Photo taken from the It's What I do website. All rights are the owners.

Photo taken from the It’s What I do website. All rights are the owners.

This post was meant to be a book review of sorts. But as I’m listening to the last 30 minutes of this incredible book, IT’S WHAT I DO, this post is slowly turning into a pleading message to every American: Please, please, please, read this book. 

Lindsay Addario, a photo journalist for the New York Times, recounts experiences living at the edge and capturing images in the midst of war. As a spectator reading articles in the newspaper, I don’t think I ever truly considered the risk a photographer takes when capturing bullet-ridden moments with nothing but a lens with which to shoot back.

Addario speaks with candor and enough self-detriment to make her approachable, but the stories she tells are so incredible that I had to wonder if she wasn’t really a cat with nine lives. And I am certainly not saying that every American should hop on a plane and head to a war zone, but perhaps our distance from war makes it hard for us to empathize with those who are suffering all around the world.

Right now, outside my window, I’m watching as a defiant man is being held back by six sheriffs after throwing several punches at a tow truck driver who was sent to repossess his car for non-payment. It’s a poor neighborhood, riddled with stories of sorrow and bad luck, but in this particular case it’s about arrogance. The “owner” of the vehicle “purchased” the car but doesn’t feel the need to pay for said purchase; therefore, the car is being taken away. Sounds pretty simple until the owner starts claiming that his rights have been violated. To avoid a lawsuit, and perhaps to protect himself from further physical assault, the driver has no choice but to call the cops. Hence, the string of police outside my window.

I mention this story because on the one hand I’m listening to Addario describe a war zone and the suffering of those born into the crossfire, and then on the other hand is this self-righteous American not only looking for a handout, but demanding it. His lack of appreciation mocks the liberal agenda so many have fought for. There is a need for social programs–there are people in America who truly need it–and then there are those who see an opportunity to not only exploit it, but demand that they deserve it. Whatever happened to being grateful for the things given to you?

I’m not a politician and I have no idea how to fix this, but I wonder if this man would be so self-righteous if he’d read Addario’s story. I wonder if his kid who stands behind him, hands balled into fists and itching for a fight, could learn something about humility if he understood how much he has just in the way of freedom. It makes me angry to see people blatantly taking advantage of the system and yet I am torn because these social programs assisted my refugee parents 35 years ago.

I have half a mind to take this book, grab the kid, sit him down, and force him to read it. Force him to educate himself in order to not follow in the footsteps of his father. He’s a good kid–I can tell by the polite way he always greets me and the ashamed look he has when he knows his parents are “milking the system” and he has no choice but to play along. But I can’t do that. I can do nothing but sit back and watch him join the ranks of others on this block as they all eventually find themselves handcuffed and in the back of a black and white police car.

I am a writer telling stories that I hope will compel and inspire readers, and I am begging everyone out there to please, please, please read this book and then pass it along to a friend.

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War