A month or two back, I was reading about the latest TIAA-CREF divestment campaign by my old friends at Jewish Voice for Peace right around the same time I was introducing my kids to Bill and Ted (both their Excellent Adventure and equally awesome Bogus Journey). Somehow those two events became conflated and, after a long percolation period involving much espresso and tequila, they can be shared with you my devoted reader.
So, in the spirit of Hampshire and the Brain, let’s follow along with part one of Sydney and Omar’s BDS Journey:
Sydney and Omar’s BDS Journey – Part 1
Scene 1: Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, the giant academic retirement fund, sits behind his desk wearing a tweed jacket and silk top hat, simultaneously smoking a pipe and cigar and reading Virgil’s Aeneid (in the original Latin) as well as The Wall Street Journal.
Ferguson: “Go into business,” Mom said. “Get an MBA. That way, you’ll be able to indulge in the scholarship you’re so much in love with without ending up in the poorhouse.” And now look at me, spending my days and nights dealing with complaints by angry tenured Socialists that they’re no longer getting a 10% return on their investments. How can life get any worse?
He presses a button on his desk intercom.
Ferguson: Miss Nelson, what’s on my agenda today? It better not include anything that’s going to raise my blood pressure.
Voice on Intercom: Well you look pretty clear in the morning, but in the afternoon [sound of a door opening and slamming]… Wait! Who are you! You can’t go in there! Stop! You need an appointment!
Suddenly the door to Ferguson’s office flies open and in walk two wild looking men, one with dark curly hair and a beard wearing a colorful tie over a turtleneck shirt which doesn’t cover his belly, the other with shorter hair wearing what looks like a Planet of the Apes vest.
Both visitors: Greetings Mr. TIAA-CREF head-honcho retirement-fund dude!
Ferguson (looking dazed at the two visitors): Excuse me, but who exactly the hell are you?
Man wearing tie: I’m glad you asked that academic money guy. For I am Sydney S Levy, Director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace.
Man wearing vest: And I am Omar Barghouti, Esquire, Founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
Sydney and Omar: And together we are… Wild BOYCOTT!
Sydney and Omar break into a crazed air guitar session, knocking statues and vases off of tables as they careen around the room.
Ferguson (shouting): AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY OFFICE!!!
Sydney: Huh? (The two stop in their tracks.)
Ferguson: Why are you here?
Sydney: Oh yes. An excellent question, oh learned manager of risk! (Gives Omar one last finger-guitar handshake.) For you see, we are here to ask you to stop investing in the so-called state of “Israel.”
Omar: My most-excellent friend Sydney is right! On behalf of millions of your members, we are requesting that you pull all your money out of the Jewish state in the name of all that is virtuous, good and most bodacious.
Ferguson stares at the two of them in disbelief for a moment.
Ferguson: Wait a minute, aren’t you the guys who claimed we had divested in Israel last year when we, in fact, had done nothing of the kind? I had to deal with the fallout from that little stunt for three weeks!
Sydney: What’s past is history, Mr. CREF. For today we are talking in the name of countless academics across this great country who demand that you actually do what we just pretended you did last year.
Omar: Indeed, and here are the signatures to show we mean business.
Sydney and Omar unsling backpacks from their shoulders and each dump hundreds of pages onto Ferguson’s desk, knocking several glass paperweights to the ground where they land on the floor and shatter. Ferguson, suppressing his rage, picks up one of the pages and stares at the names.
Ferguson: Let’s see who you have here. Naomi Klein is a Canadian, Norman Finklestein who I’ve never heard of, Albert Einstein who has been dead since 1955. (Looking up) Guys, couldn’t you have at least not written all these names with the same brown crayon?
Omar: Oh no, Mr. T-C, I assure you each and every signature on that list is genuine.
Sydney: Yeah, it took us nearly all night to write them all down!
Omar: Shut up Sydney!
Sydney: Oops! Sorry Om.
Ferguson emerges from his desk and puts an arm around each of his visitors.
Ferguson: Now boys, I appreciate your zeal. And I’m even willing to overlook last year’s fraud, and your invasion of my office and trashing of my desk. But look, as we’ve told you and your friends over and over again, TIAA-CREF has no interest and no intention of divesting from Israel just because you and your comrades tell us we have no choice.
Omar: But sir! BDS has a long and storied history that we are inviting you to be a part of!
Sydney: Yes, many legendary historic individuals have gone down the divestment pathway, and proudly so!
Ferguson (losing patience, but trying to keep his cool): I’ll tell you what guys. I’ve got a free half hour tomorrow morning, after which I am booked for the next eight years. If you can provide me solid information on the historic individuals who have boycotted or divested from Israel by that time, I’ll consider bringing you proposal up to the board when they meet next week.
Omar and Sydney together: Excellent (they begin to air guitar again, but are interrupted when Ferguson grabs them each by the shoulder).
Ferguson: Boys, boys… You’ve got less than 24 hours to provide me the historic information of which you speak. I suggest you get started right away. So shoo, shoo (he shoos them towards the door).
Sydney: Oh right dude, I mean sir, I mean Mr. CREF-sir. Me and my most excellent companion will get cracking and will be here tomorrow, historic figures in hand.
Omar: Come on Sydney, let’s go.
They depart, leaving Ferguson to survey the wreckage of his office. He yells out the door.
Ferguson: Miss Nelson! I need a broom!
Scene 2: Outside the Circle Mart where Sydney and Omar are drinking Slurpees.
Sydney: Dude, we are in big, BIG trouble. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single historic president for BDS.
Omar: That’s “precedent” dude, and I’m with you on that one. If we can’t figure out what to do in the next 24 hours, we won’t be able to talk to CREF again for at least eight years, by which time you and I will be at least eight years older.
The two look despondent when sudden flashes of lightning appear in the sky. A cylinder of light crashes down from the clouds right in front of Sydney and Omar, after which an old-fashioned phone booth springs up from the ground.
Sydney and Omar: Woh!
The door to the phone booth opens and a strangely familiar man wearing a futuristic tuxedo steps out, trailing smoke.
Futuristic Dude: Greetings compadres. I am Alder, a visitor from what you would call the future.
Sydney: No way.
Alder: Yes way! And I am here to help you. For you see, all of human history now rests of what happens next with the two of you. Unless you make it to that meeting tomorrow with denizens of the past who can back up your claims for BDS having historic precedent, the entire timeline could be permanently disrupted.
Omar: Wait a minute, are you telling me that that box there…
Alder: That’s right my eager young friend. It’s a time machine. And with it you and I will visit BDS’s long and fabled past and bring back for tomorrow’s critical meeting the legendary boycotters you hastily promised to Mr. Ferguson.
Sydney: Do you mean?
Alder: Yes Sydney and Omar, we are about to go on a most excellent BDS journey!