Anti-Terror Elmo

I heard the news on the radio this morning that there is going to be a government grant to Pakistan to create a four-year Elmo show aimed to discourage young kids in impoverished areas from turning to radical Islam…And the grant is for $20 million dollars. Let me repeat that: $20 million dollars.

Living with a five year old, has made me put some things into five-year old perspective, so let me rephrase this as I imagine my daughter would: We are going to spend buckets of money to show kids a puppet that will keep them from being mad about not having enough food or a place to sleep. They won’t throw a temper tantrum about being hungry if there is a talking puppet who says, ‘Don’t misbehave.’

Really? Is this rational?

While I applaud the acknowledgement that today’s children are tomorrow’s world leaders, citizens, and even terrorists, and while I applaud, finally, the recognition that a lot of radical Islamic groups cater to those in poverty as being one of the only means for some people in some areas to get financial support…does anyone else see the flaws in this plan?

I also acknowledge that spin doctoring and propaganda machines are sometimes extremely effective methods for political parties to get people to do what they want. But, the success of Elmo in averting children from turning to anything would require, first, that people are in the mood to listen to the government, who would be the source of this incarnation of Sesame Street, and second, that people are in a position to be influenced by a muppet, in the absence of an actual solution to the socioeconomic situation that they are in to begin with.

In the current depression, I will not call something so long-lasting or far-reaching ‘recession’, it seems fiscally irresponsible to cut education,  prescription drug aid for people with HIV, and a dozen other programs, in favor of a transparently political show unlikely to be effective because the root causes of the target audience’s dilemma are still there.

In cutting education, we starve our own kids of opportunities for socioeconomic stability, let alone mental acuity to be decent citizens and leaders. Maybe that’s why we are in this mess to begin with? Maybe what we are seeing is the fallout from the slow amputation of childhood education in this country.

All kids need to be educated. This seems like a painfully obvious statement, but according to the notion of an anti-terror Elmo, I’m led to realize that it isn’t obvious to the people making critical decisions. Kids need to be educated not only in the traditional academic pursuits to make them competitive in job markets and for their own intelligence, but in civic responsibility and society, so they can make informed choices someday. Spending money on top of a trillion dollar deficit, in an impoverished economy with stripped social programming, to blast a jingo-slinging cartoon character at kids to tell them not to become terrorists not only fails to address the cause of their poverty, and gives them the lame message that we only give a crap about them as long as they’re a threat, but it deprives our own kids of needed resources. If we’re going to spend the money, maybe it should be for something useful. Here’s a radical thought, maybe we should find out what the majority of that population were giving to, really wants or needs first, and not go through a government that the people don’t trust anyway for being corrupt. What about an organization like Life for Relief and Development or something?

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