Elmo -vs- al Qaida

Don't make us go all Big Bird on your butt!
Don't make us go all Big Bird on your butt!
We all face problems in different ways. But it is the fact that we face them that allows us to become better beings. For the most part. An exception that proves the rule can be found in Florida, naturally. It seems a man confronted with his own mortality decided to honor his 64th year on our humble planet by waving his genitals at school children. Believe it or not, even in Florida, that will get you arrested.

Nevertheless, there are others who face life’s problems with a mix of whimsy and determination. A group of burly Alaskans recently donned high heels and walked a mile in support of women who have been victims of sexual violence. Silly as it may have looked to witness longshoremen and ice-road truckers strutting around in heels, they garnered a lot of publicity for their cause and managed to show that not all men are complete Neanderthals. No word on whether any of the men were daring enough to sport the new Lego festooned stilettos.

Probably not.

Even so, there’s one problem that has vexed America for years. What to do about the continued existence of al Qaida? As their network of terror spreads through impoverished lands where people are looking for anyone to blame for their fate, it has become increasingly more difficult for our forces to root them out and bring them to justice.

Guns aren’t working. Bombs aren’t working. Tom Clancy’s wet dream of multiple black ops isn’t getting much done either. In fact, loathe though many may be to admit it, conventional thinking has gotten us nowhere. Now comes the story that we may have finally hit on a workable, if unusual, solution. Lauren Frayer reports that the U.S. Government is sending over a commando team made up entirely of Muppets (TM).

U.S. airstrikes, aid and diplomatic offensives have achieved only marginal success in winning Pakistani hearts and minds, so American officials are now deploying their secret backup weapons: Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster.

Funded by a $20 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American children’s TV program “Sesame Street” is heading to Pakistan. Filming begins this summer, and the show is set to debut in the fall. It’ll feature furry muppets speaking mostly Urdu instead of English, in a Pakistani village setting.

U.S. civilian aid to Pakistan has recently tripled to $1.5 billion a year, but that money — invested in food aid, education and infrastructure — has failed to woo all Pakistanis away from al-Qaida, anti-American sentiment or Islamic fundamentalism. So U.S. officials are taking a different approach, hoping that “Sesame Street” can instill education values in very young Pakistani children, arming them with the learning tools to fend off extremism later in life.

The show will air on Pakistani state television, PTV, and thus will be available in even the most remote villages with TV service. For those without, mobile TV vans will circulate the country, bringing “Sesame Street” to places without even electricity.

The format will be largely the same as the U.S. version, with each episode highlighting one letter and number for children to learn. Like the U.S. version, the program will also have strong female characters, with the subtle aim of promoting tolerance and gender equality. But it’s not slated to touch on any political themes outright.

“Teaching kids early on makes them much more successful when they get to school. And this program will have the capacity to encourage tolerance, which is so key to what we’re trying to do here,” Larry Dolan, head of USAID’s education office in Pakistan, told The Guardian. “In terms of bang for the buck, reaching 95 million people is pretty important. This is much more than a TV program, far more ambitious than a ‘Sesame Street’ series.”

Ironically, word of “Sesame Street’s” Pakistan debut comes as U.S. lawmakers debate possibly de-funding public broadcasting inside the United States.

“Sesame Street” also has co-productions in 30 other countries around the world, including Indonesia, Nigeria and South Africa.

Oddly enough, this might work. Much to the surprise of some news channels, the majority of Pakistanis don’t want to be in the middle of heavy weapons fire and bloodshed. If they had their way they’d just get together with some friends and share a nice Chapali Kebob (mmm yummy). They have no more desire to overthrow the world and turn it into a rabid theocracy than you or I do.

If there’s a legitimate chance to break the cycle of hate, then it’s one we have to take.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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