Wednesday, March 26, 2008

the kingdom

At the heart of The Kingdom lies America’s complicated relationship with Saudi Arabia, rooted in our desire for oil and worsened by our presence in the region. Saudi Arabia is interesting because of the constant struggle to balance modernity spurned by massive oil profits and the traditional religious conservative beliefs. The collision of these different ideals presents problems for both the U.S. and the House of Saud.

Our involvement and presence in Saudi Arabia directly influences radical Islamic sentiment against the United States. Attacks by bin Laden and al Qaeda can be traced directly to our defense of the Saudi Kingdom and the placement of half a million U.S. troops down the road from Mecca. This is not a judgment on the First Gulf War, but an accurate example of why anti-American sentiment is fervent.

What I find most intriguing about the movie is the alternative to our current foreign policy that it presents. The response by the F.B.I. in The Kingdom presents a complete reversal of our current policy against extremist violence around the world. This is significant in that it presents a different idea of dealing with crises in such a delicate region of the world, possibly with a little more success.

I find the movie to be an optimistic but honest look at our relationship with those in the Middle East. The Kingdom attempts to address a crisis in the Middle East not with brute force, but with cooperation and trust. In the end, the movie shows us that we may think the Western and Middle Eastern cultures are radically different, but in reality, they’re more similar than we think. And, Jamie Foxx gets to be a badass for an hour and a half.

1 comment:

ashlynn said...

Well said. I also was taken with the harsh reality of the fictional story of The Kingdom. It finally hit home when with the scene of teenagers playing video games, killing the bad-guy-Americans.

This does make me think about American presence abroad. Americans may be working in foreign countries mining gold or diamonds (I don't know), but we could probably go on without these things. Can America go on without oil? Why else would we have a large group of Americans in a dangerous area?

I thought the most interesting aspects of The Kingdom were the intricate relationships between government, oil, and religion. Though we supposedly separate our American state from religion, Saudi Arabia does nothing of the sort.

This movie may give Westerners a glimpse at Islam and the religious turmoil surrounding the oil-rich area, torn over tradition and modernity. One of my personal favorite books is No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan. I think everyone (especially all Westerners) should read this book, regardless of your religious or spiritual preferences, and form well-educated opinions of Islam and its relationship to governments in the Middle East. Expanding knowledge doesn't hurt anyone.