The above post came across my Facebook news feed this weekend. Captain Phillips is a film based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of an American ship by Somali pirates. I haven’t seen it so I can’t comment on its overall quality or the performance of Mr. Hanks — but I am familiar with the story it’s based on as well as the controversy regarding the “heroism” of the real Captain Phillips.
What I find so troubling about this thoughtless Facebook post is the seeming blind patriotism, the seeming wholesale acceptance of an “American versus the world” mentality and the seeming total ignorance of the broader issues surrounding this story. Sure, it’s just a movie. But our stories are reflections of who we are and our reactions to those stories are often a disturbingly accurate measure of our character.
Should the tragic events of April 2009 really engender feelings of American pride? Should we be proud that the overwhelming force of the United States military was able to kill three of the four pirates? Should we hail those involved in the rescue as heroes? Should we be content with the reduction of a complex geopolitical situation into a mere Hollywood adventure tale?
Or should we ask the more difficult questions about what drives someone to take the desperate step of becoming a modern day pirate? About why the social, political and economic plight of Somalia has been virtually ignored by the West, especially after the Battle of Mogadishu? About what role the American military should have in enforcing American policy and interests throughout the world?
I’m not proud to be an American because the strongest military in history was able to overcome four impoverished pirates. I’m not proud of our military for doing the job they trained for and then were ordered to do. And I certainly don’t consider our Special Forces or Captain Phillips to be heroes.
If you want to talk about heroes, how about turning things on end and making a movie about Ahmed Jama? Jama is a Somali chef and restaurateur whose Mogadishu restaurant has been attacked by terrorist three times since 2008. Jama, in a bold act of defiance and determination, has refused to give up, not only re-opening his establishment, but actually expending it.
In this presentation from the third MAD Symposium, chef Ahmed Jama shares his story of deciding to leave London in 2008 to return to his war-torn homeland of Somalia to open up The Village, a restaurant for the people. Since making the move, Jama has been able to open five businesses, the first modern restaurants in Mogadishu.
He’s achieved all of this despite seemingly insurmountable challenges: last September, terrorists targeted The Village, setting off bombs that killed 14 people. And just a few days ago, on 7 September 2013, a militant group bombed the restaurant, leaving at least 15 dead and 20 more wounded.
Jama intends to keep going. You can donate to help rebuild the restaurant and help his employees and their families here: gofundme.com/rebuildthevillage