Work and Days

Ahmed and the Art of the Psychodrama

During Pope Francis’s parade in Washington, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz suddenly dashed up to the popemobile and handed His Holiness a note about the wretched plight of her illegal-alien parents from Los Angeles, who are apparently terrified of all the recent talk about deportations. The media loved the spontaneity and courage of 5-year-old Sophie.

But that was not quite the whole story. The entire event reportedly had been scripted for about a year by a group called “Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition,” which, in actuality, is not about immigration per se, but rather full rights for illegal immigrants. According to spokesman Juan Jose Gutierrez, the group had carefully planned Sophie’s dash: “We planned to do this from the moment we learned he was coming to the States….We have been working for a while now trying to sensitize the American public that dealing with immigration is not just dealing with the people who came in without proper documents but that we also have … countless children whose parents are undocumented.”

Using a 5-year-old girl under the false pretenses of a spontaneous outburst of emotion seems about as authentic as deliberately conflating legal immigration — the United States accepts more immigrants than does any other nation — with illegal immigrants who deliberately and knowingly break federal law to enter the U.S.

Recently, social media created a victim-hero out of 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, whose plight with local school authorities earned him global commiseration — and invitations to visit almost everyone from Barack Obama in the White House and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook to the United Nations.  How did teenager Ahmed become an international celebrity?

He supposedly spontaneously brought a “clock” to school that he had built from scratch. Soon after, Ahmed was alleged by his supposedly dim-witted school to have instead brought in something that appeared to look like, or perhaps even sound like, a bomb. After questioning, the young Edison was expelled — purportedly because he was presumed guilty as a son of Sudanese immigrants and a Muslim. Was Ahmed another innocent child victimized by the oppressive forces of traditional racist America?

Again, hardly. Almost everything that Ahmed and his family have alleged is being proved first fantasy, and, second, a likely set-up. One, his “clock” was no brilliant invention. Ahmed just took the plastic case cover off an old 1986 digital alarm clock and reinserted the insides into a pencil box — something any teenager could do, but probably would see no need to.

Two, Ahmed’s subsequent behavior did not add up. All he had to do was to explain to authorities — perhaps worried that his contraption looked suspiciously like a faux-bomb and was a sick prank — what he had done and why, and he would have been sent back to class. Instead, he became evasive, successfully provoking paranoid school officials, who in a post-9/11, post-Columbine climate have been sending kids of all hues and creeds home for doing almost anything construed as out of the ordinary.

Three, additional information later emerged that did not quite sync with what soon became the narrative of a naïve teen techie genius being railroaded by Texas rednecks due to his creed and color. Ahmed later boasted,  “I closed it [the pencil box] with a cable, because I didn’t want to unlock it to make it seem like a threat, so I just used a simple cable, so it won’t look that much suspicious.” But why would a teen, eager to show his science teacher his inventive genius, confess that he did wish his work to seem “suspicious.”  Later it was announced that in a phone conversation with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Ahmed’s sister Eyman — who herself was once sent home for allegations of a bomb threat — was heard coaching him abut what to respond. Add in the fact that Ahmed’s father is Sudanese-American Islamic activist Mohamed Elhassan, who on prior occasions has made wild claims about his own religious and political activism. The Elhassans seem a far cry from a victimized family, shocked that their budding inventor was demonized and silenced only due to his race and creed. Young Ahmed is said now to be suffering from a sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome, though not severely enough to prevent him from visiting a late-night talk show to relish in his transient celebrity.

Not long ago Donald Trump was confronted by a questioner who did not so much pose an inquiry, as went off on a tangent about President Obama’s supposed Muslim roots and fides. Another national uproar followed when Trump failed to cut the conspiracy-theory nut short. But the questioner has now disappeared amid speculations that he was a plant, intent on drawing Trump out on his past queries about Obama’s birth.

Then there was Columbia University’s “mattress girl,” Emma Sulkowicz. The Freudian-named coed spent an entire school year dragging a mattress around campus — as if it were emblematic of the university’s weak response to her allegations that she was once raped during a hook-up with another student, Paul Nungesser. Sulkowicz broke school rules by packing her mattress into the Columbia graduation ceremony, again winning her national attention as a truth-teller about the sexually oppressive atmosphere on campuses that endangers young women. Yet so far there has been no evidence that Sulkowicz, as she has alleged, was battered in the face, forcibly sodomized, and almost strangled to death.  In fact, Nungesser, the accused, has so far been exonerated and is now suing Columbia for acquiescing to Suklowicz’s apparently constructed charges of savagery.

These incidents are similar to the Duke Lacrosse fake rape case, the Rolling Stone fake allegations of fraternity mass rape at the University of Virginia, and what are now habitual examples of pseudo-nooses and racist graffiti appearing as supposed proof of omnipotent racists seeking to drive the non-white from campuses and workplaces. What do all these psychodramas have in common, other than being the left-wing victim counterparts to supposed iconic right-wing oppressors like a Paula Deen or the Duck Dynasty crowd?

Americans rarely work in the mines, plough behind a horse, or labor in a sweatshop for 12 hours a day. Twenty-first-century life is monotonously good. A victim like Mattress Girl is a product of an affluent, leisured postmodern America that can apparently subsidize such tomfoolery in a way never quite true of the last 2,500 centuries of Western civilization.

The fact that so often charges of religious prejudice, racism, and sexism under scrutiny break down and prove melodramatic, if not outright fabrications, suggests that there is a perception by the victims, at least, that there are not quite enough naturally occurring bigots to go around without having to invent some. Even the vociferous Trump apparently cannot provide enough religious intolerance without being lured into more.

There are careerist advantages to becoming a victim of religious, racial, or sexual prejudice. Ahmed Mohamed is now a global rock star; Mattress Girl is a leftist icon. No one much cares that “hands up; don’t shoot” was a complete myth.

Note that the constructed crimes are always committed against the supposed victims of race and class intolerance. A white kid two years ago played with his food to concoct something that was felt to resemble a gun — and thereby earned an unwarranted school suspension. Yet the White House did not invited the seven-year-old boy for a visit either to honor his artistic talents or to commiserate with him over the intolerance of local school officials.

Nakoula Nakoula — the Egyptian Coptic video-maker who was sent back to prison for the hyped-up crime of supposedly offending Muslims to the point that they attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi — was no cause célèbre. Instead, he cooled his heels in the pokey for a year for suggesting radical Islam was not quite the same as Christianity.

There is another lesson in these faux-crimes well beyond careerism and politics. Originally, the civil rights and feminist movements sought to ensure an equality of opportunity — a noble goal that was largely achieved. But after the playing field is leveled, then what?

How can the government guarantee an equality of result when we are all individuals with varying degrees of talents that transcend our own particular sex, religion, and race? Perhaps these psychodramas are symptomatic of a collective postmodern angst that there still remains unsolvable disparity, even when our laws nevertheless promise equality. As a result, progressive elites are always on the watch to find some sort of lever to expand the effort for cosmic justice and to end inequality.

“Disparate impact” was a catchphrase concocted to justify mandated equality of result — or to suggest there must be racial, gender or religious prejudice when people somehow do not quite end up the same. How does the family of Ahmed deal with the fact that the United States is the most tolerant and diverse nation in the world and treats all religions and races in a manner unknown in the Middle East?

For Mattress Girl, the government can only ensure equal protection under the law. It cannot really outlaw supposedly insensitive sexual partners, much less jail possible cads that might interpret consensual episodic sexual encounters as a sort of proof of their own male narcissism. Life, it turns out, is something more than a career, a race, a sex, or a religion, but so often plays out according to an individual’s own decisions and efforts — and for most it is an anonymous and often disappointing struggle without anyone to blame for our outcomes but ourselves.

Apparently that crushing reality persuades some to seek a refuge from responsibility for their own fates by writing a false racist message, or constructing a fake racial identity, or concocting a savage and brutal frat rapist, or conjuring up a cadre of premodern Texan bigots masquerading as school officials who would destroy our next Steve Jobs simply because he is a Muslim.

Yet a politically correct fake world is still a fake world, and noble lies remain lies —  nothing more, nothing else.