Monday, October 28, 2013
Isaac & Ishmael: a Present Shock
When terrorism-themed episode "Isaac and Ishmael" aired in 2001 on the popular Show The West Wing, fans of the popular show, as well as people simply looking for answers were graced with a decent amount of clarity after viewing. Usually following the democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet, Sorkin decided to shift the scene to possibly answer some of the burning questions all of America had after the devastating September 11th attacks. "Why?" "What did we do to them?" "Do they hate us?" were some of the questions answered during this extremely instructive episode. The constant strive towards rationalism is seen very clearly in this episode, from the hour-long attempt to grasp "a terrorists perspective" to the thought-provoking analogies brought on by characters. "Muslim extremists are to Islam as ____ is to Christianity" one character asks, followed by blank faces. The answer (the KKK), or lack thereof, highlights the bias that Americans put on people of Middle-Eastern descent, one that is clearly demonstrated in this episode. Through this, the apparent rationalism of The West Wing gives not only a fairly unbiased look at 9/11, but a great amount of understanding to the devastating attacks and aftermath. Fast forward to today, society is in what Rushkoff explains as a "Present Shock", an immobile state filled with doubt (in this case, regarding terrorism). This "freeze" that we are in, has caused us to jump to conclusions, to fall back on stereotypes, and push blame on ones who are undeserving. Ever since the attacks on the Twin Towers, concluded to be the doings of middle-eastern terrorist group "Al Queda", Americans have jumped to the safety in which the "Present Shock" resides in. We must understand that terrorism does not stem from just one people, but can come from any corner of the Earth. The rationality and unbiased attitudes Sorkin brought us with "Isaac and Ishmael" shed light on the still fragile topic in 2001, and still shed's light on it today, exuding a rational explanation for the attacks and how us, as Americans, should respond to the tragedy that changed our country forever. The West Wing broke the traditional idea of entertainment ("...'to hold within,' or to keep someone in a certain frame of mind" (Rushkoff 21).) and sparked thought and a new perspective, to consider all sides of the story. "Isaac and Ishmael"'s impact changed Americans thoughts on where to go next, even just for a moment, by not just standing by a group who would be condemned for all time because of an extremist group whom they share a race with, but by promoting rationalistic values for all of its viewers to see, consider, and implement in one another.