We all know the name of Sergeant Robert Bales--the US soldier accused of killing sixteen civilians in Afghanistan. We know he's 38 years old and married with two children. We've heard him described as "happy-go-lucky," and as a former high school football player who volunteered his time with special needs children.
We know he enlisted shortly after 9/11 and was injured twice in his earlier tours of duty in Iraq, with one injury resulting in the loss of part of his foot. Oddly, we don't know his religion but we can safely assume that he isn't Muslim because if he were, that would be the headline.
We have even heard testimonials about Bales from numerous fellow soldiers and childhood friends, like Marc Edwards, a former NFL player who once played on the New England Patriots, that this attack is out character for the Bales they know.
The media has painted us a detailed portrait of Robert Bales. But do any of us know the name of even one of the sixteen people he has been accused of killing?
You may have heard that nine of the sixteen victims were children and three were women. You may have read descriptions of them as "villagers" and "civilians." But again, do you know the name of even one victim in this horrific massacre?
Probably not. Not that you should because our media has ignored that part of the story.
The US media has treated the sixteen victims as statistics-not human beings. If they were human, we would at least know their names and ages. We might even have heard from their classmates or family members about the kind of people they were- maybe they, too, were "happy-go-lucky"" like Sergeant Bales.
But our media has not told us anything about them. Is it because the victims are Afghans? Maybe it's because they are Muslim? Is it because they aren't American? Or is it simply a business decision by the media because they don't think we care?
In the ten plus years of the war in Afghanistan, our media has essentially only presented us images of the Afghan people when they are protesting, denouncing the US after some of their people have been accidentally killed by US or NATO troops, or when our politicians are debating their fate. When is the last time you observed a story about the human side of the Afghan people?
Some will undoubtedly ask: Why should we care about them? They will make blanket statements that the Afghans, and Muslims in general, don't care about our culture or lives. They will then cite a few isolated incidents from over the past ten years to support their conclusion.
I don't subscribe to the view that isolated incidents sum up an entire people, but even if it did, shouldn't we be better? Shouldn't we set a positive example for others to emulate?
There is no dispute that these sixteen people were killed by one (or more) US soldiers. The families of these people - and the people of Afghanistan -are entitled to a full investigation into what lead to this tragic loss of life. The victims also deserve to be treated as more than simply statistics.
We need to hear about the people killed in this massacre such as the Wazir family who lost eleven relatives and the Jan family who lost four. We need to hear about the hopes and dreams that the parents held for the eleven murdered children. We need to know if the children played soccer or were good students in school. We need to know if the people killed were someone's brother or sister or daughter or son. Maybe even hear from their neighbors who might tell us that those killed were "good people" who were simply trying to survive in a challenging time.
Lets hear something - anything - about these people who committed no sin other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time when their lives were so violently taken. Our media needs to tell us about these sixteen people - they deserve it as fellow human beings who were killed by one of our own.