Kafka comes up Trumps

Kafka comes up Trumps
Political grandstanding in the US has reached new levels of surrealism, something that the late author might well have appreciated, writes Laith Saud
6 min read
17 Dec, 2015
The 'Kafkaesque' of Europe's 20th century anti-Semitism is reproduced today on Muslims [Rex Features/Telegraph]

The adjective ‘Kafkaesque’ is often deployed to the delight of the well read.  Those of us familiar with the writer are able to shrug off social and political absurdities, reassuring ourselves that recognizing non-sense is a by-product of maturity.  Kafkaesque refers to the notion that we are thrown into an absurd world, yet are held responsible for our actions - as if the world were just and reasonable. 

The world must have been absurd to a Jewish man in late 19th – early 20th century Europe. Anti-Semitism laid blame on someone for an identity they did not choose, on the basis of things they did not control.  If Kafka were alive today, how would he arrange the meaningful and absurd in a story?      


“In the fight between you and the world, choose the world.” – Kafka   


The young boy raised his hand timidly, afraid of all the power that radiated from the stage.  Mr. T, with his fiery orange hair and penchant for adorning things with much gold – boomed.  His voice hovered over the excited crowd.  “What is your name boy?”  Mr. T demanded, as he pointed directly at him.  “My name is Mohammed,” the boy responded.  “I love Mohammeds! They have made me a lot of money!” Mr. T exclaimed with his hands open and before him. 


“If you love Mohammeds, then why do you want to ban them from the land sir?” 


“Now why is it, why is it when I speak a courageous truth, people want to blame me for it?  I didn’t make up the truth, I just speak it!  Like I said, I. Love. Mohammeds.  I have made a lot of money with Mohammeds and off Mohammeds.”  Mr. T fired back.  “But you have a problem; too many Mohammeds cause trouble and until I know its safe, I will keep banning Mohammeds until you can prove to me you are safe.”


The boy stood and the anger of the crowd swirled around him, before he knew what was happening he was lifted – not altogether sure if by security or the whirlwind of expletives being thrown at him – and he was tossed from the arena.  Mohammed found himself outside in an alley.       


The crowd roared as Mr. T exited the stage.  He descended stairs at the back of the arena.  As Mr. T stepped down, the stairs extended, penetrating the floor of the place, lower and lower Mr. T walked, until at last he reached his office.  Mohammed, outside and bewildered, walked down the alley he found himself in until he spotted a small window along the alley ground.  He thought he might see the arena, but alas, he had a perfect view of Mr. T’s lair.


Inside, a man met Mr. T; the man was from the East, his flowing robes dragged along the ground.  “Peace Mr. T!  The man said, congratulations on your fine speech!  Especially for how you handled that trouble maker Mohammed!” 


“You need to keep these guys in line Prince M,” Mr. T lectured. 


“I respectfully disagree Mr. T!” the man protested.  “It is this country, with all its ‘freedoms’ that produce radicals like these!” 


‘No, no, no; don’t you go blaming this country!” Mr. T stood firm, his shoulders broad, his hair in flames, he pointed into the ground as he spoke, as if drilling for oil with his finger.  “It’s you guys and that religion of yours.”


“Never!” Prince M retorted.  “We only allow our people to pray, fast and grow their beards.  The afterlife is all there is and that is all they are allowed to think about.  Politics is for kings and princes.” 


Mr. T nodded his head in approval and understanding.  “So, we still on for lunch tomorrow?” 


“Of course.” 


Mohammed pushed his little nose against the window to see, the room was filled with smoke - and mirrors adorned its every wall.  It was difficult to tell who was real and who was a mirage. 


Then a third man came into the room; he wore a General’s uniform, but he had no feet, he floated above the ground.  “Speaking of the afterlife!” Mr. T shouted.  He then squeezed the General’s cheeks between his two hands.  “General Q!  How are you?  Are my people taking care of you?” Mr. T warmly checked.  “How is the afterlife?  Are you comfortable?” 


General Q just shook his head: Up-down, left-right.  It was not clear what he was saying.  General Q was killed a few years ago during an uprising.  His country has still not recovered; apparently his ghost roams the lair of Mr. T.


“I love this guy.” Mr. T said to Prince M, as he moved his hands down to General Q’s shoulders. “He always paid me good money to stay in my hotels.  When he was alive, I used to rent out my backyard to him.  Now that he is dead, he has no place to go, so I told him he could stay here,” Mr. T grinned, then added “as long as he can afford it.”  Q’s head aimlessly nodded. 


Suddenly, Mohammed was lifted by his ankles, flipped, his head cracked along the alley ground.  Everything went black.  When he finally came to, he found himself in Mr. T’s lair, surrounded by the three men. 


“Mohammad, I thought I banned you from this place!  Now my security finds you casing my office!  Clearly for a terrorist attack!  I knew I was right about you!” Mr. T spit as he spoke, Mohammed tried to shield himself from the spit.


“Execute him!” Prince M demanded. 


General Q nodded, seemingly in approval – but still, it just wasn’t clear what Q said, ever. 


“Maybe I should drone the boy’s family.” Mr. T threatened.  “But Mr. T,” Mohammed interrupted “my family lives here, in this country.”  “Shut up!” Prince M shouted, slapping Mohammed in the face.  “Too much freedom!  You allow too much.”


“Well what about your extended family?” Mr. T inquired.  “But sir, they live in the country of Prince M!” 


SO?” Mr. T said.


“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Prince M huffed, his arms fully extended, his palms were open and shaking, much like Q’s head.  “You cannot do that!” 


“Do what?” Mr. T asked. 


“Bomb my country!” M pleaded. 


“Oh yes I can,” T reminded him, “but I won’t because I’m a reasonable guy.” 


Prince M didn’t argue, though he was tempted to point out that T was not (yet) president.    


Q just looked on. 


“Ill tell you guys what, lets lock this kid up, until we can figure out another country to bomb.” 


“But I didn’t do anything!” Mohammed protested. 

Security picked Mohammed up by his arms and began dragging him away, as the voices fainted into the background, Mohammed could hear the men debating what country they should bomb.

Laith Saud is a writer and scholar. He is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University and co-author of An Introduction to Islam for the 21st Century (Wiley-Blackwell). Follow him on Twitter: @laithsaud

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.