Where terrorist and '60s child converge

February 22, 2010|By Susan Reimer

An in-depth profile of underpants bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab by National Public Radio suggests that he was a rebellious teenager offended by his parents' bourgeois lifestyle and preoccupied with thoughts of sex.

Any of us who grew up in the 1960s can understand where this kid is coming from.

We thought of ourselves as free spirits caged by our parents' narrow, middle-class values and, like young Umar Farouk, their excesses truly offended us. Like Umar Farouk, we thought constantly about sex -- although this determinedly chaste young man could not wait to marry, while we happily embraced the sin of love-the-one-you're-with.

While some in the '60s took their newfound political religion to a violent extreme, it never occurred to most of us to blow up ourselves along with a plane full of strangers.

If I put myself in the mind of young Umar Farouk, or even in the mind of myself all those years ago, I can almost understand the distaste and frustration with America, its excessive and sacrilegious way of life, that fuels so many of the militant young jihadists.

Or, as my friend Betsy says, "Why do the terrorists hate us? Just look at the cereal aisle in the grocery store. Really. Who needs that many kinds of cereal?" Betsy got me thinking of all the other elements of American life and popular culture that could light a fuse under a pious young man. There are so many ... *The entire contents of a Victoria's Secret store, its runway models and women anchoring the network evening news.

*Scientology, "Big Love" and spending $100,000 on your child's bar mitzvah.

*Life coaches, goose liver pate, the BCS Championship system in college football and pajamagrams.

*Kitten heels, the panic buying of toilet paper and Martha Stewart.

*Shower curtains that cost $6,000, hot tub sex, and 10 plastic surgery procedures in one day.

*"The Bachelor" and having sex with three women you don't yet love in one episode.

*Late-night talk show wars and $30 million buyouts and home delivery of sushi.

*The fake flowers on the dashboards of Volkswagen bugs, nanny cams and wardrobe malfunctions during the Super Bowl.

*CEOs, SEOs and restaurant reviews.

*The way John Mayer treats women and a bubble wrap app for your iPhone.

* Johnny Weir and his feathered ice-skating costumes, and the half-pipe hippie chick snowboarders and their crash helmets.

*$3 coffee and seat heaters in cars.

*Disgraced Rod Blagojevich on "The Apprentice" and anybody on the cover of "People" magazine.

*"People" magazine.

* Goldman Sachs, Gitmo and the fact that we spend more on eye makeup in this country than on cancer research.

I am sure you can add to this list of things that might offend a deeply religious and ascetic young man.

How about private sports coaches for your kids and pedophile priests? Las Vegas wedding chapels and community property states? How about Go-Gurt, pomegranate martinis and paying money to wait in line at a gym to ride a stationary bike?

What would you add to this list?

I don't know about you, but I am thinking, threat level: bright red.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays in The Baltimore Sun.

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