THE WRAITH OF KHAN,
NOT A TYPO
Dreamed 1982/5/21 and 1982/6/2 by Chris Wayan
I watch a Star Trek rerun with Ricardo Montalban as Khan, a gene-tweaked genius who tried to conquer the world, lost, and froze himself for 200 years. Now he's out of the ice box and on the Enterprise. Khan seduces the ship historian. She's absurdly naïve for a Starfleet officer--turn traitor just because Khan's hot? Having studied his brutal career, she has to know better.
But OK, OK, love is a drug, people are stupid, sixties TV is pre-feminist... fine. My real objection to this show is the slandering of my ethnic group--geniuses and prodigies. The script says "Superior ability creates superior ambition" but the writers assume ambition means fascism! Brains make Nazis? One lousy Napoleon and we're all little Hitlers! And I do mean all. The show has 80 geniuses following Khan in his silly ambitions! Come on! Eighty prodigies agree about anything? Why? Any genius who wants to excel in the Federation could just join, and easily rise to the top. So who needs Khan?
Aside from Dingbat Woman, I mean.
I'm in China during the Taiping Rebellion in the 1860s as a delegate from an American or British Christian organization. The church elders lectured me on what to tell the Chinese about war. It boils down to little more than "fighting is bad." I've always been a meek disciple, but now I'm mad. For the very first time, I talk back: "I think the Chinese know all that! It's much more dangerous for them than a war here would be for the privileged members of this Assembly! I think they need from us only a pledge of total support from the European countries for a peaceful, negotiated settlement. They want to, they just can't, so far."
A young thin tall enthuasistic man stands up and interrupts me. He's in love with historical Great Men--goes on and on about them. Took a poll, and found the most admired figures in history are Alexander the Great and Napoleon. "Which of these two choices," he asks, "is the best model for China?" Unbelievable.
My boss Susan comes up to me privately and says "we the 'minority' were actually a large majority, but our votes were divided among many different peaceful candidates. Those two got tiny pluralities. He's hiding that." I feel better. Conquerors aren't the people's choice--just this young fool's non-choice.
NIGHT OF JUNE 2
Now Ricardo Montalban is playing Khan--but Khan's in our time, as he always has been. He's the deposed Shah of Iran!
Oh, and he's trying to kill me.
He has a castle on a hill south of San Francisco that the US government gave him. Every day, he stands in a high window, overlooking half the Bay Area, and stalks me through telescopic sights, shooting patiently at me, as I live my life on the flats beneath. I slowly realize what that pinging is, why things break so often around me... but I keep silent a long time. Doubt myself, expect to be disbelieved. "Why would anyone single me out?"
I go to the airport to pick up my grandparents. Khan is firing into the crowd from two miles away, not caring who ELSE he hits as long as he gets me at last. I tell Gramma my story, and in the end, she believes me. When there's proof: Grampa lies dead on the floor.
Later, on a picnic in the open with my friends, I deliberately expose myself. Ricardo's still in his castle window, still sniping. I point out, "Here it's so clear. Who else can he be shooting at?" My friends finally start to believe it's at least possible he really has been singling me out, not just sniping at random.
So who is this sniping Khan? Genius, ambition, arrogance? I doubt it. I think he's this pop stereotype of geniuses still sniping away at me inside--hissing "Don't stand out, don't let them see, they'll hunt you down and kill you." Which isn't phobia, but memory: as a kid, I really was bashed for being a child prodigy--the youngest and smallest in class, showing up the bigger kids. "Show the real you and they'll break your ribs again." I know which group has a proven history of brutality.
I'm haunted by the wraith of Khan. And how many more of us are?
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