Elmo Teaching Peaceful Coexistence to the Leaders of Tomorrow

If there’s anyone who understands the travails of being different, it’s Kermit the Frog, who shared with the world the difficulties of being green. Now Kermit’s Muppet colleagues are teaching children in high-conflict areas that we can all look beyond our differences and peacefully co-exist in a region plagued by hate.

It’s appropriately being called Muppet Diplomacy and it was partially-introduced to parts of the Middle East by Saddam Hussein of all people. After invading Kuwait in 1990, Iraqi troops brought back videos of the regional version of Sesame Street, which apparently became quite popular in Iraq. Almost two decades later, a local version of the show in the Palestinian territories, entitled “Shaara’a Simsim,” teaches diplomacy to area children. And it’s not the only region seeing Muppet Diplomacy take off.

Now seen in over 120 different countries, the classic children’s show is being hailed as an impressive diplomatic tool. In 2006, while President George W. Bush received a cool response from Indonesians during a diplomatic visit to their country, the Muppet character Elmo, who was actually brandishing an American flag, received a hero’s welcome. Elmo has even managed to serve a greater cultural purpose stateside. Most recently, the lovable character taught American children the importance of good hygiene in the government’s campaign against Swine Flu. It’s a concept that has already been hailed worldwide, even being featured in a lecture last year at Carnegie Mellon University.

It’s a great change of pace considering the troubling use of classic children’s characters in years past. Just a few years ago, Hamas television used a Mickey Mouse knock-off to incite hatred against Israel. In the episodes, the fake Mickey, referred to as Farfour, preaches Islamic supremacy and hatred towards Israel and is bullied and beaten by a mock Israeli representative.  But with the ideological shift of Muppet Diplomacy, who could have ever guessed that Cookie Monster might have a hand in world peace?

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