West Wing
Abu el Banat

Episode Report Card
Deborah: C- | Grade It Now!
"Dying/ Is an art/ Like everything else"

Debbie knocks, and Jed asks whether they're expecting Liz and Gus. Debbie says they're running late because "there's a disagreement about a bath." Jed: "Nancy McNally is waiting and she's already had her bath." Wonder how he knows that? Maybe he got tired of waiting for Abby to let him out of the Presidential doghouse. I'm just kidding -- please, if there's Jed/Nancy fanfic, I'll thank you to keep it to yourself. Debbie: "I'll tell Liz." Could Lily Tomlin be any more wasted here? And I'm not talking about her state of sobriety. She hands Jed something to sign while he asks Leo if Josh spoke to Doug. Leo indicates that Doug didn't seem to grasp the message. Jed wonders what's not to understand. Leo assures him that Josh will sort it out, and leaves.

Jed turns back to Debbie -- what's with the ghostly pallor on Lily Tomlin? -- and gripes that there are 3.2 billion men in the world: "She picks him." Debbie says she hears Doug had a great pitching arm. Jed and Debbie walk out as he says, "When he was nineteen, sure. She dumped a Rhodes scholar for this guy. Zoey left Charlie for the frog..." "Frog"? Oh, very nice. First, I love how anti-French slurs always seem to fly in American popular culture. And second, if he wants to insult the guy for what he did to his daughter -- which, let's recall, was drug her against her will thereby (knowingly or otherwise) enabling her abduction -- "frog" is the worst he can do? Anyway. He's got more complaints: "Ellie and the guitar player with the purple van. My children choose morons, every one." Debbie remarks, "They say daughters look for their fathers." Jed glares at her.

Jed then launches into the tale of a trip to Egypt some fifteen years ago that all five Bartlets went on, and mentions their Bedouin guide, who called him Abu el Banat. Jed: "And whenever we'd meet another Bedouin man, he'd introduce me as Abu el Banat, and he'd laugh and laugh and then offer me a cup of tea. And I'd go to pay them for the tea and they wouldn't let me. Abu el Banat means 'father of daughters.' They thought the tea was the least they could do." Debbie hands him a file and he continues up the stairs alone. Not to disturb this charming little yarn with troublesome facts, but at least two points need to be made here: first of all, Bedouin hospitality is legendary, and I highly doubt Jed was offered tea for which the host would have expected payment regardless of the sex of Jed's offspring. That just rings completely false. The poorest Bedouins would go without their own meals, if necessary, in order to feed a guest. Second, since TV shows love to drop these colourful little tales about the Arab world without much (if any) context, let me point out that while female infanticide was certainly common in pre-Islamic Arabia, and while there persist many patriarchal cultures -- the officially atheist China and predominantly Hindu India among them -- in which daughters are typically considered a serious liability and not a blessing, one of the many important aspects of the advent of Islam was its prohibition of infanticide along with its insistence that daughters are of equal value to sons. Girls as well as boys are supposed to be a source of joy at birth, are supposed to be treated equally and educated equally and considered equal blessings to the family. There are hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) indicating that anyone who has three daughters or three sisters and cares after them, disciplines them, and gets them married, and does good to them, will go to Paradise. Such statements and promises are not made lightly in Islam. But I suppose Jed just somehow never ran into any Muslims who might have pointed this out to him.

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West Wing




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