Essay

Once Upon a Time; or, On the Nature of Diplomacy [Flash Fiction]

How many more observations? Is he required to make—to take? What does it mean to make a mis-take? Ah! To take things the wrong way; which way; all ways.

What he sees he says he has seen many times, even if he has seen it only once. There is little to no truth in journalism because we have been corrupted by the enthusiasm we have for blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction. We used to think that this would liberate us, but it has not, he says, as he has said many times many things about what he is desperate to convey, sometimes more or less as desperate as now: how we have bound ourselves to a directive headlong for a fall.

Yes, he announces sometimes, as he does most especially when he communicates what he says he has heard others say, in the words they used, or so he says but qualifies, saying that he sometimes adds or embellishes, as he admits he imagines all restatements must be governed by, a desire to make better, more suited either to the audience, their prejudices and expectations, or to make better by having revised, almost the way the Brother’s Grimm were said to have revised the folk tales they collected, at least in so far as copy editing the pieces making them better suited for a reading public more accustomed to certain forms in print, but nowhere near the rewriting of folk material as was in the provenance of Charles Perreault when he presented the world with his Contes [. . .]; we are headlong for a fall. Don’t imagine civilization is not in decline. We did not reverse the trend of digging our graves with those trenches Europe dug during the First World War. Yes, the culture of a thousand years dug its grave. The survivors were invited to commit collective suicide with the Nazis. 

Herein then is a text written by a man about a man who was the acquaintance of a friend of a friend, one our Publishing Editor has not met:

You don’t like Russians, a Russian-Ashkenazi woman from Ukraine said to him. To which he was tempted to ask, Why? Are you Russian? But he did not. He only said, Russians don’t like Russians, why should anybody else? Actually he likes Russians, more than he admits, can admit, will admit. He often tries to find reasons for not liking them, usually found in the propaganda he grew up with about Reds and being dead and Russians and the Soviet Union; much the way he sees the hook-line-and-sinker propaganda Russians have swallowed getting in the way of their mobility, of their just being happy here, or in friendships with Americans. Mistrust, distrust, what is trust. I don’t like Russians only insofar as I sometimes cannot like humanity when humanity is what we say when we talk about all human-beings, most probably all Homo-Sapiens, a misanthrope I can be; a misanthrope I sometimes am. The Bolsheviks were a prelude for the Nazis. If it weren’t mostly Russians and Ukrainians the Bolsheviks murdered by the tens of millions we might have cared, might even bat an eye today, but no. Not even Stalin’s murders really moved us.

I am weary of Americans and non-Russians from the former republics of the Soviet Union referring to everyone who is not Russian-Russian from the Soviet Union as Russian. It’s not the same thing as calling everyone hear American. It is though as ridiculous as lumping Pakistani, Amazigh and Arab together because they are Muslim; kind of like saying that Italians, Irish, Polish and Mexicans are one because they are Catholics; although there is something universal about being Catholic as I imagine there might be something universal about being Muslim. Americans are impossibly stupid about this; I used to say that we are stupid about this, but no more editorializing.

This is the end of the text delivered to our editor, copy edited and published as it appears here for the first time in print, as we say when a text has been published. Who is he I think I can hear you ask? Why should we want to know? Why should we need to know? Is it because we cannot hear Truth unless it is packaged in a popular voice?

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