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She died trying to tell the truth and make people care. Yesterday, my husband and I watched a Netflix DVD of the 2018 film A PRIVATE WAR, the true story of correspondent Marie Colvin based on an article in VANITY FAIR by Marie Brenner. Colvin lived by a world view that saw all people as human and worthy. Listening to naysayers talking about the limitations of women becomes more difficult when you follow the actual accomplishments of extraordinary females. Watch Colvin’s story and tell me, what were those limitations again? And who feels justified denigrating reporters?
Marie Colvin wasn’t saintly. She wasn’t subordinate. She wasn’t a mother. She wasn’t any of the automatic stereotypical roles into which our society likes to lump its females. She was a fierce, talented journalist who inserted herself into the most deadly, brutal conflicts in the world, describing what was truly happening in human terms for people who would never go near such places. In the film, she says, “I see it so you don’t have to.” She interviewed rebel leaders and dictators, evaded shelling, located mass graves, reported rapes and murders, and did what she could to reveal the raw facts while she tried to help the victims. She thought the world should care, so she walked through harm’s way with a notebook and a laptop instead of an assault rifle. She called in her report from a hospital bed after she was blinded in one eye by shelling in Sri Lanka. Thereafter, she wore an eye patch, but she kept going.
As I watched the film, I realized how many times I’ve accepted horrific media images with stories of the collateral damage of wars and power struggles without considering the kinds of risks, terrors, and sacrifices a journalist or photojournalist has to endure in order to deliver them. I imagined those reporters were made of sterner stuff, but in spite of their affinity for adrenalin, they are not so different from anyone else. They get hurt. I thought of the many people who recover from car accidents only to suffer a lifetime of PTSD. How much more horror and fear did Colvin have to swallow with her vodka or push from mind with sexual encounters? At one point, she entered a mental hospital to try to ameliorate her waking nightmares, but she eventually returned to “the field,” daring to sneak into hazardous zones in order to pursue human stories about those who were involved.
When Bashar Assad of Syria insisted he avoided killing civilians with his shelling, Marie Colvin used her laptop to go live on CNN from a residential area being bombed, showing as she was telling the world that Assad was lying. He was targeting civilians—including children. And, as it turned out, reporters. Marie Colvin was killed.
Last week, I heard someone say Elizabeth Warren could be off-putting and Amy Klobuchar seems bitchy. Many want to ensure that women stay in what the naysayers want to believe is their place. The latent courage of women is a given. Remember Harriet Tubman? Mother Jones? Who hasn’t known a woman who was the strength of a family or a cause? Regardless of your preferences in the upcoming election, you’re lying to yourself if you’re still telling yourself women can’t make decisions and need to be sheltered. When females weren’t given the same physical strength as males, they were given stamina, increased potential for empathy, adaptability, and the ability to build coalitions. Marie Colvin showed us what moral responsibility can look like on a woman. She wore it well.