My Encounter with Noam Chomsky

Scene:  A bus stop located in Itaewon, a cosmopolitan neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea.  The time is the middle of a Thursday afternoon.  A man in his mid- to late forties is waiting for a bus.  He has an empty two-wheeled cart his wife bought from a supermarket.  A familiar figure approaches and sits down next to him on the bench.

Stew

Excuse me, but aren’t you Noam Chomsky?

Noam

Sure, Stew.  Nice to meet you face to face, finally.

Stew

How did you know my name?

Noam

I know a lot of things about you–a nauseating amount, in fact.

Stew

I’m sorry to hear that–for your sake.  So what are you doing in Seoul?

Noam

I’m here with my punk band, Drone Attack, doing a benefit concert.  The proceeds will go to the half a million Vietnamese children with birth defects caused by the U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange during the war.

Stew

You’re in a punk band?  That’s amazing.  Aren’t you in your eighties?

Noam

I’m not young, but I like to branch out as much as I can, do what’s possible to make the world a less awful place.

Stew

You’ve done a lot for one person in one lifetime.

Noam

It’s a living.  So I noticed you just came out of that used bookstore.  Why did you sell my book?  You hadn’t even read it yet.

Stew

I’m sorry, Professor Chomsky.

Noam

Call me Noam.

Stew

I’m still planning to read it.  I’ll probably break down and buy a used copy on Amazon for ninety-nine cents.

Noam

Traitor.  Don’t come crying to me when you can’t find any more bookstores to browse in.

Stew

Now you’re making me feel guilty.

Noam

I do my best.

Stew

So, since you claim to know so much about me, you probably know about my predicament.

Noam

Of course.  The N. S. A. tells me everything.  It’s an agreement we share.  I let them keep tabs on me too, and the people they inform me of have me in their corner in case those in power decide to violate anyone’s rights.

Stew

That seems to be happening a lot these days.

Noam

It’s always an uphill struggle trying to keep the guys with their hands on the reins in check.  But you do what you can.

Stew

So what else do you know about me, just so I don’t have to bore you by repeating things?

Noam

You’re unhappily married to a Korean Christian religious fanatic who controls your bank account, won’t let you have fun in any sense of the word, forces you to go to church every Sunday when you don’t even believe in God, and won’t even provide you with the money needed for a haircut even though you’re starting to look like Einstein, only without the brains.

Stew

Thanks, Noam.

Noam

Don’t blame me; you’re the one who married her.

Stew

She didn’t always used to be so crazy.

Noam

Come on–when she showed you her portfolio from art school, there was a picture of a sculpture she made for her senior project.  In case you’ve forgotten, it was a bathtub full of blood with a bone sticking out of it.

Stew

Fair enough.  Besides, I’m not too offended by what you say.  She regularly tells me I’m selfish, boring, old, lazy, drunk–just about every lousy adjective you can think of.

Noam

Isn’t that your bus?

Stew

That’s okay.  I can catch the next one.  What about you?  Don’t you have some place you need to be?

Noam

For now, I’m here to give you a little friendly advice.  But I don’t have much time.  I’ve got to go rehearse in fifteen minutes.  The band’s working on a new song called “Targeted Killings”.  And we’ve started a petition to put pressure on the Pentagon to change the term they use to describe the slaughter of civilians–

Stew

You mean “collateral damage”?

Noam

Naturally–to “target practice.”  We feel it’s a more honest description of the strategy of organized terrorism executed by the state.

Stew

It’s nice and unequivocal–certainly impossible for anyone but an idiot to misinterpret.

Noam

That’s the idea.  Anyway, Stew, you’ve got to get out of the marriage before it kills you.  And put your money where your mouth is by becoming more politically active.  You talk a good game, but you never stick your neck out.

Stew

It just seems futile.  The pricks always win.

Noam

That’s exactly how they want you to react.  That way you betray yourself and let them get away with murder.  After all, don’t you believe in anything?  Sorry, Stew, but I’ve got to catch this bus.  Good luck to you, and don’t let the rest of your life pass you by.  It’ll be over before you know it.

Stew

Thanks, Noam!  Break a leg out there tonight!

Noam

Maybe we can grab a beer after the show.

Stew

Sounds great.  Aloha, amigo.

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