PLACE: The Middle East
I, The Infidel
A Global Citizen
I. It is one thing to be a soldier, but terrorists—
TERRORIST. Hold on! Hold on! What do you mean terrorists? We are freedom fighters!
I. Exactly what freedom is it that you’re fighting for?
TERRORIST. We are fighting against the freedom practiced by the Great Satan.
I. Does that include freedom of speech and religion?
TERRORIST. Especially, freedom of speech and religion! Observe the evils that your way of life have unleashed upon the world.
I. Well, at least we don’t expect seventy-two virgins to pamper us in paradise.
TERRORIST. Infidel, you mock our revered beliefs!
I. Some beliefs don’t wear well with time. And don’t tell me that the belief in seventy-two virgins is no more or less taken literally by Moslems than is its Christian counterpart of swirling angels plucking harps. I know that.
TERRORIST. Your arrogance is the reason why Americans are hated throughout the world. You disrespect cultures far older than yours. You have much to learn.
I. For instance?
GLOBAL CITIZEN. (Interrupting) The freedom fighter doesn’t mean ‘learning’ literally. He means understanding. As a global citizen I fully empathize with him. You Americans have a way of not understanding—let alone being derisive of— cultures that differ from yours. You think your culture is the best thing since the Industrial Revolution.
I. It is. …One of the best, anyway. And don’t get me wrong. I respect all great cultures. The Arab-Islamic culture resuscitated and preserved the unprecedented genius of the Classic Age as a source for the Renaissance. Islamic scholars picked up the torch of civilization before it might have been extinguished. In addition, were it not for their introduction of the number ‘zero’ into European–
GLOBAL CITIZEN. Oh, I didn’t know Arabians invented the zero.
I. Well, no, they didn’t invent it. Long before the Islamic golden age, Mayan and Asian Indians had discovered the zero separately and at different times. But when Arabian traders brought the concept of zero home from India and consequently into Europe, they made a momentous contribution to civilization. Modern commerce and industry is inconceivable without the Hindu-Arabic number system.
INDIAN. Score one for India!
I. Yeah. Along with the Caste System. What’s there to ‘understand’ about that?
INDIAN. Hypocrite! Don’t you reward your doctors, educators, and other professionals according to their occupations? So few of you understand the Indian Caste System. You are newcomers in the community of civilizations. Indian wisdom has assigned pre-ordained occupations to the unborn in accordance with a cosmic plan. What is your cultural equivalent to place people into their proper occupations?
I. Classified ads.
TERRORIST. (furiously) Again, you mock the serenity and certitude of Eastern Civilizations. Your insolence is—
INDIAN. (to the TERRORIST) Wait… (to me) We Indians are a patient people. I’m open to see Indian culture through an American’s eyes.
I. No. Look through an untouchable’s single, remaining eye. You can find that unforgettable, haunting eye on Page 28 of National Geographic, June 2003.
INDIAN. A Bhangi, I suppose?
I. He has a name. It’s Ramprasad. Having a picture taken of his disfigured face by a National Geographic photographer must have been the highlight of his invisible life. His remaining eye speaks eloquently of India’s revered shame. He had acid thrown in his face by an outraged mob that discovered him fishing in a pond belonging to upper-caste villagers. As you must know, throwing acid on untouchables is the punishment of choice among upper-cast Indians, and raping an untouchable woman in the presence of her husband is another. What kind of system condones punishment as perverse as that?
INDIAN. Don’t you Americans have similar methods of keeping your ‘untouchables’ in their place?
INDIAN. How simplistic you are.
I. All Americans are simplistic. We think of depraved people who commit punitive atrocities as ‘nut jobs,’ their religious fervor notwithstanding. We feel the same about Islamic Jurisprudence.
TERRORIST. Again you are insolent! And hypocritical. Your fledgling culture has been rich in injustice from its very beginning. Genocide against Native Americans, the ultimate injustice of slavery—your culture is blemished by hundreds of injustices.
I. Oh, yes…and then some.
INDIAN. Then how do you differ from us?
I. We strive to abolish our injustices, we don’t revere them!
TERRORIST. You also force your brand of justice on others. The arrogance of democracy!
I. You’ve got me there. I don’t know where we got the idea that everyone wants freedom—
TERRORIST. (interrupting) Please, spare me your lies about liberation. We all know that the wars in the Middle East are about oil, not freedom. I’ve heard all your clichés: ‘America was attacked on 911,’ ‘It’s cheaper to buy oil than fight for it,’ ‘America could not allow Sadam Hussein to harbor weapons of mass destruction,’ and so on. All excuses, all clichés.
I. There, we agree. There’s no point in exchanging clichés. So, let’s get back to the war itself.
TERRORIST. You mean, Israeli aggression.
I. We’re not going to get anywhere if you tell me what I mean. Remember, I’m an American, let’s keep it simple.
TERRORIST. Agreed. Our cause is simply this: to kill as many Israelis and Americans as possible.
I. Right. But, cultural differences aside, I’m sure you can understand why we’re not all that comfortable with your existence.
TERRORIST. Ah, is it your desire to kill as many Muslims as possible?
I. No. Just you. Isn’t suicide your MO anyway?
TERRORIST. The Israelis have made me so. They lust for our land, they continue to build settlements that—
I. Stop right there. There are many heated and complicated issues imbedded in Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am not taking sides on Israeli-Palestinian issues here. It’s the way you go about achieving your goals that disturbs me. Even if you are enraged by what you perceive to be gross injustices, that doesn’t justify acts of terrorism—
TERRORIST. Acts of war. The Israelis bomb us too, you know.
I. Not with stealthy homicide bombers that change a scene of peaceful civilian marketing into an aboveground graveyard filled with body parts in a matter of seconds.
TERRORIST. Ha! You must think I am a monster.
I. Don’t flatter yourself.
TERRORIST. What you call ‘homicide,’ suicide bombers know to be ‘justice.’
I. Whatever. But for your information and contrary to media hyperbole, millions of Americans make a sharp distinction between Muslims and religious fanatics. There are many communities in the United States in which Muslims, Christians, and Jews live side by side and enjoy their traditional diversities while embracing American assimilation.
TERRORIST. (laughing) Ah, now who is it that spouts hyperbole!
I. Sorry. You have to live here to believe it. Anyway, what Americans do find extremely objectionable about Islam is Sharia.
TERRORIST. Infidel, Islam is the true religion—
INDIAN. Oh, I must take issue with you there. Hinduism is the only religion that –
I. Let’s not go there…okay, guys? Let’s just stick to warfare itself. Let me ask you a question. Why do you suppose that women and children, hospitals, apartment houses, and mosques are often in the line of Israeli fire? The IDF has high resolution weapons, why do you claim that killing Palestinian civilians is deliberate?
TERRORIST. Killing my people is not just ‘collateral’ damage. Israelis are deliberately killing as many civilians as possible. So, we must retaliate.
I. Yeah, okay. Assuming that’s true. Why would coalition forces bomb hospitals? The ill and injured are no threat to anyone, let alone a military force. Why would Israelis, Americans, and other coalition forces target schools and mosques? Children ‘worshipers’ at mosques are even less a threat than hospitalized people (though, I suspect some children provide peripheral help to terrorists). And why are apartment houses bombed? Could it be that the mosques, hospitals, and residential buildings contain arms and shield ‘freedom fighters’?
TERRORIST. Assuming that is true. And I don’t believe coalition forces would hesitate to bomb innocent civilians—
I. You don’t believe it! Come on, how is it that time after time, civilians are killed in the midst of battles?
TERRORIST. They happen to be in the line of fire.
I. In a supermarket?
TERRORIST. As I tried to say before you interrupted: Assuming that civilians are deceitfully imbedded with freedom fighters, they are voluntarily committed to fight to the death along with freedom fighters, even if they serve only as shields.
I. Does that include two-year-olds?
TERRORIST. Are you implying that we are cowards?
I. No. I’m not implying that. I’m stating it as fact.
TERRORIST. We are not afraid to die!
I. So I’ve noticed. Suicide seems to be a way of life for many of you.
TERRORIST. Then why do you call us cowards?
I. Because you force civilized soldiers to fight you with one hand tied behind their backs. You hamstring them with human shields. You depend on their aversion to kill innocent civilians. You know Media are watching.
TERRORIST. Oh, be fair now. Our side has no choice in an asymmetrical war.
I. Asymmetrical against whom? The wars may have begun that way decades ago when overwhelmingly outnumbered Israelis fought against seven Arab armies. There’s nothing asymmetrical about Middle East wars now. Israel and America are surrounded by a sea of global hostility, your greatest ally—including media bias within the United States.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. You’re paranoid.
I. You bet your ass, I am. What conflict are you watching?
GLOBAL CITIZEN. The Middle East war, of course.
I. I didn’t say war, I said conflict.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. What’s the difference?
I. One is regional, the other is ideological.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. What do you mean?
I. (pointing to theTERRORIST) Ask him. He knows. (to the TERRORIST) Tell her.
TERRORIST. The infidel knows that we are not fighting for just a scrap of land. This is Jihad. Surely you have repeatedly heard our message.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. What is that?
TERRORIST. We want total destruction of America and Israel.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. Oh, I don’t believe that.
I. He does.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. Oh, no. I’m sure he doesn’t mean it.
TERRORIST. I do. You’re not listening. Our leaders are clearly telling you that. Of course we mean it.
GLOBAL CITIZEN. But this is the age of Globalization.
TERRORIST. Exactly. That is why it is critical that the world be united under one god—the god of Islamic Law. The godless parade of evil civilizations must come to an end. The parade’s shameless march has led the world to the abomination known as Democracy. America and its whore, Israel, must be stoned to death.
I. Ah, yes…stoned. As I understand it, Sharia demands that the stones should not be too small because they might not finish the job, nor should they be too large because the job would be finished too soon.
TERRORIST. We don’t take punishment lightly. We are just. A woman is not convicted to death if she can produce four male witnesses to prove that she has not committed adultery.
I. I’m not familiar with your sexual customs, but I think I can safely assume that sexual engagements in your culture are pretty much the same as they are anywhere else, private. It follows that four male witnesses to adultery would have to be voyeurs. I understand that proof of rape also requires four male witnesses. That is even harder to come by since rape is extremely furtive. And, if a woman is gang-raped, the witnesses would almost certainly have to be her rapists.
TERRORIST. You simply do not understand us.
I. God forbid I ever should.