My wife and I took three of our grandkids to Disneyland last week; a memorable trip and surprisingly thought-provoking. It had been some years since we had visited the Magic Kingdom so we were totally out of practice in exposing little ones to the flamboyant characters in their vivid habitat. About 4 minutes into the creepy Bug’s Life attraction, we scurried out of the 3D theater with our arms full of Mickey Mouse hats, cones of cotton candy, and three screaming, terrified children.
A gentle float through Small World soothed the young sensibilities and gave us time to map out a path through the softer side of the Happiest Place on Earth. But at every turn was the winning Disney formula; nasty villains threatening cruel acts against sweet characters and a hero who always saves the day by kicking the villain’s ass. It was Peter Pan versus Captain Hook to save Wendy, Eric versus Ursula to save Ariel, and the Prince versus the Evil Queen to save Snow White.
The conspicuous difference in this Disneyland visit compared to all of our previous trips was in the makeup of the crowd. Everywhere we looked, there were women wearing the hijab, the Muslim scarf. We even saw one gal in a full burka. I estimate that traditionally-dressed Muslims represented less than 1% of the visitors that day, but they were always noticeable in their antithetic garb.
I don’t pretend to understand much about the Muslim experience. But, where Christianity’s hero turned water into wine for a party, Islam’s hero would have punished people for drinking it. My curiosity was piqued at what must have been transpiring inside their minds, immersed in the same basic training that most of us Americans experienced while growing up; simple good guy versus bad guy tales where good guy always wins. And P.S., bad guys are jerks. Don’t root for the bad guy.
I do not despise Muslims for their religious beliefs. But I detest and reject the political articulation of their intolerant, discriminatory, chauvinistic, and anti-Semitic belief system. I could not help imagining that the ISIS version of The Happiest Place on Earth would feature shows where Wendy ends up on the Captain’s hook, Ursula fillets Ariel and the Evil Queen stones Snow White just before beheading Eric. And during Fantasmic, Disneyland’s greatest nightly performance surrounding the good versus evil plot, I began to realize the prominent exploitation of rotten people’s most effective tool: fear.