Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From the Perspective of the Storm Troopers...

The Jedi were terrorists.

I have always loved Star Warsand I have always hated terrorists.

When I was in high school, there were kids who were very supportive of the IRA because they were "freedom fighters." I was pretty vocal that those kids were idiots (this made me very popular at my Irish Catholic high school). However, I am glad to have encountered such people because they made it clear that one's reaction to terrorism is influenced by one's sympathy for the terrorists' cause.

I recently read a book which was interesting in that it presented an alternate view of reality regarding our current struggles with terrorism.In The Name Of God is Young Adult novel written by Paula Jolin who wanted to write a book whose characters resembled people she met in the Middle East. Nadia, the main character, is a teenager in Damascus who grows increasingly more frustrated with the lack of jobs for her male relatives, the secularism of her female relatives, and her government's oppression of its own citizens (something she is unable to accept on its face, insisting it is the fault of the United States and Israel). While I was happy to read the book, I found Nadia to be a fairly obnoxious main character. Her smug self-righteousness and her complete ignorance of the world outside her own experience of it made her an easy to manipulate recruit for a terrorist cell. Every time she had a condescending thought about how much happier her cousins would be if only they wore the hijab or refused to listen when people told her that Muslims are not automatically put in prison in the US or that The Bold and The Beautiful is not an accurate depiction of American life and morality, I found I wanted to reach through the pages and give her a good shake and shout, "Don't be such a tool, think for yourself you silly girl!" In terms of Nadia being an accurate representation of Syrians, she may be. However, it should be noted, that not all the characters in the book are like her. Most of her peers are embarrassed by her extremism and the views she espouses, and I must assume that they, too, are like young people the author has met in the Middle East. And the only difference, I feel, between Nadia and some people in this country (like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck) is the religion they claim to follow and the people they vilify due to their own ignorance.

I find that despite my frustrations with the main character, the insight this book gave me into an alternate view of the world was invaluable. It is easy to accept that the terrorists hate us "for our freedom" because that means we are above reproach and don't have to bother seeing the world through their eyes. It is far harder to accept that for some people in the world, we are like the Empire and the people who commit acts of terror are like the Jedi. So maybe instead of just hating terrorists and the people who support them, we need to teach them who we really are, we need to redress our wrongs and give them accurate information to correct their ignorance. Otherwise, there will always be cowardly evil purveyors of hatred who can manipulate impressionable young people to carry out their acts for them.

And, finally, funny though this video may be, it doesn't change my views about Star Wars or terrorists. Though I suspect that wasn't ever the point.

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