This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
Sometimes diversion is the best antidote to the hypocrisy so I’ve decided to change the High Holidays today. In the anechoic chamber the expectation of silence is doused. It’s on to the next question. Same applies to High Holidays. If Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur aren’t times for communal reflection, what are they?
A few years ago I composed a poem for the High Holidays. I imagined the local synagogue re-decorated in a Weather Channel motif. The Ark of the Covenant was decorated with weather instruments. The Rabbi was the weather person. His main function was to check the congregation’s barometric readings. Inside the Ark was the week’s weather forecast. The door of the Ark was opened when the congregation’s devotion reached a certain “apathy” reading. The tipping point was measured by the “Devotional Metric.”
You’ll be glad to know the poem has gone missing.
So on our High Holidays misdirection why not check the latest sports news with a racial and political twist?
No doubt you’ve heard that Condoleezza Rice has become one of the two first women admitted as members at Augusta national Golf Club, home of the Masters’ golf championship. Until recently African Americans, male as well, were barred from membership in the club.
Condi’s breakthrough brought memories of my writing of some years ago. For three years I wrote daily commentaries on everything going on in the world. When I finished writing the words totaled almost two million. It remains a multi-volume unpublished Candide-like romp around the world.
My commentaries began the day after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It continued through the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This is where I picked up my Condi narrative.
Isaiah and I stopped at a rest stop for gas and food driving through Florida. Inside a television set was tuned to CNN. There was Condi, Bush’s gal Friday, making a dramatic announcement regarding a UN site in Lebanon that had been bombed by Israel. Many civilians were killed. Condi was doing her usual. “Horror of it all,” “This shouldn’t happen,” “We will commence an investigation,” “A just peace is essential” routine. It was the typical stuff from an imperial power broker with a Black face.
As I was watching Condi, Isaiah came up behind me. I asked him if he knew who she was, feeling this was a teachable moment. His response was immediate: “Yes, I know Dad-o, its Mahatma Condi.”
For the last months, Isaiah and I had been practicing baseball so he could equal his brother’s baseball prowess. During practice, we would chat about the commentaries I was writing. During one of our practice session, I shared my dream vision of burying Arafat and Sharon together. Isaiah loved my riffs on names and situations. With Mahatma Condi, he initiated his own.
I was off and running. I envisioned Mahatma Condi in Lebanon, dodging missiles fired by Israeli jets and scurrying for cover as the debris and bodies piled up around her. Then, I pictured her in civilian convoys with the fleeing Lebanese. On some nights, I had her sleeping outside in makeshift tents. Other times, she was taken in by Lebanese families. They found it strange to find a powerful African American woman, with perfect conked hair, wondering around the Lebanese hills.
During the time in Lebanon, Condi started a diary. She also broadcasted pleas to the international community. Her own imperial assumptions about Israel and the Arab world were being challenged. Her questioning turned to US foreign policy and then, like Martin Luther King, Jr., to America’s role in the world. She used phrases like “purveyors of violence,” “America’s global reach,” “Israeli expansionism.” Because she was on the run, Condi entered the slippery slope that her previous Washington life insulated her from.
Condi went rogue. She began to grow an Afro. Mahatma Gandhi became her idol.
Isaiah saw the contradiction in her, hence his ironic naming, Mahatma Condi. He intuited the “converted” Condi. If she ever unclenched her fist, she might become who she was called to be.
The riff is endless. Think of the recent Skinny-dipgate, the Republican Israel junket where a group frolicked in the Galilean waters, one of them without his shorts. Now imagine Mahatma Condi stripping down and saying the hell with it. Cannonball!
Now Jock Condi joins Augusta and her dream macho golf match. Mahatma Condi is far away in the pages of imagined history.
For one brief shining moment the Imperial Black face experienced the imperial power’s rage. She became disoriented, as any powerful person would.
I assume she’s accepted an invitation to a High Holiday service somewhere in the rarefied world of Constantinan Judaism. Which Condi will show up?
Thoughts of Constantinian Jews on the run in the hills of Lebanon. Living with Palestinians behind the Apartheid Wall. Trapped in Gaza with Star of David helicopter gunships firing rockets at will.
Imagine Constantinian Jews stripping down and the saying the hell with it.