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Thread: Bear witness

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    Bear witness


    I would like to know what doesthis mean:
    "He bore witness to the end. He just didn’t bear witness to us. He bore witness to—and served warning about—them."

    The whole passage here:

    "But we know exactly who Jim Foley was, and so it is hard to make an icon of him. It is hard to make a symbol of him. It is hard to see him as representative when his own humanity was so specific, and it is hard to make him speak for anyone but himself. But he did speak, and not just from the script that made him recant, that made him say, “I guess, all in all, I wish I wasn’t American.” He was an American, in the grip not of gravity or anything like grace, but rather under the power of some radical version of radical Islam—jihad in its most apocalyptic iteration. He bore witness to the end. He just didn’t bear witness to us.

    He bore witness to—and served warning about—them."

    Thank you

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    Re: Bear witness

    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    Hello, Ms. Garett:

    I do not claim to have the answer, only some thoughts, which I do not claim as necessarily right.

    I must be super careful, for your question involves religion and politics. I shall discuss the grammatical aspects only.


    1. Here is a definition of "bear witness to": "To provide evidence of the truth of [something]." (Oxford American Dictionary, 1980)

    2. Here is a delightful example: "Her lectures are dynamic and bear witness to meticulous and constant research." (Collins English Dictionary, online)


    3. "He bore witness to the end."

    a. Mr. Foley was a journalist.
    b. He covered events for many years in that area.
    c. He had been captured by that particular group.
    d. During his years there, he had "provided evidence" of what was actually happening there.
    e. On his last day of life ("to the end"), the fact that he was beheaded was "proof" that he had been reporting the truth about that group's policies.

    4. "He just didn't bear witness to us."

    a. I may (easily) be wrong, but I feel that the "just" is wrongly placed. I prefer: "He didn't bear witness just to us."
    b. That is, he did not "provide evidence" about that group's policies ONLY to us.
    c. "Us," I assume, refers to the people living outside of the area where the conflict is taking place.

    5. I feel that the last sentence would be more easily understood if it were (for the sake of analysis) broken up into two sentences.

    a. "He bore witness to them."

    i. I assume that "them" refers to the group that beheaded him.
    ii. The writer says that Mr. Foley provided evidence NOT ONLY to us but ALSO to them.
    iii. I am having a hard time understanding in what sense he provided evidence to them.
    iv. Maybe his beheading was a clear reminder to them of their policies.
    v. Or maybe his beheading provided evidence that they should seriously reconsider some of their policies, such as beheading people.

    b. "He served warning about them."

    i. I assume that this means that his reporting warned us that they were a group that could not be ignored. (As you know, some nations yesterday announced that they have decided to take more action against that group.)

    Last edited by TheParser; 12-Sep-2014 at 10:54. Reason: I forgot to put a period after "Mr." -- as required in American English.

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