Saturday, September 1, 2012

Burkas, Niqabs and Barbies: My Daughter's New World

By Mark Young
A game my daughter played with her best friend  brought home how our world impacts our children. She thrust a Barbie doll in my face. “What do you think, Dad?” Most of Barbie’s face was hidden behind a cloth, and the doll wore what looked like a hajib over her head, but with the face covered except the eyes. A niqab.

Her friend held up another Barbie doll, similarly dressed. In that one encounter I realized how world events creep into our children’s lives. My daughter was born a month after 9/11, the day our world changed forever. Travel on aircraft will never be the same. Interaction with Muslim countries—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse—will never be the same. It has become my daughter’s world.

My daughter’s Barbie sparked a conversation about how cultures are different, how religious beliefs and ethnic differences change even within our own country. We live in a rural farming community, and the town has a population the size of a large apartment complex. Very small! My girl’s exposure to larger city populations is limited. When we go to the Big City, she soaks things up like a sponge and fires off enough questions to fill an encyclopedia.

The other day, our family rushed through another busy airport back east. As we worked our way through the crowd, I saw her spot a woman in a black burka, the woman covered head to foot with a dark, heavy cloth. with a veiled grill across her eyes. The tempature was in the high eighties, and humidity outside was oppressive. I watched my daughter glance at this woman for a moment, and then turn toward me, questions looming in her eyes which she was too polite to air until we were in a more private setting.

She knew I had been doing research on my new novel, FATAL eMPULSE: A Gerrit O’Rourke Novel, (to be released before Christmas). This thriller deals with an international crisis in which the U.S. and Israel square off with several Arab countries. I had been doing research on Muslim beliefs, differences between Shia and Sunni populations, and related cultural differences.

Looking over my shoulder as I researched this on the computer, she’d ask me about this part of the world she’d never traveled—Iran, Syria, Israel, Azerbaijan, and the city of Dubai located in the country of United Arab Emirates. This conversation must have sparked the Barbie incident. I glossed over about the impact religious fanatics had on that fateful September day—air travel, Gitmo, military  and civilian casualties, the and rainbow-colored threat levels issued by our government. After all, she was just playing with her Barbie.

As I answered her questions, I realized that she has never known the way things used to be before the attack on September 11. She entered this world a month later, and everything that happened since that attack has become her reality, her world view without the opportunity to measure it against what used to be. Her innocence—and, in a way, all of ours—diminished that day when fanatical killers attacked America and we were forced to live with the consequences.

But there is another side to this changing world that I am glad she has witnessed.  She has watched this great nation come together, men and women  sacrificing their time and lives to ensure that we can enjoy the freedoms that other countries can only dream about. She has seen a nation pull together and face an uncertain future. She has seen America rise from the ashes to fight back, to take this war to those who try to fight from the shadows of tyranny, using the bodies of innocent victims to shield them from the wrath of this great nation.

In one way, I regret my daughter must live in this new world where these dangers exist. However, I am thankful that—if she must grow up in this new world— my daughter has seen the hope our nation, and its allies, give us each new day. As our brave military stand in the gap, shielding us from those who seek our country's demise, she knows what this great nation can achieve as its people come together.  As we near a presidential election, sometimes we lose sight that we are one nation under God. That we—at different times in history—have joined together as one nation. I never want her to forget what our nation is capable of even as the pettiness of politics emerges all around us
In her classroom, my daughter rises each morning with her classmates and utters these words:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of American, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

May she never forget these words...and what they have cost.

God bless America!