Counter-stories to Orientalism, Othering, and De-Humanization

Ho-Hum Memorial Day Weekend. 

My most favorite channel on Television ever, PBS World Channel, is showing a documentary on Navy SEALS, detailing their history from Iraq all the way to the present day.

World Channel is my favorite channel because their content consists of documentaries about things that got me interested in Anthropology in the first place.  Their range is amazing, particularly in their mainstay shows such as America Re-Framed and Independent Lens.  The topics stretch from a documentarian documenting the care of her aging parents to schoolchildren to archaeological explorations. 

However, I wanted to talk about the one time that I've watched possibly the only thing I don't agree with on this channel, and that's contained within the previously mentioned Navy SEALS documentary.

I don't really mind, the Navy SEALS as a group being explored.  I'm an Anthropologist.  Almost anything goes.

In fact, I'd spent an hour reading an ESpN article about Tiger Woods and his obsession with the Navy SEALS.  I had never read an article with such breadth and depth.  I even google searched a few Navy SEALS things for a few days afterward.

My problem isn't so much World Channel showing a documentary on Navy SEALS, its just that the documentary is something I might find on the History Channel with the underlying narrative of American moral superiority. 

Serving that thread of moral superiority, we see hours of SEALS in battle and recalling their battles.

We see a lot of footage in war in bombed out urban centers in the Middle East and North Africa.

We see footage of Islamic militants carrying their guns and "evil."

We see footage of masses of brown people crying in grief over what they have lost.

That is all the same stuff you would see on CNN, where the average citizen is in no position to understand nuance in the Middle East (myself included) beyond bad (brown) guys and good guys.

It's a contrast to why I think I usually like the documentaries on the channel:  they follow individuals or a group of people, good or bad.  They show how they deal with situations and/or a journey sometimes bumping into everyday complexities that they face.

When I watched that Navy SEALS documentary, I was just left wondering what it means for the viewing public's understanding to keep oversimplifying the region, by showing just bits of these urban centers only when they are bombed out, seeing these brown people only crying in grief, all while keeping emphasis on the idea that this is the fault of one religion when they keep saying "Islamic state." 

I wonder, what were those urban centers like before? 

What were those brown people like before?

Can we not get insight into their daily intricacies?