Hit the road
I'm in big trouble over something I said to a private group that some busybody posted on the Internet. Just when I was about to lock up the Democratic presidential nomination, everyone is on my case because I said that small-town voters in Pennsylvania were bitter about losing their jobs, and cling to their guns and to God by way of compensation.
I've qualified, temporized, reorganized and sanitized my remarks, but the story just won't go away. What should I do about it?
Shivering in Chicago
Last time you wrote to me April 1, 2008) the best course of action seemed clear. This is a tougher one. Some
gaffes don't go away. You might consider emulating the legendary Abu Hussan, whose story is told in the Arabian Nights (as translated by Sir Richard Burton):They recount that in the city of Kaukaban in Yemen there was a man named Abu Hasan of the Fadhli tribe who left the Bedouin life and became a townsman and the wealthiest of merchants. His wife died while both were young, and his friends pressed him to marry again.
Weary of their pressure, Abu Hasan entered into negotiations with the old women who procure matches, and married a woman as beautiful as the moon shining over the sea. To the wedding banquet he invited kith and kin, ulema and fakirs, friends and foes, and all of his acquaintances.
The whole house was thrown open to feasting: There were five different colors of rice, and sherbets of as many more; kid goats stuffed with walnuts, almonds, and pistachios; and a young camel roasted whole. So they ate and drank and made merry.
I suggest you change your name, move to a place where no one knows you, and stay out of sight. Spengler
The bride was displayed in her seven dresses - and one more - to the women, who could not take their eyes off her. At last the bridegroom was summoned to the chamber where she sat enthroned. He rose slowly and with dignity from his divan; but in do doing, for he was over full of meat and drink, he let fly a great and terrible fart.
In fear for their lives, all the guests immediately turned to their neighbors and talked aloud, pretending to have heard nothing.
Mortified, Abu Hasan turned away from the bridal chamber and as if to answer a call of nature. He went down to the courtyard, saddled his mare, and rode off, weeping bitterly through the night.
In time he reached Lahej, where he found a ship ready to sail for India; so he boarded, arriving ultimately at Calicut on the Malabar coast. Here he met with many Arabs, especially from Hadramaut, who recommended him to the king. This king (who was a kafir) trusted him and advanced him to the captaincy of his bodyguard. He remained there 10 years, in peace and happiness, but finally was overcome with homesickness. His longing to behold his native land was like that of a lover pining for his beloved; and it nearly cost him his life.
Finally he sneaked away without taking leave and made his way to Makalla in Hadramaut. Here he donned the rags of a dervish. Keeping his name and circumstances a secret, he set forth on foot for Kaukaban. He endured a thousand hardships of hunger, thirst and fatigue; and braved a thousand dangers from lions, snakes and ghouls.
Drawing near to his old home, he looked down upon it from the hills with brimming eyes, and said to himself, "They might recognize me, so I will wander about the outskirts and listen to what people are saying. May Allah grant that they do not remember what happened."
He listened carefully for seven nights and seven days, until it happened that, as he was sitting at the door of a hut, he heard the voice of a young girl saying, "Mother, tell me what day was I born on, for one of my companions wants to tell my fortune."
The mother answered, "My daughter, you were born on the very night when Abu Hasan farted."
No sooner had the listener heard these words than he rose up from the bench and fled, saying to himself, "Verily my fart has become a date! It will be remembered for ever and ever.
He continued on his way, returning finally to India, where he remained in self exile until he died. May the mercy of Allah be upon him!