Imagine an entirely hypothetical young boy descending a rickety staircase en route to a makeshift shooting range in the bowels of a completely invented shades-of-Unabomber bunker-home. Here, under the guise of home-schooling, Junior fires his mock M-16 BB gun at paper target jihadists, while upstairs Ma sobs quietly over the girlfriends she hasn’t seen since they all dressed up as (classy, not slutty) bunnies at the 2001 Halloween office party and Pa defensively growls that whatever anyone else does his family isn’t coming back on the grid until the Department of Homeland Security institutes mandatory ethnic profiling.
With Pa distracted, Junior takes a break from training for the clash of civilizations to peruse the coloring book Grandma slipped him during a recent melancholy visit. Cramming it surreptitiously between the covers of an old Soldier of Fortune — even homeschoolers have homework! — the boy ponders the query in large italicized print on the first page: Are you afraid someone is going to blow you up?
Yes. This is precisely what Junior is afraid of. And who could blame him? Pa has rigged the satellite dish so the only choices are Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network. As the boy adds shades and hues to the outlines within, however, an awareness of the interconnectedness of all people dawns within his heart. Were he of age and not forced to tend a garden fertilized with human scat ten hours a day, Junior would certainly cast a ballot for Barack Obama next November.
Conjuring such a mental diorama may prove difficult for those who aren’t the type to see specters of WalMartopian xenophobic jingoists every time they peer down at vast expanses of flyover country from an airplane window, sweating like William Shatner on The Twilight Zone as if he had seen a hillbilly wearing a Real Men Love Jesus T-shirt riding the plane wing instead of a murderous gremlin.
Nevertheless, this appears to be the niche audience Ricardo Cortes and F. Bowman Hastie III — owner of Tillamook Cheddar, “the world’s preeminent canine artist” — are aiming for with I Don’t Want to Blow You Up!, a coloring book designed to “counter the terrifying messages transmitted in the name of the ‘War on Terror.’” To this end, readers are introduced to 12 individuals of Arab or Persian extraction by Naeem, a young keffiyeh-wearing Brooklynite who cheerily announces at the outset, “I blow up tires on my bicycle, but I don’t want to blow you up!”
Some are luminaries such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (“He had a shot called the ‘sky hook’ that no one could stop. . . . He doesn’t want to blow you up!”), anti-American intellectual Tariq Ramadan (“He wants to debate ideas! He doesn’t want to blow you up!”), and rapper Nas (“ . . . people said he ‘blew up!’ That means he became popular very quickly”). Others are everyday people with unfortunate names like deejay Jose Padilla (“He doesn’t want to blow you up. He wants to make you dance!), demolitionist Imaan bin Laden (“She needs to blow up buildings for her job, but she doesn’t want to blow you up!), and young Osama (“I’m not a terrorist! I’m a boy who is very good at science!”). This is certainly a more uplifting concept than, say, I Do Want to Blow You Up, even if the FBI already provides just such a handy guide.
Still, do not attempt to paint Cortes or Hastie (or presumably even Tillamook Cheddar) as Pollyannas. The team did include a representation of true evil: presidential brother Marvin Bush. “He has made some very interesting business deals,” Naeem advises, as Marvin gives a masked man who looks suspiciously like Karl Rove a high five. “Hmmm . . . maybe you should Google him?”
Does Crayola even make a Blackened Republican Heart shade?
Even setting aside how nervous this constant reassurance might make the book’s target audience — I ain’t gonna blow you up . . . like hell I ain’t! — the overall premise remains a bit arbitrary. Couldn’t we just as easily compose I Don’t Want To Hack You to Pieces In My Basement! (“This is Jeffery. Girls ignore him, and he still lives with his mother at 42, but he doesn’t want to hack you up!”)?
And then there’s the matter of Cortes’ last children’s picture book, It’s Just A Plant, in which a precocious preteen girl named Jackie catches her parents smoking pot. Rather than condescend or lecture, Jackie’s enlightened mother takes her on a tour of marijuana sites around town, complete with stops at a pot farmer’s house and a bull session with baked ne’er-do-wells outside a fast food restaurant. The pair do all this dressed in outfits seemingly torn from the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover — conveniently it’s Halloween — so the narrative is somewhat tripped out, but the implicit critique is that our society fails to give children enough intellectual credit.
It’s ironic, then, that these same children to whom Cortes urged us to ascribe such nuanced reasoning capabilities with regard to illicit substances — i.e., keeping your kids off pot is as simple as telling them how awesome it is — are apparently also raving paranoid racists who need to be reassured that the guy who helped create Napster isn’t planning to detonate himself at the local mall. And how stoned were the little shavers who actually thought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar might use his amazing sky hook for jihad?
Realistically, most children today probably have a better understanding of what constitutes a terrorist than these authors have about what constitutes a kid’s mindset. On his recent album, comedian Greg Giraldo talks about his terrorism-obsessed son hounding him: “Why do the bad men hate us?”
“Isn’t that heartbreaking man?” Giraldo says. “I almost started crying . . . because he’s 18. What kind of moron am I raising?”
Probably a moron on par with the prospective audience of I Don’t Want to Blow You Up!, if the coloring book had been created for actual children instead of snarky Brooklyn faux radical hipsters. Boom!
– Shawn Macomber is a contributing editor to The American Spectator and is writing a book on class war enthusiasts.