Charlie is watching from the back of the room as C.J., who's perched on a stool at the front of the room, is telling the kids, "There's nothing more American than coalition-building. The first thing John Wayne always did was put together a posse." Josh says, "That's a hell of an example, C.J." And the point is? C.J. replies, "Shouldn't you be finding ways to provide aid and comfort for our boys in intelligence?" Josh replies, "You know, they may need some comforting right now. When this crash is over, you'd best get in some fishnets and head to a bar." C.J. says she will. I'm not sure I see the value, educational or otherwise, in that last exchange. ["I guess it's always important to remember that women, in addition to being shitty writers and lazy thinkers, are kind of slutty." -- Wing Chun] One kid asks where terrorists come from. Sam interjects: "Everywhere. Mostly they come from exactly where you'd expect: places of abject poverty and despair." None of which ever has to do with U.S. foreign policy. Ever. This might have been a good place to put in a word or two about the role of the United States in funding, arming and training "foreign" terrorists, including bin Laden. I suppose that's expecting too much. "Horribly impoverished places are an incubator for the worst kind of crime." Charlie adds, "Which is the same as it is right here."
Everyone turns to look at Charlie, who says, "I live in Southeast D.C. If you don't know the area, think Compton, or South Central L.A., Detroit, the South Bronx." I idly wonder whether this is the first clue Charlie's white colleagues are getting about Charlie's everyday life. Did they even know where he lives, exactly? "Dilapidated schools, drugs, guns, and what else?" Some smitty knows: "Gangs?" Charlie: "Gangs give you a sense of belonging, and usually, an income. But mostly, they give you a sense of dignity. Men are men, and men'll seek pride. Everybody here has got a badge to wear. 'I'm the Deputy Communications Director.' 'I made Presidential Classroom.' 'I know the answer. I'm going to Cornell.' You think bangers are walking around with their heads down, saying, 'Oh man, I didn't make anything out of my life. I'm in a gang.' No, man! They're walking around saying, 'Man, I'm in a gang. I'm with them." I get the parallels to terrorist groups but, again, I'm not sure how helpful this is. The U.S. doesn't deal well with its own gangs, so I'm not sure recognizing the ways in which the Taliban is a gang is going to change anything.