Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Smirking Henchman

It's impossible to know at this point where the popular uprising unfolding in Iran right now is headed, or how it will end. Can millions of protesters (and imminent strikers) hold up indefinitely under the assaults and brutalizing threats coming from the regime--death to the demonstrators and job elimination to anyone who strikes? And what is to become of their leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi?

In truth, what I really can't stop thinking about is President Ahmadinejad. How does one govern after having seen how truly and utterly despised you are--when you have witnessed nothing less than inexorable, mass rage at your mere presence? How noxious can you be before you become poison to yourself?

My impulse, as I write down these questions, is to take them to my trusty Thesaurus for clues. I do what I always do: open the book, point my finger at random, and see whether it is talking to me today. Oh boy, is it! What follows is a short selection from the revealing words I got, listed in the section headed "CUNNING":

caginess, cheating, double-dealing, Machiavellism, back-door influence, intrigue, trickery, web of cunning, dust thrown in the eyes, trickery; troublemaker, snake in the grass, fraud, shammer, hypocrite, double-crosser; insidious, devious, dishonest; play tricks, pull a fast one, snatch from under one's nose, undermine, ambush.

I remember feeling non-plussed last Friday by the dazed look on Ahmadinejad's face, while Khamenei was giving his lethal "prayer" oration about the "absolute legitimacy" of the election, and warning of the death penalty for anyone who continued to oppose it. The camera panned briefly over to Ahmi, who was sitting in the front row. His expression, at least to me, made him look like a ship that had got frozen in the polar ice. I wondered what that meant.

Now I know exactly what it was that I saw: the face of a smirking henchman. Virgil says the only thing missing was large parrot earrings. One of the things Virgil and I live for now is to see that odious smirk disappear, its habitat destroyed, once and for all.

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