon Bombing suspect, who is has a piece written about him by Janet Reitman. He took a "selfie" and it's on the cover. He looks like many a kid that one would see on a college campus. He is fully dressed and has a neutral expression on his face and the words under his picture actually go so far as to call him a monster. I find him and his actions repulsive.

Several major retail chains have refused to sell the Rolling Stone with Tsarnaev on the cover due to poor taste and insensitivity. This is a different type of insensitivity -- insensitivity to the role of a free press and responsible journalism. In the very place where young America first broke the chains of oppression, America was brutally attacked and these retailers response is to not sell magazines with a picture of one of the alleged terrorists? If you don't like their product don't buy it, but the option needs to be available. The very fact that the Taliban censored items they don't want the masses to see should let us know we are different, we can vote with our pocketbook to buy it or ignore it.

When I look at the VMF-214 picture, I realize that in that war they were fighting to make the world safe was on one level so we could have the choice to buy or ignore that issue with the cover that seems so vile to so many. We need to decide for ourselves if we want to see the monsters because very often they look like Timothy McVeigh or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.