One thing I’ve noticed in my trivial research of subatomic particles is that they are very hard to find. Gluons, quarks, the omega minus, Higgs-Boson. All very difficult to pin down. They are tiny. They move fast. Some aren’t even particles at all. Some are more like an electrical mesh that other particles fit in, allowing bits of energy to acquire mass. What I’m saying is a person would be hard-pressed to recognize one when they are out and about, running errands, doing yard work, or playing video games. They belong in a different dimension, and there they stay. They are all around us, yet absent.
Almost as difficult, apparently, is finding a woman who holds a top position at the United Nations. Even in the twenty-first century it is still an old boys club, steeped in a patriarchal heritage, slow to adapt to a modernized world. I was reading about some of the challenges facing female security council members, how there seemed to be an embedded disdain among the old guard toward the opposite gender, and how the glass ceiling at the organization had been reinforced with concrete and wood. “A shame,” I thought, as I flipped the page and read the next headline.
“Wonder Woman named U.N. Ambassador.”
I flipped the page back to the previous article. “Women finding it difficult to integrate into male-dominated U.N. culture.”
I flipped the page forward.
“Wonder Woman named U.N. Ambassador.”
I flipped the page back. “Women finding it difficult…”
I flipped the page forward. “Wonder Woman named U.N. Ambassador.”
Back and forth I went like a ping-pong ball. It caused me to be late to everything that day, as I was stuck in a loop of confusion at the two stories. At first I thought it was a playful way to inform the public that Lynda Carter, the actress who played Wonder Woman on the seventies sitcom, had been appointed. No, in fact it was the comic book character.
A canny and shrewd move on the part of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, I thought, or whoever made the decision. What better way to ignore a female security council member than to appoint a fictional one. While they were at it, they could’ve thrown in Betty Boop, Jessica Rabbit, Wilma Flintstone, Jane Jetson and Minnie Mouse. Why not? There would be no awkward confrontations on the floor. They wouldn’t have to shell out the extra money for translators, and it would not be an undue burden on the U.N. commissary. These women would not create any diplomatic crises. They don’t exist, after all.
My own experience with the United Nations goes back some years, when a good friend of mine from college lived over on the east side of Manhattan about two blocks up from the Dag Hammarskjold plaza. I drank heavily back then, and it was no small accomplishment for me to avoid being smashed by careening limos with little flags perched over the headlights as I tried to negotiate the two blocks between my favorite Irish pub and the safety of my friend’s apartment building. Anytime I saw a set of tiny flags on the hood of a car closing in on me I knew it was time to get my ass in gear. These drivers don’t mess around. They are terrified of an ambush. The last thing you get to see as you fall under the wheels of a speeding diplomatic Mercedes is the flag of the country that is about to run you over. They do not get parking tickets, or moving violations, and they probably would emerge unscathed from running down a pedestrian. I’d come out of this Irish bar good and tuned up at about three in the afternoon and have to make it past two city streets like I was the doomed amphibian in a game of “Frogger.”
I knew from then on that the place was vicious. If the traffic around the building was that bad, I couldn’t imagine what actually went on inside the joint. I was relieved when my friend moved up to Scarsdale.
“I have kids now,” he said. “And you can’t trust those U.N. chauffeurs. They drive like they are in the crosshairs of a sniper.” Which may have been true. Another reason to leave the neighborhood. Political assassins. Now the local residents may have to endure the constant arrival and departure of Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.
Apparently some groups are not happy with the appointment of a sexy comic book character to the U.N. roster. They were particularly outraged when Ban Ki-Moon made an announcement that all female staff members, “Would now have to wear a golden tiara, matching gold cuffs, form-fitting bodice, fishnets and knee-high boots. Just so, you know, Wonder Woman doesn’t feel too self-conscious or anything. We all know what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. You women must show some solidarity. By the way any of you sweet biscuits want to tie me up with a golden lasso, I’ll be in my office.”
Maybe it’s not a total wash. Maybe some good can come from all this. Consider that Wonder Woman could turn into, not so much Wonder Woman, superhero icon, but “Wondering” Woman, as in female who wonders about why the hell the whole world can’t stop the incredible unrest stretching across Europe, the Middle East, and Central America, say.
“I’m wondering why Aleppo has been wiped off the map.”
“I’m wondering how the U.N. introduced cholera to Haiti.”
“I’m wondering how the use of aggression is justified to an accepting populace.”
Like quarks, gluons and other micro-particles, wholesale slaughter seems almost impossible to isolate, even though officials are aware of its presence. It’s everywhere and out of reach. It’s there, yet it’s not.
More Alembics to come.