Monday, September 24, 2007

Remembering What We Already Knew

Here’s one way it goes: In 1979, some of the enthusiastic students in Tehran thought it would be a hellacious prank to scale the walls of the Russian Embassy. They were greeted, each, by one or more bullets into the brain. Those students who managed to reverse their course in a timely manner decided that their reception might be more cordial over toward the American Embassy. Indeed, we extended a prolonged hospitality to our guests -- some 444 days as I recall. In fact, we’ve still got an open house going there, having donated, apparently, that structure to the Iranian docents for use as a Museum, the theme of which I will leave to your no- need- to- strain- since- the- answer- is- obvious imagination.

Here’s another way it goes: Again in ’79, the Russians noticed the youthful exuberance on display in Tehran, what with water balloons and firecrackers being thrown at their Embassy. Or maybe it was rocks and firebombs … who can be bothered to remember. The Soviets sent the Mullahs a succinct missive, to wit, If you do not ensure the safety of the Russian Embassy, Iran will cease to exist as an independent political entity. The students quickly found themselves relocated to a more receptive venue, now a Museum of Intollerance.

Here’s another way to goes: In the mid-’80s Hezbollah kidnapped three Soviets and held them for a week in Lebanon. The KGB solved the problem by capturing a Hezbollah leader, relocating his testicles into his mouth, shooting him in the head, and leaving his body as an express package on Hezbollah’s stoop -- accompanied by an incisive note expressing the hope that the Soviet citizens currently enjoying Islamic hospitality would soon find their way back to Mother Russia. Message heard. I remember hearing a version of this story sometime in the late ’70s, so it seems to have been a tried and true method.

Ah, being a student of history provides opportunity to learn so many effective modes of conduct, no? We might even feel free to draw some general conclusions about human nature. One observation I could make is that no matter how much they say they love death, they don’t. I suggest that the minute percentage in their culture that does love death, is no higher a ratio than we might find in our own culture. The difference is that the small fraction among us that loves death is confined to mental institutions, prisons, or bizarre subcultures like drug addicts, blood-drinkers, abortionists and the like. They, on the other hand, bundle up their mentally deranged citizen beneath layer upon layer of explosives and send them for a stroll through discos and daycare centers.

The lesson I think I’m learning is an old one, that I’ve always known. But for all our soft speaking, we may need to raise our voice just a bit. And I suggest we find a bigger stick, with a pointy end.


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