As I sun myself on the beach of Aruba after escaping prosecution for the greatest criminal heist in modern American history, my mind keeps circling back to Kevin Spacey’s classic scene as mafioso Keyser Soze in the 1988 thriller The Usual Suspects. His hands shaking as he is relentlessly questioned by a detective, Soze tells his interrogator that the the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. I propose an alternative view: the greatest trick Columbia Divest for Climate Justice ever pulled was convincing you that global warming does exist, and that we actually intended – the sheer audacity! – to do something about it.
It’s been two weeks since our crack team of handpicked cat burglary experts flawlessly executed a daring raid on the university’s priceless art properties collection in in Avery Library, staging a massive protest and occupation to distract Public Safety with the aid of dozens of naive, easily hoodwinked Sustainable Development majors, and I can tell you this: the only thing sweeter than knowing you have totally gotten away with your plan is telling everybody about it once it’s too late to do a damn thing. And the only thing sweeter than that is a $130,000 bottle of Château d’Yquem Bordeaux, sipped nonchalantly beneath the divi-divi trees as you dangle your feet in the pure azure waters of the South Caribbean Sea.
This is a plan six years in the making – four years since most of our team successfully gained admission to Columbia University using falsified transcripts and SAT scores, having paid enormous sums to agents of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs to delete our criminal records following our botched raid on the Kremlin’s collection of priceless Faberge eggs. Our core of seven expert thieves – myself, Rachel Fifi-Culp, CC ’17, Virginia Fu, CC ’17, Cristian Padilla, CC ’17, Colin Muller, GS ’17, Jennifer Tang, CC ’16, and George Clooney as Lucas Zeppetello, SEAS ’16 – was brought together over dark web forums all the way back in 2010 by a shared love of ill-gotten gains and cracking allegedly impenetrable security systems. The glittering array of invaluable art underneath Avery Library at Columbia, from sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore to photographs by Andy Warhol, lured us in like an irresistible siren song.
So we set our strategy in motion: as the charismatic head of operations, I would take on the Brad Pitt role and coordinate with our partners waiting on the outside while cracking snarky jokes and generally serving as the affable center of attention. The rest of our gang of seven included premier pickpockets, surveillance and explosives specialists, con men, and nimble acrobats (recruited directly from CU Bhangra). We liaisoned with a crusty retired Public Safety officer who bore a suspicious resemblance to veteran character actor Elliott Gould, with a heart of gold and a bone to pick with his younger rival in the department. It seemed to us that in the absence of a championship boxing match the easiest way to arrange a high-profile sideshow would be a massive demonstration over an issue sympathetic to most of the student body, so I told our crew to watch An Inconvenient Truth and start flyering with catchy slogans about dying polar bears, or pandas, or whatever. Just like that, CDCJ was born.
Jorge, could you fetch me another mimosa?
We knew that pitch-perfect timing would be of the essence: the protest had to totally monopolize Public Safety’s resources, leaving just one officer manning the door to the main warehouse beneath Avery. From inside Low Library at the peak of the sit-in, we would traverse the underground tunnel system linking Low to St. Paul’s Chapel and then from St. Paul’s to the basement of Avery. Crowd noise pumped in from speakers and bedraggled mannikins would convince the officers doing rounds in Low that we had sustained our occupation of that library, whereas in reality we were offloading tens of millions in ancient Buddhist iconography onto the back of a carefully disguised dump truck. It took extra planning to figure out how to monetize Henry Moore’s hideous – but extremely valuable – Reclining Figure, but we actually received a clandestine donation from an alum to smash the sculpture, and nobody seems to have complained.
The only hitch in the plan: you people actually bought in. We figured that livestreaming a gaggle of mostly upper-class white teens dancing to Civil Rights-era protest hymnals as we disclaimed world revolution might be taking the joke a tad too far, but our cover worked perfectly. It seemed like the word “intersectional” could disguise any and all evidence of grand international criminality, and the umbrella of our protest movement just got bigger and bigger. Bill Nye and Leonardo DiCaprio came to our meetings, Bernie Sanders tweeted at us, and the final night of our carefully calculated escape was cloaked by a sleep-in attended by more than 200 wild-eyed, chanting Columbia undergraduates. Campus came together for an inspiring display of collective spirit that just so happened to guarantee our getaway with a golden Bodhisattva worth more than $10 million.
Do I even believe in global warming? Not really. Like the rest of my crew, I’m on board the Can’t Stump The Trump 2016 train, because we need somebody to protect our newly enlarged offshore accounts. At the end of the day, if global warming isn’t just some liberal hoax – and I have now purchased enough Exxon stock to be very invested in the idea that it is – it doesn’t bother any of us, so long as the parts of the developing world we now own remain afloat. So keep chanting, suckers. Me, my pet tiger and my new Hummer are just going to ride out the storm.