One kid asks whether Josh gets scared about working at the White House. Josh says he doesn't and, gesturing toward Donna and himself, he indicates, "We're bystanders, basically, and we work around a lot of people who routinely put themselves in harm's way: the Secret Service and the military." He describes how the President's protection is rehearsed a thousand different ways, and mentions that there's one guy whose primary function is to put himself in the way of a bullet headed for POTUS. "Not get the shooter --" Josh emphasizes, "stand in front of the bullet. I've seen them do it." The girl who spoke before asks whether Josh ever thinks of quitting. Josh is all, "Nah." He confesses that his mother wants him to quit, adding that his family members have a habit of dying before they're supposed to, and that it's just him and his mom now. He mentions, kind of sheepishly, that he got "accidentally shot a little bit or something in Rosslyn." Yeah, just a bit. He indicates that his mother would like him to work in the private sector. Josh tells his mother, "My government salary may not be a lot, but I still make more than the guy whose job it is to stand in front of the bullet, so how do I tell him I'm quitting?" I thought this was sort of an odd remark; his mother doesn't want him to go to the private sector because the money is better. Wouldn't it make more sense for Josh to argue to his mother that public service is the only way he can make the contribution he wants to make? ["I thought the point was that he feels sheepish that, in his relatively cushy government job, he has less to worry about danger-wise than Secret Service agents do, and that he'd feel like a wuss quitting because he's scared when they soldier on for a lot less compensation. Maybe?" -- Wing Chun] He then tells the kids that his mother made a box for him that he's supposed to keep in the trunk of his car, containing emergency supplies: flashlight, five gallons of water, a transistor radio, first-aid items. Josh says, "But she keeps thinking of things to add to it. She'll call and say, 'I found that cap that Dad got Joe Pepitone to sign for you on your birthday. You wore it to school every day in seventh grade. Do you want me to send it to you so you can put it in the box?'" Josh pauses, and notices everyone looking at him expectantly. He continues, waving his arm casually, "So I'll say, 'Yeah, Ma, let's put it in the box.'" He briefly pauses again and says, "So, anyway, I don't know against who, or I don't know what it's going to look like, but one of these days we're going to have a big win, and for a lot of us, who've seen what we've seen, we're not leaving till we do. I'm going to be here, six presidents from now, in my office, Wile E. Coyote and a map." Um, huh?
Another girl attempts, "So why is everybody trying to kill us?" Josh immediately replies, "It's not everybody." The girl says it seems like everybody. Another boy pipes up, "It's just the Arabs." Here we go. Another boy counters, "Saying 'the Arabs' is too general." Damn straight. The first boy then adjusts his comment: "It's Islamics." Josh interjects: "It's not Arabs! It's not Islamics!" To Donna: "They're juniors and seniors?" Donna confirms this. Josh asks them, in honour of the SATs they're about to take, to answer the following question, which he writes on the menu whiteboard after erasing "braised Kentucky flounder" or "Your mother doesn't work here, bus your own table" or whatever it said: "Islamic extremist is to Islamic as 'blank' is to Christianity." For one thing, the question is constructed incorrectly: "Islamic" is an adjective, "Christianity" is a noun. The noun is "Islam," and no, I don't think it's a trivial point. If you're going to purport to teach people, it helps to be on very sure footing to begin with. The kid who named "Arabs" earlier pipes up: "Christian fundamentalists." Josh says no. Another kid suggests, "Jehovah's Witnesses?" Um. I agree the proselytizing is annoying at times but that seems uncalled for. Josh says, "The Christian Right may not be your cup of tea but they're not blowing stuff up." Well, the great majority of them aren't. The ones bombing abortion clinics seem to align themselves with the Christian Right, although I can't speak for whether the Christian Right cares to have them. I hope the Christian Right deplores them just as mainstream Muslims reject the Taliban. Josh repeats the question and gets nothing but blank stares. He finally fills in "KKK." He says, "That's what we're talking about. It's the Klan gone medieval and global. It couldn't have less to do with Islamic men and women of faith of whom there are millions upon millions." (Actually, the most recent estimates are 1.2 billion; one in every five people in the world is of Muslim background.) "Muslims defend this country in the Army, Navy, the Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, police, and fire departments. So let's ask the question again." The first girl says, "Why are Islamic extremists trying to kill us?" Josh replies, "That's a reasonable question if ever I heard one. Why are we targets of war?" The first boy says, "Because we're Americans." Josh asks, "That's it?" Another girl suggests, "It's our freedom?" Josh: "No other reasons?" One boy says, "Freedom and democracy." Josh says, "I'll tell you, right or wrong -- and I think they're wrong -- it's probably a good idea to acknowledge that they do have specific complaints." Hmm. You think? He continues, "I hear them every day: the people we support, the troops in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq, support for Egypt...it's not just that they don't like Irving Berlin." Donna says, "Yes, it is." Josh: "No, it's not." Donna says, "I don't know about Irving Berlin, but your ridiculous search for rational reasons why somebody straps a bomb to their chest is ridiculous." Josh objects, "You just called me 'ridiculous' twice in one sentence." Donna, morosely: "Hardly a record for me." Josh: "And you just made my list." Donna, to the students: "Nothing happens on the list." Josh assures the students: "It's a serious list." He goes on: "But she does have a point, albeit college-girlish." I don't even have the energy to get into how it seems that all too often when someone makes a point (written or spoken) poorly, it apparently has something to do with having two X chromosomes. Donna, however, leaps into the fray on my behalf: "Watch now as he's going to put me down and make my point at the exact same time." Thank you, Donna. And Aaron. Josh: "Hardly a record for me." Holding up a finger: "What's Islamic extremism? It's strict adherence to a particular interpretation of seventh-century Islamic law, as practiced by the Prophet Muhammad."
No, actually it's bloody well not. Here's the precise moment this show lost me and betrayed its complete lack of understanding of the situation. The forms of Islam practiced by the Taliban in particular and so-called Islamic extremists in general have, in every case, little or absolutely nothing at all to do with how Islam was practiced during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. It is completely and utterly ignorant and uninformed to assert otherwise, whether that assertion is coming from somebody who works for CNN or some guy who's the Mullah of Wherever. I simply do not have the space and time to go into it in great detail here, but a few highlights of how Islam was practiced by the Prophet and the earliest converts to Islam: Muslim women were probably the first in the history of the world to receive the legal right to vote. They fought in wars, spoke in public, ran businesses, taught, participated fully in life. Islam helped put a stop to the female infanticide that was occurring in Arabia at the time. The concept of woman as responsible for man's downfall as in the Adam and Eve story does not exist in Islam, although the first man and woman are part of God's revelation to Muslims. Islam requires men and women to be equally educated. The Prophet preached peace, tolerance, kindness, patience,