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August 24, 2002

Checking Under the Sheets

We took Ngnat to the pool Friday afternoon. The temp had spiked to over 100 earlier in the day, and hadn't moved since. We usually go to the one in the old neighborhood. It has shady areas for the delicate skin of the Sainted Wife and Mother, a baby pool for Ngnat and lifeguards for peace of mind, none of which exist at the electronically gated and fenced pool that comes with the new neighborhood. The neighborhood we moved out of is in flux, with a mixture of Asians, Latinos and Blacks slowly replacing the retired IBM engineers, the ones for whom the original houses were built back in the 60s. I suppose you could call it bohemian, if one could apply that term to a suburb.

It's still a mostly retired and one step above blue collar place. You'll occasionally spot an elderly Sikh gentleman taking his exercise, or a group of be-saried Indian wives and their children walking past the fire station on their way to the library. It emphasizes the point that we're part of the New South now. Seeing a Muslim lady in a full midnight black chador, sitting in the direct sunlight as she watches her children splash about in the shallow end of the pool really drives it home, though.

My first thought was "Damn, I bet that's hot." My second was "I wonder if she has any explosives strapped to her?"

Yes, I know that's an "ist" of some sort. Racist? Well, she was black, but she wasn't the only one there. Several girls were her complete opposite in that they concealed almost nothing. You would think that in an impolite staring contest, nubile teenagers in bikinis would easily defeat a lady in a full body tent, but you'd be wrong. If her husband had really and truly desired that she not be gazed upon by strange men, he'd have put her in a one-piece. Everyone there stared the polite stare, the one that flicks away just before the object of curiosity can meet your gaze and then returns when the coast is clear. She wore sneakers, black Nikes, over some type of hose. Black, of course. Still, not enough to protect her ankles from an unwanted gaze when she shifted in her seat, or got up to chat with her kids. I'd have chortled over that, "Take that Allah, I saw her ankle, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!", were I not so busy calculating blast radii.

I didn't really believe she was wired to explode, just as I don't really believe that the two girls in headscarves on my bus to work are, though I always check to see if they look any bulkier than normal. I do hope neither of them have a penchant for retaining water at certain times of the month.

I can accept the reality of female Islamikazes, even perhaps in the US rather than in Israel, but I have yet to hear of one that is a mother. Once I realized that, and decided that I could get Ngnat and myself a few feet under water by the time she jumped up and shouted "Allah Akbar!", I hardly thought about it at all. Once I decided I was not a prejudiced bastard for thinking Semtex every time I saw a woman in Muslim dress, I gave it no more thought.

I decided I wasn't a prejudiced bastard because at the end of last summer none of those thoughts would have entered my head. They were put there by Muslims in the year that followed, by the ones who murdered and the ones who could not condemn those murders without saying "Yes, but..". That will be the lasting legacy of the suicide bombers, of the 9/11 terrorists and those who waffle in the face of terrorism when it is directed against Jews. Not a Palestinian homeland, not the destruction of Israel, nor the departure of Western troops from the land of their holy places. Certainly it won't be the restoration of the Caliphate, or any of Al-Qaeda's other fevered dreams.

Their legacy will be to tar their religion with a smear of lunacy, distilled from the blood of innocents. From now on, many people, in all probability most people, will not look at a Muslim family without thinking of explosions, of terror and death, of the actions that might be taken to protect their loved ones in the seconds before the shrapnel arrives.

Like myself, most will deny these thoughts, never mention them, push them down into the same dark corner of our soul that we kept the monsters under the bed. Remember that place, from when you were old enough to know that there were no monsters there, but checked for them every night just the same? Every night you checked, and there were no monsters. Then one night you forgot to check, and woke up the next morning all the same.

The problem with the metaphor is that these days, if you stop checking for Muslims under the bed, one day you don't wake up.

That is such a good line. I am so tempted to end with it, even if it doesn't make much sense. I can't though, because there's this image, sitting here in my mind, refusing to go away and let me end with a punch. It's the image of Chador lady's ten year old daughter, splashing about in the pool, in her pink gingham bikini. That's enough to convince me that whatever else this lady is, she's American. Where else in the world do you think a lady in a chador could feel free enough to not only go to a public place filled with wet, half-naked heathens, but to allow her daughter to run around in the same condition, in the same pool as her son and the sons and daughters of the heathens?

That lady would not prosper in Saudi Arabia, or Egypt, or Syria, and would have likely been long dead in a land ruled by the Taliban. In America she can be just like the Baptists and Methodists and Catholics and all the others that pay lip service to religious hierarchy and then do what they please. In America she is free to pick and choose from her religion.

In America, you wear a chador because you want to.

Posted by Bigwig at August 24, 2002 08:51 PM | TrackBack
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