Chuck E. Cheese as the missing link between Arabs and the West

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 02:02 PM

What can bridge the apparent gulf between Arabs and the US?  Check out this excerpt from an editorial on Al Jazeera by Remi Kanazi:

If the Bush administration interviewed my father, a 59 year old, Christian Republican Arab doctor living in the US, they would have realized, "Arabs don't like to be occupied." Arabs--be it Sunni, Shia, Coptic, Orthodox or Maronite--don't want to be invaded by a Western force capable of bombing Baghdad to oblivion. Nevertheless, many Muslim and Christian Arabs in the Middle East send their children to Western schooling and profoundly appreciate Western Culture. As James Zogby--president of the Arab American Institute--pointed out on CNN, Americans can see the integration of US based multinational food chains and stores in Saudi Arabia. More than 70 McDonalds and 32 Pizza Huts spread across the country, while a 69,000 sq ft Chuck E. Cheese opened in Jeddah in 2001, with bumper cars, a bowling alley and a new ice rink. There is thirst for American culture within Saudi society, without the aggression and ramifications of US foreign policy.

The point of the editorial is that the U.S. has "lost" the war in Iraq, and was destined to.  In the author's words:
America has lost the war in Iraq. The chance for victory vanished long ago with the hearts, minds, arms, legs and lives of the Iraqi people. The resistance hasn't won; rather the American government never obtained the formula to win.

But look at the first quote's description of Jedda's Chuck E. Cheese: sixty-nine thousand square feet. That's 500 feet by 138 feet, or 300 feet by 230 feet.  That's huge.  A football field littered with kids, toys, crumbs, smeared cheese, and adults on the verge of sensory overload.  Chuck E. Cheese, with the kids' mosh pit of colored balls, with the hokey animal heads emitting recorded phrases, with enough noise to drive any adult over 40 immediately insane.  Or, if not insane, at least insanely jealous of adults who are not then seated in the cacophony of a Chuck E. Cheese.

Is there the basis for some bond here?  Can we ship Iraq 2,000 pre-fabbed Chuck E. Cheese establishments, hire thousands to erect them overnight,  and then form an American-Iraqi Society of Deafened and Miserable Parents (AISODAMP)?

Alas, probably not.  Iraq is not Jedda, especially not after the 1991 Gulf War, Sanctions, the 2003-2006 Iraq war, the increasing Iraqi-on-Iraqi terrorism, and all the accompanying destruction of infrastructure, business, employment, health care facilities, and the like.  The flames of hatred and ambition have to be extinguished or dampened before Chuck E. Cheese makes a successful appearance.  And the Iraqis need to have the resources to ensure their basic needs before they get sucked into the luxury of the Chuck E. Cheese vortex.

But a 69,00 square foot Chuck E. Cheese in Jedda might be an object lesson for us.  However sappy it may sound to the authoritarian segment of America, Chuck E. Cheese probably makes a better face for America to present to the Arab world than the face of Don Rumsfeld.  Just as the image of American teenagers rocking to heavy metal in their blue jeans was probably a better face for America to present to the Soviet Bloc than the face of Henry Kissinger.  Chuck E. Cheese and blue jeans appeal to the streak of silliness that most human beings possess.  Just as racial and religious bigotry appeal to the streak of nastiness that most human beings possess.  If you had to pick one.....

But how does Iraq get from daily terror bombings to Chuck E. Cheese?  Can you get there by means of Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?