On Flagpoles, Slaughterhouses and Stars [Archives:2000/24/Focus]

June 12 2000

By: Hassan Al-Haifi

“Mark my words friend, it seems like Sana’a has really found its place in the world, the United Nations, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the International League for Women’s Suffrage, the International Federation of Marble Players and the Interpol are all moving their head offices to Sana’a”, said Faris as he sipped his tea in the little street caf by the Abdul Nasser Secondary School gate in Ali Abdul Moghni Street.
“I do not know, Faris, but you always come up with some crazy news”, said Murad.
“Look Murad, how many flagpoles did you count today as you came to get your test seat number for the final exams?” said Faris as he counted his fingers to tally the flagpoles he came across as he came to school today.
“Look, my friend, I have more important things to do then to go around counting flagpoles. I am worried about the Math exams. We had such a lousy math teacher, who turned out to be a high school drop out!” remarked Murad.
“Now I understand why you could not count the flagpoles. Just look how shiny and golden they are, why you can’t miss seeing them from a mile away, even if you had a lousy math teacher. I can understand how difficult it would be for you to figure out how much they cost, especially since they are all purchased in foreign currency and the commissions for purchasing them were paid in four currencies, which never went on the books, so you would have to guess hard, and there is a problem in figuring out the Italian Lira equivalent of the Yemeni Riyal, since one of the big boys insisted that his commission be paid in Italian Liras.” reported Faris.
Faris, I have no time for such trivialities, my math exam is tomorrow and I have a headache as it is trying to figure out the difference between logarithms and anti-logarithms, let alone figure out the difference in the exchange rate of the Yemeni Riyal” said Murad.
“Don’t, worry Murad”, remarked Aliya as she joined them at the table next to her brother Faris, “you are not the only one having trouble with Math, our super duper security and judicial investigators are also having a problem with mathematics also. They can’t seem to add up exactly how many women and other bipeds, the Sana’a University butcher shredded to pieces, and my dear brother is worried about counting the number of flagpoles in the streets. What difference does it make how many flagpoles there are in the streets anyway? The important thing is that we have to make sure that we put the right flags on them!”
“Now there is a problem that needs expertise in international relations as well as mathematics!” said Faris to his sister.
Murad spoke: “Hi Aliya, how was your history exam today? Your brother here seems to never fail to make a joke out of everything. Don’t worry about the Sana’a University butcher, he has Ministers and other friends who will find a way out for him. I heard that he has been requested to give lectures on brain transplants in Geneva, Oslo and Tel Aviv! Besides, our establishment here finds it of national pride that he did all his difficult experiments in Sana’a University, which will launch our prominent learning institution into the forefront of famous international learning institutions”.
“You see what did I tell you, there is significance to having all those flagpoles raised in every street corner. I bet you that if you laid out all the flagpoles that have been put up in every intersection of the city you can make a circle parallel to the equator of the Earth.” Faris just could not leave the flagpoles aside.
Aliya replied to Murad not paying attention to the flagpole comment of her brother: “The history exam, thank God, has now become a matter of history for me; what I am worried about now is the kind of history that is getting to enter the history of the country. Look at those headlines: ‘Mad Butcher Reveals Sending Containers To Ministers Overseas’; ‘Interpol is flabbergasted by the Regional and International Connections of the Sana’a University Butcher””I am telling you those flagpoles were hoisted just in the nick of time. Pretty soon you will have all the world’s criminal investigators converge on Sana’a to make a case study of the way crime filtered its way into innocent Yemen finding comfortable cushions in every corner of the establishment, even the learning institutions of the country.” Even the international hit men of the Mafia have booked the Sheraton for a week to have a conference on “Clean Manslaughter” said Faris.
Aliya remarked: “Don’t get carried away with your imagination. There is no way that the criminal element of the world will be so easily welcomed here.
Faris quickly got the comment he wanted to blare out in order: “Look sister, don’t worry about the criminal elements of the world not finding comfort here in the country of Queen Arwa. In fact, about the only people in Yemen who seem to have any comfort in the country are the criminal elements. Therefore, in keeping with the trend towards globalization, Yemen has decided that international crime and intrigue will also find their right place here. That is why all these flags are being hoisted. We do not want any criminals of any country feel that their country is being left out, so we are putting up the flags of every country, just in case.”
“Well, look at it this way, if the Government handles this Sana’a University Morgue Case with greater transparency, then your brother here would not have the chance to make a mockery out of the whole thing” said Murad.
“Mockery or no mockery, the fact is that Yemen is now a happy place for cutthroats of all denominations and blood types. There are those who cut your throat slowly and without releasing any drop of blood Ð and they are the worst kind; there are those who just feel that without blood there is no way you can prove to the world that you have avenged your relatives’ blood. I know of one blood feud case, in which thirty-five people have been killed on both sides of the feud. Because of the tough time, the feud antagonists have with arithmetic Ð and I am not talking about Secants and Anti-Secants here Ð they can’t tally to see if they have gotten even or not. Of course, because the total number comes to an odd number, the feud has to continue until the number gets even. But there is a problem now, because the Sheikh who is mediating the feud has forgotten that the number 35 is an odd number, because he is insisting that both sides have now gotten even! I would never let this Sheikh count the flagpoles we have in the streets, for fear that he might start an international dispute since he wants to have all the states of the United States have six-pointed stars on the blue field of the American flag rather than five-pointed stars, because he insists that Israel is an American state, and therefore the other American states should all have six-pointed states, otherwise, they would feel let down with stars having less points.””What difference does it make anyway?” Asked Aliya
“The Budget Committee in the US Congress is worried at the additional cost to tax payers of having to switch all the flags of the United States to six-pointed stars, yet our Sheikh refused to buy that, and in his dramatic speech at the US joint session of Congress, he insisted that a difference of one point should not be so expensive, or else they should do away with the stars altogether, like we got rid of our star during the unification of Yemen”. Then all the states can be considered as equal, including Israel, which has now lost all the points on its star anyway, because of what Hizbullah has done to it in Southern Lebanon!””I am telling you, Faris, those flagpoles are going to drive you crazy. I am going to write a cable to the Prime Minister, for your sake, asking that those flagpoles should not have any flags with stars in them, otherwise we will have an international crisis on whether to have six-pointed stars or five-pointed stars” said Aliya.
Faris concluded: “Then we will at least get over the issue of the Sana’a University Slaughterhouse Case, which has made all of us see stand other shock syndromes at the horror of things that have developed in the country Ð a sure sign of all the neglect and a serious reflection of what total apathy can bring, even if you hoist all the flags of all the stars in the universe on our streets.”