12:22 p.m. September 21, 2012

The War Nerd: The Innocence Of Cindy Lee

Cindy Lee Garcia is suing the world.

Cindy Lee, who comes from Bakersfield, was happily pursuing her career in Hollywood when the world busted in and ruined everything. Cindy answered the casting call when “Sam Bacile,” aka an Egyptian Copt named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, called for desperate, stupid unemployed actors to be in his movie. You may have heard of it: The Innocence of Muslims.

Cindy says she had no idea what the producer wanted. That’s an old line with actresses, although it usually gets said to the husband when he asks why she went up to the producer’s office after hours. Cindy may actually be telling the truth, though, because (a) she’s dumb as the asphalt under a dumpster and (b) the producer, Nakoula, really was playing a deep, high-risk game with this movie, like I've already written.

Cindy says Nakoula told her she was going to be in a movie about “Ancient Egypt,” even though everybody in the movie is dressed like Bedouins, not Egyptians. Cindy says the producer had all the actors say “Master George” and then substituted “Mohammed” for “Master George” on the sound track.

Cindy’s mad, because now she’s a target for every Salafist assassin on the planet. And she never in her wildest dreams—and you need to have some pretty wild dreams to imagine you’re going to break into Hollywood as a grandma from Bakersfield—never, never did she imagine that the actual world, as in Arabs with guns and knives, would get involved in her career.

So she’s suing YouTube for showing the movie, Google for being Google, and “Sam Bacile” for making her act in it. She’s even hired what this Brit tabloid the Daily Mail calls “a glamorous blonde attorney” to protect her from the world out there.

If you want to see a real clash of civilizations, look at Cindy vs. the Salafists. First, there’s Cindy’s culture—which is my culture too, to be honest. And in our culture, there are some rules, god damn it, and you believe in those rules. For starters, and this is the First Commandment, you have the absolute right to pursue your dream of getting famous—even if it’s as stupid as Cindy’s dream of breaking into the big time at 55 in an industry where Dakota Fanning’s already over the hill.

Take a look at Cindy and you can see she was a very good-looking woman in a classic Bakersfield way, like those pictures of Okies in tents from the 1930s. She probably got married and had to take care of the kids, and then they went off to their own stupid dreams at WalMart or the Armed Services, and she had the chance to follow her stupid, holy dream to be the next Olympia Dukakis.

The other bedrock rule about my culture is: Ignorance IS an excuse. Cindy thought when she put on those Arab costumes for the movie, they were costumes, damn it, and it was a movie, for God’s sake, not some religious war. If you ever attended a California public school, and I did right through, K-12, then you know in your 10W-40 blood that history doesn’t matter. I remember having to memorize the California missions, south to north, San Diego de Somebody to Dolores de Mission Street in SF, and making mud bricks out there on the baseball field—working bits of straw into mud in a flat box, to show us what “adobe” meant. That was history, for us: Disgusting mud bricks out there in left field. Any notion there might be any other history out there…that was AP stuff, for showoffs and Asians.

It’s not like Cindy’s world doesn’t have enough terrors and predators of its own. She’s one of the five million idiots who’ll do anything, including but not limited to any gross stuff, to get a two-line part in a cheap movie. And she’s 55 years old, which is seven zillion in Hollywood years. Her whole life is as brave as it is stupid, ignoring the obvious, “believing in herself” even when it’s hopeless.

And now, out of nowhere, she’s liable to be murdered by Jihadis. That’s just not right, in Cindy’s world. It’s the wrong predator; it’s as if you were filming a movie, a nice contemporary two-character drama set in the La Brea area, and suddenly a Saber Tooth Tiger jumped out of the Tar Pits and decapitated you with those cool back-bladed fangs. So you sue. And hope you don’t hear “act of God” when the judge rules.

Then there’s World #2, the world those hairy angry guys in the hot countries live in, the ones who are always on TV burning something outside an embassy. Their brand of stupid is much older than Cindy’s, much more normal over most of human history. Their idea is: If you insult our God, you’re trying to kill us. That’s standard human wacko thinking, until the last couple hundred years. You want to kill the nextdoor tribe, pee on their shrines, shit on their holy statues, make dirty jokes about their gods’ family relations. If you really believe—I mean really, really believe—then that’s a fatal blow.

And Muslims do believe. That’s what makes them so weird to us: They take this shit serious, which even the craziest Baptist kind of doesn’t, not way deep down. Even when we sorta believe, we mostly believe in an afterlife. Muslims believe right now, right here, and if you put their god to the test, they’ll answer for him (and so will you).

There’s a reason the Bible says you shouldn’t put God to the test: People are always doing that, in their heads, seeing if their God can take a punch and, more important, punch back harder. That was the idea behind the Old Testament: Proving that God will make you pay for any insult, and the only consolation is that, as hard as he smites you, his Chosen, he’ll smite your enemies a thousand times harder.

The New Testament was something a little weirder, but the thing about Islam is that it was a retro religion, back to the Old Testament where what mattered was showing respect to God, and away from all Jesus’s downer mumbling about how even if you do the right thing, you’re probably a bastard at heart. So for us, God got melted into “my career,” and the difference between Heaven and Hell is being famous vs. just a nobody.

The Arabs never liked that part, about the individual and the career and the conscience. They wanted a God who asked respect and got it, who “is not mocked.” And Mohammed simplified that Old/New Testament confusion about who was in charge of vengeance, coming down pretty firmly on the side of making it the job of the Ummah, the Faithful, to be God’s strong right hand.

We can never be that sure about all that stuff, because for every OT quote that Cromwell would’ve liked, there’s some NT passage telling you that you’re the bad guy and you should worry less about that blasphemer over the hill and go mope about your own sins, Jimmy Carter-style, instead.

When Christians are in a good cheerful warlike mood they go OT all the way; when they lose faith in God and the sword, they mope with Jesus. Muslims don’t have that problem. They swallowed Jesus like a dog swallowing a sock: They knew they had to gulp it down because the people around them thought it was important, but they didn’t really digest it. Islam is basically Judaism for hicks, the OT for hicks. It’s a simple set of rules; it’s meant to be public and universal; it doesn’t waste a lot of time with the glum inward stuff.

So what we have here, in Cindy vs. the Salafists, is two religions, or two cultures, clashing: Not the pretty and smart kind that essay types love to write about, but two kinds of strong, raw, stupidity: American “pursuit of happiness [and getting famous and adored and rich]” meets classic Monotheist bulldozer conformity. Cindy is like some kind of Bakersfield saint of self-realization against the odds, and all those Jihadis are going to be saints too, according to their lights, when they get blown up trying to set off a bomb under Cindy’s 10-year old used Subaru.

Yup, this is what culture clash really looks like: A bunch of noisy ignorant hicks on one side, and a whiney lawyered-up Hollywood no-hoper on the other. And may the best idiot win.