On the heels of last weeks news that Howard University dental student Ramy Zamzam has been convicted of terrorism in Pakistan, the United States loses yet another dental professional in the war on terror as 31-year-old dentist Captain Tejdeep Singh Rattan becomes the first openly-Sikh US Army Officer in a generation.
While civil rights groups and Sikhs around the world are certain to cheer the decision, I secretly fear that the change will sow confusion in the Armed Services and general public in a perfect storm of geography and oral hygiene ignorance.
Let’s be honest: we’re a nation where many of our people and sometimes our Presidents have scarcely heard of a country until we invade it. Identifying it on a map, or knowing even basic information about it is tough for a lot of our people. The following video is case-in-point.
How many soldiers and citizens think that the bad guys are brown-skinned, turban-headed men? Introducing one of them into the Army as a “good guy” is a brain-popping level of complexity that we’re simply not equipped for as a nation. Even Halliburton and Blackwater don’t have a subsidiary where we can outsource the massive cultural training project needed to re-educate our troops.
And what will Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh’s legions claim when they descend on Washington donning their already scarily funny repetoire of signs? Can we expect them to be protesting the Obama adminstration allowing openly-Taliban soldiers into the US Army in the boldest move at allegedly dismantling America to-date?
Americans are also prejudiced against seeing dentists as the good guys, given our 142 lbs of per capita of sugar consumption. Far easier to type-caste them as terrorists given the pain and bloodshed we should rightly expect on a visit, and Singh Rattan will only add to the confusion that many of our citizens are likely to feel upon learning that he’s one of our finest.
More importantly, given the oral casualties our sweet diets inflict, can we really afford to be losing another dentist to the war on terror, regardless of what side they’re on? Don’t we need these people fighting caries in the Homeland? One can only hope that Singh Rattan’s success means that our soldiers ravaged teeth will be protected and defended in the heroic warrior-saint tradition of his noble faith.
Meanwhile, someone in Bollywood is already churning away on a film dramatizing the story– a touching tale of an “ABCD” dentist son of Sikh immigrants finding his tooth fairy-like true love in the war-ravaged Kabul countryside as they race to stop an orthodontic madman from spreading IEDDs (improvised explosive dental devices) to toothless Afghan refugees.
My bet on the title? Kabhi Kushi Bloody Gums!