Saturday, September 23, 2017

How Saddam's Parrot Led Me to Safety From Trump Jr.'s Business Ethics & a Cosmic Cataclysm

Jim Currie's latest novel Saddam's Parrot
What if you woke up one Saturday morning and learned that the Texas University where you taught (and where some of your students still bedded down in homeless shelters on account of Hurricane Harvey)  had just paid Donald Trump jr. $100,000 to give a thirty minute speech on Ethics. Struggling to understand the mindset of the higher rung of the state’s educated elite, you would then have to face the lower rung’s reaction to the news that the Earth was on a collision course with a mysterious Planet named Nbiru.  When it comes to the magical realism of actual life, there’s no place like the Bible Belt to contemplate apocalyptic gore.

 Instead, I padded into the kitchen, grabbed myself a lemon gingerberry Kombucha, and curled back up in bed with author Jim Currie’s latest novel Saddam’s Parrot.   Years back, this same author had transported me once before out of harm’s way.  That time, I sat on the floor of a hut in Futa Toro, Mauritania, reading The Mindful Traveler and contemplating whether a trek into the Sahara would  take me where my soul needed to roam.   Jim Currie came through this time as he had those many years before with flying colors (as for that last trip, I ended up in a lively disco, dancing the nights away in neighboring Dakar — the soul’s ways are indeed mysterious).

 Saddam’s Parrot, is beautifully written, funny and even poignant in places. The book is, admittedly, steeped in politics -- the talkative African grey parrot once belonged to Saddam Hussein, ended up in the George W. Bush White House, and harbors secret information worth killing for — but this book’s politics is a more transcendent experience without being super-earthly in anyway.   As a dutiful Kossack, I’m as steeped in the stuff as anyone.  Yet there is something so expansive about Currie’s world of people, a parrot, and sublimely intelligent and self-aware elephants.  Oops, I forgot to mention the centrality of elephants in this story.

And see, that’s my point.  Practical circumstances immerse me in a day-to-day world peopled by Trump, his ugly-hearted minions and the disintegration of the fragile democracy I call home . But this book helps me escape my self-confinement, because as important as our nation’s current crisis is, why should Trump define my entire existence,  when the world is so vast and full of wonders bestowed on us by nature, even though they too are at risk of annihilation.

Currie does a good job of weaving a story that clears the mind of daily White House twitter shrapnel.   Even the main characters in the book, a coincidental bunch of friends living on the fringes of San Francisco life, remind me a bit of our Dailykos community, (not that we are “fringe characters” hum...)  but  in the sense that  we have come together as ordinary people with shared values, who are learning ways of empowering our community through collective action, encouragement and supporting one another.

Saddam’s Parrot is not a big book. But it is an inspiration for someone like me, who feels so easily beaten down by the zombies of  neo-fascism as they creep across our landscape.

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