Wednesday, December 30, 2009




FICCIONES, Jorge Luis Borges. A collection of stories (1941-45) containing surreal, and fantastic themes, landscapes and characters that defy reality. [Ficciones. Fiction]

The young man is enrolled at MIT, America’s most prestigious science oriented university. His father and mother are well invested in Oil and extremely wealthy. Like all good parents they love their son. Love and money therefore will be the engine of his life and happiness. His parents are a nice couple filled with high hopes for a child born late in the years of their marriage. It is indeed a cause for joy for them to think that one day their only son will marry a good woman of excellent family. Privately, sometimes giggling, lightheartedly, his parents suggest to one another a variety of names for their many grandchildren to be—some sincere and others entirely silly. Momma, as her husband now calls her affectionately, touches gently her husband’s cheek. “Father, how wonderful to dream of grand children,” Father smiles and takes her gently in his arms.

Because Momma and Father are good and devout and because their child is sacred, (as all children are sacred), they provide him the very best of everything: an education at the finest and most challenging private schools, and the best tutors when necessary to help him master difficult subjects. Because they want to instill in their son wisdom as well as intelligence, they insist that he become fluent in several of the world’s great languages; for they believe that to speak and comprehend the language of other nations, is to know, respect and empathize with their people. Furthermore, because they believe that wisdom is unattainable to men ignorant of philosophy and religion, they also insist that their son study the great philosophical works, not only of Western Civilization, but also of India, China and the Middle East. As their son applies himself to his studies, they are delighted to hear him speak with budding understanding, from the works of Aristotle and Plato, from the Holy Bible, Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, Koran, and Confucian Classics.

While Momma and Father are moved by an endearing bias to think of their son as probably the most exceptional of all children, in fact, there is good reason to believe that their bias is not altogether misplaced. For their son is attentive to his parents and studies diligently. Indeed, for all his youth, he is disciplined and devout. Furthermore, it does not appear, at first, that their lavishing of millions upon him has inflated his ego, or tainted his heart with arrogance. He remains plain, quiet and generous. He does not condescend to those who, of course, are not nearly as fortunate, talented, and intelligent as their dark haired boy. Momma and Father, themselves deeply religious, experience with profound gratitude his deepening maturity.

As their son comes of age, Momma and Father buy him a palatial home, and every year the sports car of his choice, this year a Ferrari, a silly car Momma thinks. Indeed, she muses, “Where, for example, would my son fit all my grand children and his wife into such a tiny car? Ridiculously expensive too,” she concludes in passing, “but it is my son’s wish and as I have the power to grant it, he shall have it.”

As the years pass however, their son begins to indulge himself in virtually endless vacations in the Swiss Alps, French Riviera, Paris, Madrid, and exotic places with strange names too difficult to recall; indeed, they have lost track of all his adventures. They can hardly remember the number of his grand homes scattered across Europe, or of the long, white yachts he sails about the oceans of the earth. Privately, without quite expressing their outright shock, they discuss their concern that their son consorts with women Momma describes as “loose, profane, and irreligious;” women, of cheap character and ambition, women of multiple nationalities, other than their unadulterated race, women not mothers, who come and go, doubtless enriched by their brief liaison with her son. In this suspicion, Momma is not entirely wrong.

Nevertheless, to quiet their anxiety, Momma and Father take each the other gently to task. “After all boys will be boys,” Father quips perhaps recalling his distant youth.“Well, yes, I understand,” replies Momma. “This after all is the 21st century. We cannot hope to keep him locked in a box.” They laugh uneasily. Momma sighs, “Still, when will he marry? When will I hold in my arms my new grand sons?” Her husband gives her a hug. Later, hands joined, they kneel and pray that all will be well.

Have you heard this story before? Then you know the ending. The son quits college, becomes addicted to drugs. At the end, he is found on a dark, dead-end street somewhere in a dirty corner of a run-down European city, sloped over the wheel of his new Lamborghini, dead of an overdose; Dead, and worn out, far older than his years.

But our story does not end that way. The son sets aside his childish ways. He becomes even more devout. He takes up religion with a religious teacher deeply respected in their country. To his parents’ delight he graduates from MIT. He promises his good parents grandchildren, “Soon, Momma. Soon Father. Very soon. A wife and sons.”

In a dingy room, rank with the smell of lethal chemicals, somewhere in Nigeria, the son, having cleansed himself with prayer, and now calmed by communion with his God, puts the finishing touches on an explosive package, which, Allah willing, on Christmas day will strike from the sky, Northwest Flight 253. Death and repentance will be his message to all who live in the U.S., abode of the Great Satan’, for the living must repent their obscene ways and in the end accept Islam and Allah, the Koran and the Caliphate. Finally, his work nearly done, he selects a syringe from a box containing a number of identical syringes.

Of all the syringes contained in the box, this syringe only is defective.

The son smiles inwardly, and recalls his months of practice with Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab his best friend, a man blessed as he is blessed with wealth, privilege, education and utter devotion to the cause. In passing, he thinks of the Americans. How foolish they are. Abdul will succeed even in the face of his father’s report to the United States Embassy in Lagos, that long ago his son joined a terrorist camp, that al Qaida taught him the instruments of terror and death. It is enough to make him laugh—even as he places gently the chemicals into packages Umar will attach to his leg and fit snugly into his underwear.

How simple is the bomb. Foolproof really. All that Umar need do is inject the contents of the syringe into the powerful explosive. Even so the son has placed far more than enough explosive into the small bag to thrice obliterate Northwest Flight 253. He smiles at the thought; the debris will fall like a bloody rain upon the carnal city of Detroit. He prays that the Americans on Northwest Flight 253 will, for just an instant, see their wretched sins, the darkness of their souls and the cleansing light of Allah.

The son tries to capture in his mind’s eye, the glorious instant of their death. But he is tired. He has worked long and hard in the service of his God. He is unable to conjure the vision. Perhaps later. Alas, there is nothing now to do but wait and anticipate. He must be patient. Afterwards, of course, he will pray.

Napolitano, learning of the survival of Northwest Flight 253, announced to the world that the passengers’ survival proved that President O’bama’s anti-terrorist strategies worked. Later, of course, she would allege her statement had been taken out of context.

On September 19, 2001 in a piece written for Hyde Park Herald. Barrack Obama attributed 9/11 related terrorism to, "a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair." Even more so, Obama went on to say:"They see poverty all around them and they are angry by that poverty. They may be suffering under oppressive and corrupt regimes and that kind of environment is a breeding ground for fanaticism and hatred.” "It's absolutely critical that the U.S. is engaged in policies and strategies that will give those young people and these countries hope and make it in their self-interest to participate and create modern, open societies like we have in the U.S."[1]

My column Ficciones is fiction based on fact. Ms. Napolitano’s statement, as I have paraphrased it, and the President’s bizarre sociological theories are the stuff of Borges’ Ficciones.[2]

What do you think?

[1] Eric Erickson. Human Events. Red State Briefing. Barrack Obama’s Post-Modern Liberal Syllogisms Keep Falling Apart. 12/28/2009

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