Dear Atse Gelawdios Libne-Dingil,
I stand in awe of your knowledge of history -- were I not on the banks of the Mediterranean, I, too, would whip out my Ethiopian history books (ok, book -- I'll admit it) and throw in some references. Alas, I shall have to depend on my flawed memory. Am I right in thinking that at some point Gelawdios ruled over parts of present-day Yemen? Given the (I claim, mistaken) belief held by Yemenis that Makeda is theirs, those two great personalities were obviously meant to share space (be it the Horn of Africa or in Cyber-sefer). It certainly gives our little exchange more significance than perhaps it deserves. (Oh, the pressure!)
Yes, I noticed how you avoided "venturing forth" into the introductory rites -- clever, clever man. Personally, I'm lending my trusty mored to sharpen the seif you mention in hopes that the SELEDA people are readying themselves to mete out the necessary punishment -- or at least threaten you with it. Let the lesson begin
To tell you the truth, I found the digression neither brazen nor pompous. Though I'd thought some about Makeda's admirable qualities (a woman after my own heart in many respects, though I can't believe she fell for that ol' "salty-food-but-no-water-or-else-sex" trick), I liked very much the more direct links you drew between her situation and mine (as well as that of all of us in Diaspora, I suppose). As I said -- clever, clever man.
I thoroughly enjoyed your mention of those demons slain by Makeda's father. Unfortunately, he left a few -- and boy, did they multiply! How about some free association re: the CHiraQs currently plaguing our time? Well, let's see, aside from the usual ones (war, pestilence, hunger, the religious right, etc.), my own personal CHiraQs include: immigration officers (drawn from the same pool, I am convinced, as school registrars, prison wardens, and old Qebele-staff), televangelists (where the hell -- and I use the word deliberately -- did they crawl out of?), TV talk show hosts of all kinds (ok, I don't watch all that much TV, but it seems it spawns quite a few demons; then there's the fact that the first movie house in Addis A'ba was called SeiTan bet -- hmmm, coincidence?), loud, brassy complainers at abesha weddings (who really cares whether the aliCHa didn't have enough salt, or if that forest green taffeta did not match the bridesmaids' PayLess lime green shoes?), malicious engineers who created both Close Door buttons on elevators and Cross Street buttons at street intersections (I am sure neither is even wired to anything -- they just sit there, taunting us), and last, but not least, e-zine editors on your back at all times to divulge more, bare your soul, share your innermos er ..let's just forget I added that last one. [The Editors respond: Er, as an FYI: Our 'seifs' are professionaly 'mesal'-ed. Thought we would share. ]
So, though I see the obvious bond between MY persona and the Makeda alter ego, I remain in the dark regarding how much you identify with that Emperor of post Ahmed-Gragn Ethiopia, the one, the only, son of Libne-Dingil -- Gelawdios! (the crowd roars). Are you a sea-faring discoverer of buried treasure? An architect restoring old buildings to near-forgotten beauty? A vendor of recovered Selvaj ("salvage" clothing to the uninitiated) in the bustling markets of our own Merkato? Come on, now .'fess up!
Respectfully yours in history, and raising a glass, too, to our foreparents,
p.s. as for calling you Dios -- I respond with no mercy, "Hmmm, how surprising -- a man who would be God."
Thursday, June 17, 1999 (6:11 p.m. EST)
Dear Maki (avec your gracious permission?),
If only it were just the Yemenis who were fighting over you... Maki, you are a popular gal. Apparently--according to a claim that has recently surfaced on the cyber-godanas--you were not only the Queen of the South, but of the West as well. I did not know that your dominions extended as far west as... Nigeria?
Check out the following website:
To tell you the truth, I will not be in the least bit concerned as long as you promise to keep your seat of power in my neck of the woods (yes, you will have to wait another century before my Epicurean descendant Fasiladas builds his winter palace yonder). For would I not, as your direct descendent, inherit the far flung gizats across the sea in the east and across the continent to the west? Now, the Nigerians didn't know that their oil wells really belonged to Ethiopia, did they? Of course, petroleum is of no use to me as my kingdom relies on mules and donkeys. But my descendants in the 20th century are rubbing their hands with anticipation at this very moment. I hope the imminent gib-gib will not spill outside this cyber-aterghibi. Warfare, Madam, is no longer what it used to be. But, as you shall see, I am partly to blame.
In the days of my great-great-grandfather, the Emperor Zar'a Yaqob's (yes, history books on one's bookshelf do come in handy) contending armies would march to a battlefield and slaughter one another with spears, swords and daggers until one side prevailed (or until the sun set, whichever came first). Let's gallop ahead by several decades to the regency of Zar'a Yaqob's wife, the Empress Illeni and the minority of my father, Libne-Dingil (Madam, since you showed up in history books first, I'll let you decide how to spell my father's name).
The clairvoyant Empress from Hadiya encouraged my father to send for Portuguese mercenaries, armed with firepower (at that point, a fairly recent innovation) to help with the fight against Ahmad ibn Ibrahim (aka "Gragn"). Well, Madam, in those days they were still using sailboats and horses so by the time the Portuguese contingent arrived, my father and the Empress Illeni had already died. At that point, in order for me to retain my inheritance (of the tidbits that remained) I had to (er chose to) make a bargain with the #1 CHiraQ*: firepower (along with the supplier). I asked for a demonstration: the mercenaries blasted their guns and canons. I was ecstatic. Fool that I was, I thought that I was going to wage a war to end all wars. I told my chronicler that my reign was going to be remembered for the permanent restoration of peace, prosperity, tolerance and wisdom to the ravished Empire. But, as soon as my mercenaries blew off the heads of Ahmad's men, Ahmad decided to reciprocate the honor and obtain guns from his Turkish suppliers. Since then, the arms import floodgates have never closed.
Madam, my salvation turned out to be a centuries old curse that even plagues the present cyber kefle-zemen. Some of my descendants (and many upstarts who We shall not deign to recognize) cut deals with new arms suppliers (alas, the imperial sparkle from Lisbon dimmed not long after my death) and used the #1 CHiraQ not for the defense but the subjugation of their subjects.
Am I to blame? Did not Ahmad slaughter my subjects when I was not in a position to defend them? Should I have been less concerned with the immediate and reflected on the precedent that I would set? Would it not have been just a question of time before one of my wayward descendants negotiated a disastrous deal with the #1 CHiraQ? Had I inherited Empress Illeni's ability to foresee the more than 400 year (and still counting) curse, would I have still made the bargain with the #1 CHiraQ? Well, before I had a chance to tackle those questions, I was, Madam, slain on the battlefield, in my prime, at age 37. I will let students of history (as they are not confronted with ethical and moral dilemmas in their own lives) sit in judgement.
I always suspected you of being too smart to fall for the ol' "salty-food-but-no-water-or-else-sex trick." Yes, Solomon the Sly must have tied a medhanit on his arm. But still, were you not able to negotiate a sex-for-magic deal from him before you capitulated? If so, could you not conjure up and duplicate your dragon devoid reign to give respite to our weary late 20th century subjects?
Regarding your CHiraQ list... Immigration officers: Worldwide. Arrogant, ignorant, malicious, petty, zombies (I was actually going to make use of the entire alphabet but I decided to spare you). You can't blame their behavior on their genetic make-up for they are the same, wherever you go. That is why I suspect that they must have an underground union. Otherwise, the only explanation that I can think of is the layout of the ports of entry. I wonder how Immigration officers would behave if passengers from the "third world" were allowed to jump off the airplane, with baggage in hand, onto a slide all the way to the taxi queue. Can you imagine the faces of the officers as they chase the merry passengers on the slide?
As to my identity. All three of your guesses (sea-faring discoverer, an architect, a vendor of recovered Selvaj?) are very close to the truth. But, Madam, what will I write about in my next letter, if I bare it all in letter #2?
Gelawdios (aka Dios, yes, in spite of your appended scoff!)
*Were you not a Queen in your own right, I would have commanded you to be my scribe. I am so much impressed with your spelling!