That title, by the way, takes into account, and serves as a useful summation of, events that transpired on July 1 through July 4 of 2006, when I was in Orlando visiting my parents, as well as an old friend. “Oh Kristen, Oh Krsten, if only humans weren’t cursed with the power of memory!” a character laments in the play-within-a-play in Woody Allen’s Bullets over Broadway. But then, as Roger Ebert noted (hang in there, Roger!), “Our memories are all we have. And when they are gone, we are gone.”
So… from ethereal musings about old times past, new times past, new times present, and how, after seeing this friend, I may now say (to paraphrase Captain Kirk) that “the future does not necessarily mean the end of history,” to something much more reductive.
Well, reductive in retrospect.
In 1992, Disney’s “Aladdin” (the movie, that is) rolled into theaters in the fall. Its “showstopper” song (no “Under the Sea,” mind you) was “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me,” a Busby-Berkley-like number in which the genie explains to Aladdin how lucky Aladdin is to have a genie – a wish-granting, omnipotent blue blob of magic-granting demigodness – at his side.
The genie kicks off his song with an impromptu riff:
“Well, Ali Baba had those forty thieves,
Scheherezade she had a thousand tales….”
Who, I thought to myself, was Scheherezade? (Hereinafter referred to as “S”)? A character in “Arabian Nights?” I thought that “Arabian Nights” was a fable constructed of a thousand tales. I wasn’t up on my Bruno Bettleheim then, and the Internet did not exist, so I did not explore the reference on my computer after viewing the film.
Pity. I would have appreciated what I would have found out.
Today, I was reading one of my favorite websites, smirkingchimp.com (If you cannot tell from the title what this website is about, please…. kindly exit MY website to destinations unknown), S was a young Arabic maiden in ancient times who found an ingenious way to escape death from wealthy Arabic men… She…. bathed! (No, that was not her secret). Actually, her secret was nothing particularly special, and in fact raises questions about the gullibility of Arabic men that implicates stereotypes about their barbarism, but the story is all in good fun, and since that barbarism is alive and well and since Arabic men still treat women like shit (and thus the stereotypes remain), one can still find humor (and sad irony) in her tale rather than politically correct outrage.
S was, on one instance, if not more, about to be married to/was recently married to, a wealthy Arabic prince who had a reputation for wedding/bedding, and in the morning, beheading, his brides. She, not wanting to suffer this fate (not just the bedding part, mind you), found a novel way of escaping death). When night fell, she would tell her affianced/recently married noble specimen tale upon tale of improbable occurences, mysteries, aventures, romances, daring, and the like. (Perhaps she even told him that Jews were people!). The king, prince, potentate, vizier, vicar, or whatever betitled figure to whom she had been betrothed would become so entranced by these stories that, when morning came, he would, with the stories fresh in his mind, forget all about his thoughts of beheading her, and her life would be spared.
See, all of you Arabic girls out there, thinking DOES help! (That is, if you actually want to live, and think for yourself). If you, however, are perfectly fine with being beheaded for the crime of looking at your husband the RIGHT way, however, you can just keep your mouth shut, as he wants. That’s what he’s counting on. Indeed, the world of the backward billions is counting on this generally. It needs sheepletude to maintain its existence, which is why it reacts with such visceral violence whenever it encounters independent thought. The more independent thought collides with this world – the more Scheherezades start telling their thousand tales, over time, the more lives will ultimately be saved. Because, as the song goes, thinking is a “brand of magic” that never fails – which is why Islam has cast such an increasingly ever-powerful spell to banish it.