Short Takes I

Approximate Reading Time: 5 minutes

DUTY FOR MEHMET ALI AĞJA

So here’s this Turkish nutball, who attempted to put the big sleep on Pope John Paul II back in the days, released back among us (is it still January? yes, just this month). Why he did it, heaven knows, also John Paul presumably, as the two put their heads together a couple of years after the assasination try and the Pope, in his largeness and holiness said what they talked about was between him and Ali. Certainly no one has gotten anything cogent out of the irrepressible Turk as to motive, before, during or since.

He’s been in a Turkish prison lately, for crimes not related to the attempted murder of a pope (because John Paul pardoned him, he somehow got off that hook). Ali had already killed somebody in Turkey, but that only warranted a short prison term, and he escaped anyway. He wasn’t in prison most recently for that misdeed, but another. The details are not important.

In any event, you’d think, or at least I would, that the guy would be like 65 by now. His attempt on the Pope was back in 1981 (and remember he already had a yellow sheet, as they call it on those NYC crime shows that are so addictive, and a prison record, back in Turkey, but who knows if they differentiate between juvenile offenses and any other kind in that place no one in the West is ever likely to comprehend). But no, he’s only 47. Which means he was 22 when he took a shot at putting a cap in the Pope’s ass (I know it’s irreverent; but we don’t blink when they talk that way on Law & Order, and they’re still talking about killing a human being… so, like, what? The Pope is more important than an African-American in Harlem, more deserving of like rhetorical niceties?)

One of the results of Ali’s checkered life, and the facts on his rap sheet, is that, according to Turkish law he must now serve in the military, as he never quite managed to fulfill that obligation before taking to a life of demento crimes.

Turkey. You know. On the edge of Europe. Eligible for membership in the European Union in less than a dozen years. Mainly Muslim. The bridge and gateway to Asia. Capital is Istanbul, the cradle of the Caliphate. When what we can no longer can politely call the Infidel had overrun a significant part of Asia Minor and, well, Europe, and kind of ran the civilized world, they were based in what is now Istanbul, which was the center of Muslim political power. Where that is now is up for grabs and is, arguably in any number of places, including a really big, say half-dozen, including Saudi Arabia, and going around the world from there.

There are those, especially Europeans, who are afraid that Istanbul may very well lay claim, still, to the title. And if Turkey is admitted to the European Union, well wouldn’t that be a nice kettle of lentils, my pretty?

So, Turkey. An enigma. A problem (a political problem). Cradle to many facets of what we now call civilization, though we’re reluctant to say it.

Turkey. Where at the moment they don’t quite have a handle on this little problem with avian flu, which is scaring the bejesus (not to mention the bemohammed) out of epidemiologists who make a living in the Western world. You’ll recall from your recent current events not only that Mehmet Ali was let out of prison (convicted murderer, convicted attempted assassin, convicted of a bunch of other crimes) in Turkey, but that the Turks couldn’t quite seem to bottle up a little outbreak of avian flu among their human population. Seems they sent out teams to destroy infected birds, but they only managed to be effective in front of TV reporting crews. In the really little, really poor villages and towns, grandmas and grandpas simply locked their chickens away, and who knows how many sick birds, not to mention healthy ones, have been overlooked.

Anyway, now we’ve got Mehmet Ali, buck private, soon to be assigned once he finishes basic training (which he badly needs, one would infer, as he kind of didn’t quite get the hang of using a gun on his own). I would guess even the Turks would like to put him somewhere where he won’t attract too much attention and maybe get it into his sick little head to pull some new caper that will just add to the pile of reasons, big and small, that would vote them out of the EU when the time comes.

Well, I’ve got the perfect solution.

I know what Mehmet Ali Ağca’s military assignment should be. Let’s set him loose in those native villages, and let’s let him wring the neck of every bird he can get his hands on.

I’d even let him have a protective mask.

THE MEMORY OF SAMUEL ALITO

In the recently ended hearings in the U.S. Senate concerning the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr., just one of the things that seemed to put every caring liberal person’s private parts in a vise was his less than forthcoming explanation for his membership in something called "Concerned Alumni of Princeton," which apparently has been characterized as a racist and sexist organization bent on restriction of admission to that hallowed academic institution of minorities and women. Indeed, he alleged, or at least implied, having no memory of membership whatsoever.

Those of us who recall Princeton from the 60s, and earlier, have to wonder where all these current conscientious objectors to such blatant prejudice were back in them days, when there were NO women in Princeton, not enrolled in the college anyway, and people of color were rare on the campus. It’s not my point here, but just an aside, that it’s a wonder there aren’t about 50 such organizations related to the return of Princeton and Ol’ Nassau to the status quo ante.

Maybe Alito is a racist and a misogynist — it was an old Princeton tradition after all among some small part of the student body and ensuing alumni body for many years — who knows?

What I wonder about is getting our knickers in a twist about whether he "remembers" belonging to such an organization.

Consider for a moment our esteemed president, George W. Bush, alumnus of two equally illustrious, and no less ivy bestrewn institutions (and, by indictment of the pious and sanctimonious left, as guilty of any number of similar racist, ethnicist, misogynistic crimes as any Princeton — or Dartmouth or Brown or Penn, you name them… — can be called to account for in its history).

Ask him what he remembers about his college days. Or any number of days of his early alumnus-hood, up to the age of 40 (Alito was 35 when he mentioned on a job application that he belonged to the "Concerned Alumni Etc…."). If Bush didn’t remember, or claimed not to, nobody would bat an eyelash.

We’d just figure, well he was probably smashed out of his gourd most of the time from early teenhood on, until Laura put the fear of God and no more sex into him, and it’s surprising he remembers his name.

So I figure, Samuel A. Alito, Jr. is a secretly redeemed coke head, or pot head, or drunk, or something like that. He certainly aspires to all those things those of a divergent ethnicity (divergent from pure WASPishness, the lifeblood of the Ivy League going back to the 17th century — yessirree, racism and misogyny with a three hundred year-plus pedigree) aspire to: prestige, power, control, money. And soon, the U.S. Senate will deliver to him on a platter a significant handful of the first three. No reason he would not also have succumbed to the excesses of those in power, prestige, and control: drugs and alcohol. At least while he was in training, back there in Princeton and thereafter — his Wanderjaren.

And we’re worried about his memory. Call him a coke-head and forget about it. We manage to do it most of the time with the President.

© 2006, Howard Dinin. All rights reserved.

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