Friday, July 08, 2005

What Does A Terrorist Look Like?

I watched the second episode of Morgan' Spurlock's new series, Thirty Days last weekend. Spurlock's the guy who revealed how McDonald's food can fuck you up if you eat it for a month in the documentary Super Size Me. This new show immerses someone into a strange experience as Spurlock's cameras chronicle the process. In this episode, a young white Christian male West Virginian volunteered to live with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan (it has a high concentration of Muslims) for a month and follow their religious, dietary, and cultural practices. Needless to say, Mr. West Virginia went through some big changes and internal conflict. One of his first big "Ah Hah" moments came when he learned that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity share many of the same roots and players (Moses and Jerusalem, to name a few).

After an evening basketball game (which also serves as a bachelor party), he explains, "This is not like any bachelor party I've ever been to" and asks if they can go out for a beer. His fellow players won't violate their Muslim beliefs which do not allow them to consume alcohol. Later, he skeptically explains that when you drink beer, "You aren't hurting anyone." His friend replies, "Yes, you are hurting yourself because you are breaking God's law." Hmmmm.... who's practicing "clean living" in this picture?

Another eye opener: Mr. West Virginia spends an entire day trying to gather signatures from Dearborn residents on a petition to stop racial profiling of Muslims. His final signature count: 0. One man said he declined to sign because, "Let me put it this way, no Christians had to apologize for what happened on 9/11." Huh? In the end, Dearborn citizens are more than willing to allow authorities to single out Muslims as suspects in criminal activity. When Mr. West Virginia appears on a radio talk show, the callers are mostly polite, but there seems to be a big preoccupation with possible "splinter cells" in Dearborn's neighborhoods.

Throughout the show, Spurlock does "person on the street" interviews asking people: What do you think of when you hear the word "Muslim"? Do you know what Muslims believe in? What do Muslims look like? What does a terrorist look like? The responses are worse than I expected.

As sad as I am about 9/11, I have come to resent it. Not only because it became the justification for a rush to an unjust war, but it has become a license for Americans to legitimately hate people with swarthy coloring and dark hair. And Spurlock's subjects depict America's determination to shut its collective mind and maintain this irrational prejudice.

So, in an effort to help pull our heads out of our collective ass (much like Mr. West Virginia did for himself after many heartfelt struggles), I thought I would include photos of two terrorists who grew up in America's heartland; who would sail though most airport security checkpoints without a problem. If we take a good long look at them, maybe some day if Morgan Spurlock ever stops us on the street and asks us what a terrorist looks like, we might come up with a better answer.


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