Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Terrorist's HR Files

I have spent much of the week-end with my thoughts circling round and round on various subjects.  Some of those subjects will not surprise you:  how wonderful it is to have a 3 day week-end, how can I eat more fruits and veggies, which book should I read now/next, how did I get myself into this writing tangle and how shall I get myself out, do those clouds portend rain later . . .

But here's what you might not expect.  I find myself thinking about Osama Bin Ladin's documents and files that were recently released. I heard about some of the items released on Friday's edition of The Diane Rehm Show which covers international news. 

You may have heard about his bookshelf; I had heard bits and pieces about what he had been reading, and nothing surprised me.  Apparently he read lots of books about politics and industrialized countries, particularly in the U.S.

I wondered if he read any fiction or any theology or any poetry.  If so, no one has noted it.  I thought about the strange places where my books might go.  Would I be mortified if a book I wrote wound up on a terrorist's bookshelf?  Or would I feel like somehow I had failed in my essential message?  Or is it ridiculous to think that way at all?

I've dreamt of having a book of mine adopted for a "Community Reads" event or a first year University 101 class at a university--lots of book sales there!  But what if Osama Bin Laden had ordered hundreds of copies of one of my chapbooks?  What if one terrorist cell had said, "Hey, read this poem!  I don't think we have to blow up buildings to affect change!  Let's feed the hungry instead."  And then another could have said, "Hey, I know what would really drive the U.S. crazy--let's help all those folks fleeing repressive regimes south of the U.S.  Let's create an underground railroad to resettle them in the U.S."

I know, I know, it's ridiculous to think this way. 

But what's really captured my imagination is Bin Ladin's HR files.  Commenter Greg Myre calls it "the universality of bureaucracy."   He said,  "You saw some very odd stuff in the application, such as, you know, if you are martyred, whom should we contact?"

An application to be a terrorist?  Now there would be an interesting mock application to create!

And there were expense reports.  I was both comforted and saddened to realize that not even terrorists are free from the tyranny of spreadsheets.  It's a different kind of martyrdom.

I keep thinking of assessment and rubrics.  I have this vision of a rubric to assess the effectiveness of various terrorist strategies.  In the current climate, I would not dare to write this kind of satire--well, I would, if I felt strongly enough about it.  But I spend quite enough time with spreadsheets and rubrics and assessment reports.

I shall, however, create a poem in the terrorist leader's voice.  It might start this way:

"From the distance of several continents, I can destroy
buildings.   . . .

Perhaps it will end in this way:

"Now I am become death, destroyer
of worlds.  Even the destroyer of worlds must balance
the books."

No comments: