As a kid, the televised run of the 1936 Flash Gordon sci-fi serial with Buster Crabbe fascinated me—particularly the contrast of technology (rocket ships, two-way TV) and medieval environments. Today’s world maintains that contrast—including here in America.
When I was growing up, the U.S. had TV, satellites, manned space flights and, yes, hydrogen bombs. At the same time, many countries couldn’t provide their people with clean water and indoor plumbing. George Lucas, only two months older than me, presented the same complex meld of technology and ancient cultures in the first Star Wars. I recall Luke Skywalker and Obi-wan Kenobi taking Luke’s anti-gravity landspeeder into the desert. They’re attacked. Luke believes Sand People to be responsible. Obi-wan tells him that the shots fired at them were too precise; the Sand People lack discipline and frighten easily. Imperial storm troopers are the villains here.
I’ve always believed that Lucas—he’s free to correct me—was taking a direct shot at the Arabs and the Greater Middle East. Negative stereotypes truly can be misleading. Yet in today’s world with a manned satellite orbiting earth, a Martian Rover and anyone posting anything on You Tube, Islamists go out of their way to portray themselves as primitives.
Case in point: In Pakistan last Tuesday, the Taliban shot and badly wounded 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai. A 14-year-old girl! Why? Because Malala, who wants to be a physician, promotes education for Pakistani girls.
This was one of many recent dark moments in the Greater Middle East. Islamists of all stripes continue to mount atrocities on virtually a daily basis. They kill, maim and terrorize not only non-Muslims but more often fellow Muslims in God’s name. And all as the “infidel West” probes the secrets of the human genome and links humanity through advanced communications devices.
There may at least be a ray of hope. Pakistanis are outraged. “Malala is our pride,” said Interior Minister Rehman Malik. “She became an icon for the country.” Army chief of staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani condemned the attacks, as did Jamaat ud Dawa, the charity wing of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. In full disclosure, it must be said that neither of the latter has ever taken a clear position against Islamist terrorism.
A vexing question remains. What about the rest of the Muslim world? Will Muslims in other nations rally in protest against such savagery as they did against an obscure video that painted Muhammad in such a negative light? So far, there’s no news. And that’s bad news.
But let’s not get too self-righteous in the high-tech America of which Flash would be proud. In the last week or so, Arkansas State Representative Jon Hubbard claimed that slavery was a “blessing in disguise.” A book by Republican state House candidate Charlie Fuqua proposed that all Muslims in the United States—citizens included—be deported. And Georgia Republican congressman and ardent Christian Paul Broun, a physician, called evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory “lies straight from hell.”
Decades ago, Flash Gordon battled the Shark Men and the Hawk Men to save Earth from the clutches of Ming the Merciless. That fantasy is no wilder than our own reality.
Responding is simple. Click on “comments” above then go to the bottom of the article.
Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at davidperlstein.com. Which, by the way, received a great review and a coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. SLICK! also is now available at iUniverse.com, Amazon.com and bn.com.