“What are you writing?” the man at the bar asked me.
“A piece on Turkey’s president who recently said Muslims – not Columbus – discovered America.”
“Well …. did they?”
“Of course not!” I blurted. “And neither did the Jews.”
“So it was Columbus, then. …”
“No, goddamn it! None of them did. How the hell can you discover something when people are already here? …. Right?”
12:30 A.M. SEA WITCH PUB, BROOKLYN, NY: I’m the only jackass in this joint with a laptop at this hour. The bright white light of the screen is a spotlight on my skull. Sitting alone. Loud, cacophonous laughter at the bar. Don’t want to think about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s a braggart and a despot. And now more bundled fun-seekers trundle in the place, escaping the fierce cold of the autumn eve outside. Yes, Erdogan has had enough of Christians. Now he’s after the Catholic patron saint of false discovery, and this won’t sit well with the Italians in north Denver or Irish priests with busy hands. …. My burger and crusty fries have arrived.
“What do you know about Erdogan?” I ask the cook who also appears to be the server.
“Who?” he asks with angry eyebrows.
“Never mind. I’ll order more later. You’re a good man, do you know that?” The cook in the collard shirt glares at me like I’m some sot and wanders back into the crowd of coats and scarves and rheumy eyes. With greasy hands, I grab my printout of a story on Erdogan by Collin O’Connor of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty:
“We are witnessing the creation of a cult of personality,” columnist and activist Kadri Gürsel told O’Connor. “Erdogan is becoming an elected sultan. The party congress was a one-man show … He thinks he is the only person who can design Turkey’s destiny. He suffers from a hubris syndrome.”
Of course he does. Who other than a wiggy hubristic braggart would claim anyone discovered America? And a “cult personality?” Have Muslims even heard of Jim Jones? …. And all of this new talk of Muslim discovery doesn’t let Catholics off the hook. They’re just as wiggy and cocky and braggadocio as Erdogan when it comes to the alleged discovery of this land. Right. The Catholics – they won’t let go of the language …. “discover” and “discovery” and “founded.” And now the Muslims are in the game. There were reports years ago that Columbus was, in fact, a Jew. So we’ve got the whole Abrahamic gang here, folks. The Jews, the Christians and now the Muslims have each staked claim to the discovery of our home. They’re dragging us into their gang fight. Hell no, we won’t go, said the hippie. And now we finally chant. At long last. … Native Americans have been accused of chanting for centuries, and Greg Grey Cloud, the Lakota and Dakota, is the latest. He interrupted the senate on November 18 in Washington, D.C. when the Keystone XL pipeline was defeated by one vote, and he was arrested for his song. A pissed black bailiff hauled him out like a crook. Imagine that: Grey Cloud, amid seedy senators with oil-slicked pockets, was the offender that day. Sweet jeezus.
12:45 A.M.: More red-nosed streetwalkers load the place. I remain here with my laptop open, clicking away, highlighting passages from O’Connor’s piece. And now Ishaan Tharoor of The Washington Post has taken a stab at the allegations:
“To buttress his claims, Erdogan cited the work of Fuat Sezgin, a venerable Turkish scholar of the history of Islamic science and a professor emeritus at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany,” Tharoor wrote. “In one of his books, Sezgin has a chapter on the possibility of Muslim seafarers reaching the New World. He first debunks some of the claims made by Gavin Menzies, a retired British submarine officer who has popularized the largely discredited theory that Chinese treasure fleets reached the Americas in the 1420s.”
No more for me, sir. That was more than enough. A man can take only so much politics in an evening. Chris Christie knows this, and that’s why he’s in bed before 8 p.m. – but he rouses later for a midnight nibble.
1 A.M.: Heart races. I ate too much fat. Drank too much drink. Consumed too much bullshit. I’ve overdosed on politics and mad hatter Muslim dictators. Columbus Circle is just a cab ride away where I fling dollar hot dogs at a statue of his likeness. The joke. Jerk. Jackass. …. And if they build a mosque in Cuba for some Muslim seamen, I’ll buy a ticket and do the same there, but probably with some fare more provincial. Are there hot dogs in Cuba? If so, what are they made of? What do Cubans think of Columbus? Or Muslims for that matter? Are there any Cuban Muslims? Suddenly, I don’t feel worldly. I feel greasy and fry-ridden. Most landed by accident on my lap or keyboard anyway – Columbus fries. Jeezus, some stumbler just left the door open and a breeze is riding up my spine. I can’t handle ocean cold. I’m a mountain dweller. Put me 5,280 feet into the chill of the ether and I do fine. Throw me at the mercy of the Atlantic and it’s frightened turtle for me. God, how awful.
Anyway, here you go, folks, at last, the truth: Erdogan’s claim will go largely discredited like Menzies – if not only for the antiquated language used here, i.e. “discovery.” Right. The only thing discovered here is that Erdogan is foolhardy and full of it, and that feverishly writing in a bar until 1 A.M. about Muslim hot heads makes one appear ill-tempered and excessive. All these papers. All these empty glasses and greasy food half-eaten. It’s time for bed, and we’ll do it all again tomorrow sans loaded claims by wild Turkish Muslim elected officials. Good. Cheers.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, has a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in New York City.