Wednesday, July 10, 2002

I am an Iraqi - I’m sure you’ve all seen the public service announcements on television by now. A series of serious-looking individuals—looking much like the Harvard class of 2004 and their Ethnic Studies professors—stare into the camera and proclaim, "I am an American". Several of them go beyond this statement and describe their ethnic background. None of them are European-American, except for one woman who announces that she is "Arabic [sic] and German". Not surprisingly, many of them are from the Middle East and Central Asia and are, presumably, Muslim.

These commercials began appearing on TV after the September 11th terrorist attacks and are clearly aimed at preventing outbreaks of ethnic bigotry against Arab and Muslim-Americans. Now, does anyone really believe that these announcements actually work? Will racist viewers watching "Iron Chef" and "Martha’s Kitchen" on the Food Network, as I was, suddenly change their minds about pummeling an Arab?

If it were that easy, the US State Department could just air commercials on Middle Eastern television stations imploring viewers not to murder innocent civilians, hijack airplanes or become suicide bombers. Between episodes of "Saddam Knows Best" and "Who Wants to Marry Prince Abdullah?", we could convince Arabs that we are really just like them—except for the fact that Arab women have no rights, their governments are run by despots and they would like to convert or kill all non-Muslims.

Maybe we could air these new commercials here in the United States and convince Muslim terrorists in America to stop killing Americans and Jews. Perhaps we might have prevented the July 4th shooting at the El Al Airlines counter at LAX, or even the World Trade Center attacks.

Does anyone remember the last words of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl before his Muslim kidnappers cut his head off? I do. They were, "I am a Jew."

Now does anyone think the "I am an American" commercials can succeed?


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