like to be near the person I want to be near.”
— Nicole Kidman
starting with famous monkeys that all of you monkeys have
heard of before, specifically powerful American monkeys. The
monkey in this episode is one named George Tenet, who ran
the CIA until 2004. And the place and time are the cozy little
neighborhood of Georgetown in Washington, D.C. in late October,
2002. It was a classic mid-Atlantic fall morning, and this
privileged monkey was taking a walk in his nice rich neighborhood,
I think to get some coffee.
is loaded with aging and decrepit monkeys who have had long
and successful careers in government. When a Georgetown monkey
dies, there’s a funeral at one of the fancy churches,
and all the monkeys who worked with the dead monkey show up,
and sometimes members of the dead monkey’s extended
clan do too. On that morning, there was a private funeral
at Christ Episcopal Church. The funeral, I later found out,
was held for a monkey named Eloise Randolph Page, who died
at age 82.
was no ordinary female monkey for her time. She was a spy
for the CIA starting from its founding in 1947. And she was
the CIA’s first female monkey station chief, assigned
to the Athens desk in 1978. She retired in 1987, and after
did some typical old rich white Christian monkey lady things.
A Washington Post obituary from her death reported that she
was known as “a perfect southern [female monkey] with
a core of steel” by one of her colleagues. She also
apparently insisted on being addressed as “Miss Page,”
not “Ms. Page.” Knowing what I know now, I would
have delighted in calling her on the fact that she was “just
another fucking monkey,” but anyway, Tenet.
walked by the church I saw all the signs of funeral; men in
black suits, nice black cars, one black hearse. Though I didn’t
know that it was a monkey who crossed the grief-barrier of
way old age that died, I immediately registered that it was
clearly a “happy” funeral, where it was OK to
smile and talk about other things, because, well that was
the mood of the event. Outside the church entrance a group
of men stood in a circle, swaying back and forth in the typical
manner of the monkey men. Some of them were smoking. I also
recognized one of the monkey’s faces. It was George
Tenet, and from across the street he looked just like an Arab.
is the part I care about. I’d say there were six nameless
unknown monkeys standing around Tenet. They were all chattering
about some nonsense, but what was really going on between
them was that it was clearly one of those rare moments where
it was OK to touch Him without repercussions, and they took
full advantage. They circled him. They slapped his back, tapped
his shoulder, brushed against him. But really it was anything
to touch him. It was obsessive, and it was disgusting. And
it was all intentional. Tenet handled it well, absorbing each
desperate touch with aplomb. But I was appalled, and later,
I felt great, great pity for him.
why. Can you imagine being handed the preposterous title of
director of Central Intelligence Agency after years of vicious
backstabbing, find out the truth if you haven’t figured
it out already that when you get a “briefing”
on the phone it’s just another monkey on the other line,
or that even the most secret reports are still written by
monkeys, who, if you pressed them with a few sharp questions
would get that scared monkey look on their faces, and who
will confess under little pressure that deep down they don’t
have a clue what’s really going on?
be OK to deal with, but then on top of it, after the long
hours cramped in rooms full of stinking monkeys, there’s
an “event” or “retreat” of some kind
where it wasn’t enough for those monkeys to be near
you all day, but now the purpose of the whole social exercise
is to find an excuse to touch you.
or success at that level is of course inexplicable and ridiculous;
the rubber doesn’t hit the road. In the presence of
it, there’s nothing a monkey can do to deal with its
abstract form than with a simple lunge for it, a grope.
thinking about it for a while, I came up with was this: it’s
what the bureaucratic striving is all about — to be
the monkey everyone wants to put a hand on; not a passionate
belief in American exceptionalism or even USAID slush fund
payoffs, as they might tell you in intimate asides. Just to
be longed for by monkey hands. It amounts to the same thing
clearly liked it, and I guess he doesn’t need a monkey
like me to feel sorry for him.
If I had
to deal with monstrous power, I’d adopt what the brilliant
monkeys of the Heian courts in Japan did to deal with their
control of the other monkeys.
themselves from the court pages, lesser members of the extended
family, and even pretty good friends with beautiful painted
screens. It must have been a relief to everyone. The rulers
can relax — even deign not to say anything, just write
it down for a scribe to read out loud — in the knowledge
that they won’t be touched or looked at. They will certainly
make wiser choices.