Obama's Right: Youth Can Bridge the Gulf Between Americans and Muslims

Obama right in speech to Muslims that the planet's young people can and must bridge the gulf.

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By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I was watching the Farrelly brothers remake of The Heartbreak Kid on cable TV the other night, and the startling scene where a young bride urinates on her husband.

It is slightly less perverse than it sounds. He has been stung by a jellyfish and she believes that her urine will negate the pain.

An Internet ratings guide tells me that the R-rated movie also includes a montage of simulated sex scenes, "123 F-words, 19 sexual references, 25 anatomical terms, 1 C-word, 24 mild obscenities, 3 derogatory terms for homosexuals, 3 derogatory terms for women...3 religious profanities (and) 6 religious exclamations."

Even the Farrellys' salacious brand of humor is tame when compared to what the average teenage American boy or girl can find in the infinite variations of Internet pornography, but it still says something about American culture that such a scene is mainstream comedy, shown in prime time on a popular cable network.

It leads me to think that, no matter how, or how well, President Obama spoke to the Muslim world this morning—and his speech was typically well-crafted and inspiring—we have a huge gulf to close. Audacity's words will help, but don't bet on any miracles. Politics is culture. As much as we scoff at their burkas, and lecture them on women's rights, pious Muslims must look at our licentious and hedonistic lifestyles and think that we are certifiably nuts.

Is there cause to hope we can bridge that gulf? If so, it lies—like Obama said—with the kids.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square. The political revolution that the youth of China demanded, and bled for, died that day. But the widespread popular support for the uprising frightened the Chinese leadership, and it responded with extensive economic reforms. I'm not going to bet that China will flip into a Western-style democracy, like India and Japan and South Korea, anytime soon. But given the taste of economic freedom, I think that the Chinese people will inevitably demand more personal, artistic, and political liberty as well. You can see it on the Internet in China, despite censorship, now. The grass-mud horse will triumph in its race with the river crab. 

There is a race on in the Muslim world as well. There are millions of bright Arab, Iranian, Asian, European- and American-Muslims who are enchanted by the modern world, and its liberties, despite the West's crude and commercial culture. And there are tens of thousands of other Muslim youths who see no possibilities, and are being indoctrinated in hatred by extremists, or the repression of their governments.

The rising generations of Muslim, Israeli, Chinese, and Western young people need to drop their insularity (or beloved irony) and start connecting with each other.

Obama's election may have been the crowning accomplishment of the baby boomers and their Sixties crusades. But that was that. All around me, the oldest members of my generation are heading into retirement or, in frighteningly too many cases—the grave. Those of us who are left will soon be toothless caricatures, living in Florida and Arizona, voting out of fear, fiercely insisting on our Social Security COLAs.

So. Your move, kids. I hope to stick around and see how the movie turns out.

And I hope we did a good job at parenting. 

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