Thursday, July 29, 2010

The power of a picture

I found out today about TIME magazine's upcoming cover and the discussions/debates it has sparked. The cover and related article are about Afghan women and the impact the Taliban has on their lives. The cover picture is of a woman named Aisha. The image is upsetting, and can be seen here with her story.

Apparently, there was concern before choosing this image about the fact that kids may see the image unintentionally and be upset by it. The managing editor of TIME speaks to this concern in this article and explains his reason for going ahead with it.

There is no question in my mind that kids will see it, and I hope it leads to safe, productive, open dialogue within families about the scary, awful things that happen sometimes.

But there is this little part of my brain that is going, "Wait, really? Our kids are inundated with images of violence in video games, movies and TV shows daily, for hours at a time, and you are worried about this single image?? Why, because it is real?"

This picture, as upsetting as it is, is an opportunity. An opportunity for families to learn more about what kind of exposure their kids have to images of violence already (via games, shows, etc) and what they understand about they are seeing. I remember a lot of concern being voiced around 9/11 and how to talk to kids about it. I also remember talking to a young boy, about 11 years old, right after 9/11 who thought it was cool because "it was just like in a movie". Groups like the Center on Media and Child Health are looking at the impact of media/entertainment/access to technology on kids and teenagers. They have commented on this cover saying that it will be seen as "a symbol of bad things that can happen to people."

I will admit that I am not very well informed on the situation in Afghanistan and have only become more aware of it this week with the leak reports all over the news. As I learn more about it, I appreciate the complexities of what is going on. I also appreciate some of the comments on the TIME's articles above about how what happened to Aisha occurred with US presence in the country, and that the cover title may be a little misleading. I appreciate the need for stories like Aisha's to help people understand the impact of certain ruling parties. I also appreciate that I am not a parent, and can only imagine what this would be like to discuss as a parent with my young child, and that some families may have a harder time broaching this than others.

As much as I marvel at the accomplishments of humanity, I shudder in fear at the terrifying acts of degradation, violence, and hatred we as humans are capable of inflicting on each other. I look at this picture and I don't understand how such an act is possible, and yet I know it is wrong. I encourage you to learn more, as I am, about this situation, and to be a part of the safe open dialogue in your families and communities.

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