Monday, September 02, 2013
Barack Ahaba and the White Whale
Barack Ahaba and the White Whale
By Steven Plaut
Call him Ishmael. After all, he liked to hang around with the reps from the Moslem Brotherhood.
But he was better known as Capt'n Barack Ahaba. And he was on a mission of determination. It was a blind mission, and he was totally obsessed with it. This obsession had taken control of his entire personality. Ahaba's face was scarred and contorted in hatred. His blood rose to boiling as he remembered all those baby seals who had been killed by Moby Dick, in some cases using weapons of destruction banned by the international treaty protecting sea mammals. He was going to lead the US navy in an operation that would respond to the brutal behavior of the whale with warning and reprimand, and possibly even the determined spanking of the great white whale of Syria on its rump. Ahaba's whaler fleet would carry out acts attacks of punishment against some empty Damascus buildings, long ago cleared of its guppies, buildings that have nothing at all to do with the whale.
In his driven quest and obsession, Captain Ahaba had recruited an ugly savage he had picked up from the backwaters and boarding houses of New England named Queequeg. This savage was tall and had a frightening deformed face, which had become distorted back when he was lobbying for the Viet Cong. So Ahaba decided to appoint him Secretary of State for the USS Piquod, which is the naval flagship and aircraft carrier in charge of leading the mission to reprimand the White Whale. It was equipped with harpoons and tomahawks, the perfect instruments to frighten and punish empty guppy buildings in Damascus.
Captain Ahaba gathered together his motley crew for the crusade. He was thinking of gathering them in the Bethel Whalers Chapel in the old Massachusetts whaling town, but then his senior advisor, the cabin boy Reverend Pip, commented that Bethel is the name of a settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories and so they moved the meeting elsewhere to Nantucket. That was when the New Bedford poets first composed the famous poem about Queequeg, entitled There Once was a Man from Nantucket….
The crew members got together at Starbuck's (you surely recall that he was the First Mate of the Piquod) and then - over lattes - they ask one another just what is behind the Captain's blind fury and hatred towards Moby Dick. Isn't it obvious?, replies Stubb. That damned whale is white and therefore the Captain blames him for the death of Trayvon Martin.
One of the other crew members, and I am not making this up because it is really in the Melville book, is named Fedallah, who is described as a strange, "oriental" old Parsee whom Ahab has brought on board unbeknownst to most of the crew. Fedallah is of course a Shi'ite official in the Hezb'Allah. Another member of the crew, and this also is in the Melville book, is named Peleg, who together with Bildad, is in charge of hiring the crew. As a result, he is honored by having a highway intersection near Netanya named after him. The owners of the fleet are Quakers and so believe that no forms of violence more dramatic than severe scolding should ever be perpetrated by fleet vessels.
At last the flotilla of warships takes to the sea, but a weird old mariner named Elijah stands around the docks and warns Ahaba and his men that nothing good can come of the mission. The Cap'n nails a large silver dollar to the mast and promises that anyone who spies the white whale first will be granted the coin for the purposes of acquiring Obamacare.
They sail off and search the seven seas for the monster whale, although their GPS system pretty much knows where it is hiding the whole time. Gabriel is a crazed prophet on the passing ship Jereboam, which you would know is for real and from the Melville book if you had not cheated and read the Cliff Notes in high school. He warns Ahaba that if he actually annihilates the white whale, it will simply be replaced by even worse killer Orcas from the opposition herd, and they are man-eaters all the more dangerous. It does not matter, Ahaba screams, the Orcas are black and white, you know, like ebony and ivory, and he breaks into singing the old Stevie Wonder whaling song about that.
Ahaba orders a special tomahawk harpoon to be forged and he baptizes it with the blood of members of his embassy in Benghazi.
At last they spy their prey. In the distance they see the whale, accompanied by a flock of birds hovering above it with signs that read "US out of Syria," "No War for Oil," and "Stop Imperialism." The birds are all from the London and San Francisco chapters of the Society for the Prevention of Punishment of Ba'athists.
Out of the horizon shoots a speedboat carrying Greenpeace activists who harass the Piquod and demand that the US and France respect the human rights of white whales. Hollywood actors all appear in public with Spare the Leviathan tee shirts. Fedallah gets entangled too badly with the whale and ends up being dragged under the water to become a Shi'ite shaheed. (Read the book if you think I am making THIS part up!)
Be thee reprimanded, screeches the enraged Captain! I chide thee to hell! I castigate you to the deeps! I admonish you to Heaven! Be thee reproved today!
The white whale pretty much just ignores the Captain, and goes on lunching on seals, swallowing some Greenpeace activists as desert.
The very last scene is Queequeg's coffin, the 2016 election campaign in which the tall New England secretary of state seeks to replace Ahaba as skipper of the sinking Piquod.