I read recently that actor Gary Sinise of Forrest Gump and Apollo 13 fame started a non-profit organization to help school-age children in Iraq. Called Operation Iraqi Children, one of its goals is to provide school supplies to this impoverished nation. Sinise visited Iraq and saw first-hand how little those kids have: several of them were sharing one notebook and pencil, for example.
When I visited the web site, the first thing I noticed was all the pictures of Iraqi girls. Unlike the photos we usually see of Muslims in the middle east with only men and boys out in public — you know, like those Fallujah pictures [more on that in a minute] — this site seems to have found a lot of girls willing to sit still and smile for the camera.
Not coincidentally, Iraqi girls were my first thought when I heard about this organization: Are girls even allowed to attend school in Iraq? Why would I give money or supplies to schools that might discriminate against girls? So I can see that the organization is making a concerted effort to plant the seed that girls are permitted to attend school in Iraq. I wonder how long that equality will last.
Another goal of Operation Iraqi Children is to give Iraqi schools Arabic translations of the book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Can you think of anything a Muslim country wants less than a book that celebrates the American excesses of horse racing and gambling? Isn't one of the chief complaints of angry Arab Muslims that America is trying to push its culture onto them? How can sending this Seabiscuit book possibly help dispel that belief?
Do Sinise and the book's author, Laura Hillenbrand, really think the story of a crooked-legged horse, a mute horse breaker, and a half-blind jockey will actually touch the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Do you think the Iraqis will find this story uplifting and suddenly lead them to love America and all it stands for?
Isn't it possible that the story of a country — which happens to be in the middle of a financial depression — that becomes obsessed with a horse who "emerge[s] as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense and fanatical following, inspiring an avalanche of merchandising, and establishing himself as the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 — receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or any other public figure" won't really help remove the Iraqi belief that our priorities are a little screwed up? I mean, come on. They've been starving for 30 years and we're making a huge deal about a horse that other Americans made a huge deal about 65 years ago?