On April 5, 2011, James Foley, a war correspondent for Global Post was captured by Qaddafi army officials. This happened outside of Brega, a petroleum-rich town to the south of Benghazi, nestled in an armpit of the Mediterranean.
Jim was doing something that he had studied to do, and he was doing it with little to no technical, logistical, or communications support. He was documenting first-hand, and in first person, a lode of raw History: it's been more than 40 years that Qaddafi's ruled Libya unperturbed, after having power-grabbed in a paint-by-numbers coup d'etat in 1969.
I imagine Jim's car being taken over on some blanched highway, and that the driver slowed out of necessity. I imagine there was confusion in the air, and plumes of explosive soot--people running verso to a popping noise. Many of the posts that Jim had already uploaded from Libya were pretty Helter Skelter.
In one, a soldier operating a mortar runs away from the mechanism as it hiccups and belches its ordnance into the immediate air of a paramilitary crowd. In another, several infantrymen, dressed like Hip Hop track stars going to breakfast at IHOP, jump out of the flatbed of Toyota pick-up as it spits several surface to air missiles into the stratosphere.
Jim's videos show a nascent rebel army, part Gomer Pyle, part Ali G, ironing out what it thinks are wrinkles, when in reality they are major body dings. They show rebels in desperate need of the Sparknotes versions of Bootcamp, as the majority of volunteers have zero prior military training. But, they also show an army possessed of great verve and common, blue-collar courage. They show lambs dressed as lions dressed in track suits and keffiyehs, strafing the sky with Kalashhnikov spatter for the hell of it. They show unfettered idealism, brazen optimism, and a hunger for normalcy and
The Libyan rebels had taken advantage of a tactical victory in their pursuit to rent the country in two, and it seemed that they had Qaddafi's army on the run. Around this time, it was becoming very clear that Qaddafi was not going to unhinge his mandibles, and that a very clear civil war had commenced in Libya.
The phrase, bear witness, carries an immense connotation. For one thing, you have to carry, withstand, or bear, witness; you can't transcribe it, or pass witness; you can't even give witness. Bear witness is an devious, onerous phrase; the infinitive should come with medical labels that proffer advice on dosage.
This must be the reason that teachers make efficient social drinkers, maybe being a teacher should come with a warning label. Jim taught me everything I know about teaching, which is actually a measly inheritance; but, he taught me to be confident in my assertions and humble in my presumptions. He also taught me that if a quarter of the class you teach are with you, then that's a great minority for you to have as a teacher. In other words, convince a quarter of the class that what you bring is of value to their ears, and the other aspects fall into line.
Inner-city teaching is the only teaching worth squat in my book, which is convenient for me because I allowed myself to be consumed by a fledgling inner-city high school for three years. That's right, for three years, all the toasts I gave in my head were inextricably linked to my role as an inner-city facilitator in the Bronx.
The implications of the denotation of witness are fraught with living up to the definition; and yet, the anecdote of what has been seen, the story that comprises the witness you "bear" must be sieved through a narrator. Without the narrator to do the bearing, who will do the hauling when it comes time to carry the story?
This one time Jim was in New York City for the wedding of a mutual friend, and I was still teaching in the Bronx so I invited Jim to sit in on sixth period English. I was doing Othello with a mixed class of English Language Learners (ELLs) and SpEds (Special Ed kids), even though I didn't have a license as an English as a Second Language or Special Ed teacher. Jim came in with his lunch, and shortly thereafter, he put his head down and went to sleep. After class, several of my students asked me about the "teacher" I put to sleep with my boring-ass lesson. Maybe to Jim, the story was what my students would make of the person they thought was observing their teacher?
For all the intricacies associated with witness, you'd think that the phrase might try to hide the implicit duty of its existence. It is no easy task to carry this responsibility, and many journalists shy away from bearing witness as soon as it is convenient. In many ways, the work Jim has been doing as a teacher, journalist, fictionist all serve to bear witness to a pervasive social ill. Was Foley stockading Boyscout badges by Bruce Wayning his way into the minds of the invisibly destitute?
A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.