Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Sense of History - on ABC!

So, I just finished watching a tape recording of the new ABC show Commander-in-Chief. The main story is that Mackenzie Allen (Geena Davis) is the first female vice-president of the United States. The catch is she is an Independent and was selected by the President to reach a wider voting bloc to get him elected. Well, Mr. President has a stroke, which makes her the President according to the Constitution unless she chooses to resign. Although the President and the Speaker of the House (who becomes President if VP resigns) didn't wanted Mackenzie to resign, she chooses not to.

Overall, I enjoyed the first episode. It's fun to watch a show that is centered in DC because I live here and can relate to the city & the politics of it all a lot better.

Secondly, I believe it's time for US president that is not a white male, so if I have to live with a sense of history on TV, so be it! I strongly believe that more women are needed in leadership positions and it has always amazed me that the United States has not had a female president, when many other countries that are considered "backward" like India, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan and many others have had female leaders.

There were two things in the show that irked me:

1. The first issue that is being dealt with in the show is the case of a Nigerian woman who is going to be stoned for committing adultery, which is a violation of the Islamic legal code or "sharia" of the country. Madame President ends up deploying the US military to exert pressure on the Nigerian government to allow the woman to seek political asylum elsewhere.

I have said this before in my blog that I respect Islamic laws, which means I do consider adultery a sin. Many of my Western friends disagree with me that "having sex" should not be a punishable crime, and I guess I haven't made up my mind yet. Because, I believe every country has its own identity in terms of religion & culture. And if that means having sex out of marriage is considered illegal, then, we have to accept that fact. I think what annoys me is when Western countries try to impose a Western notion of "democracy" and "freedom" on other countries - not only is it ineffective, it creates a lot of resentment and many times even harms the minimal progress towards reform that a country is making. Check out this
NY Times article where Karen Hughes (senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world) is taken aback after meeting Saudi women who challenge her notion that they are oppressed. Although I'm not a big fan of Saudi's policies on women, I think it goes to portray how the other side always sees things.

However, what I am against is how most of the time, only women end up being accused. In addition, many times, these cases are based on false evidence just because the woman is powerless and doesn't have many rights. So, in this instance I would want to know wo the guy was who had sex with the woman and got her pregnant too - it should be a joint punishment. Also, I don't agree with stoning as a punishment. I haven't studied Islam to the extent where I can make an educated analysis on how a Muslim state should deal with something like this.

I guess most of the time, Americans hear about things like that through the media without any context, which makes Islam look like a barbaric religion and that is what annoys me.

2. My other pet-peeve from the show is a line in Mackenzie's speech, where she said something like "Freedom is America's gift to the world." To me, that sounded very arrogant & is actually inaccurate because it assumes that civilization & freedom were born in the United States, when this country is only a little more than 200 years old. I'm not saying that freedom is not a big component of what the US stands for or that it has had no impact on the world. Nor am I denying that there are countries that have no respect for human rights, but the US does not have a perfect track record either. Moreover, with the Iraq debacle, most people don't want to be gifted by American democracy & freedom!

I just think it exacerbates the ignorance amongst Americans when they don't realize that Africa, Asia & other civilizations made huge progress way before Europe ever did, especially during the "Dark Ages." For instance, the Muslim World contributed greatly to the birth of the Renaissance period in Europe, which has greatly influenced the United States.

Other than that, I definitely plan to watch the show every week!