A Conversation With God about Iraq, Withdrawal and Tootsie Pops.
What would you say to God if he asked: "What are you doing to
protect the Children's Children's Children?"
16, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 795
A Conversation With God About Iraq,
Withdrawal and Tootsie Rolls
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Nov. 16, 2003--
I was swept up in a giant gust of wind raging through New York City.
It was nearly hurricane force winds, blasting at upwards of 70 miles
per hour, driving thinner people against the wall, snapping trees,
crushing house's being framed.
through New York City
The jammed New York City roads were stalled
as trucks blew over, brass knuckled to their sides by fists of wind
that slammed into midriff of the truck's center of gravity, sending it
sprawling onto the concrete mat of nearly 6,000 miles of roadways that
vermiculate through the 8 million-residences of New York's five
Little did I realize that God had sent one
of his hurricane angels to sweep me up for a quick visit. I
thought I was being propelled by Mother Nature, not by the Almighty.
Prior visits to God's Big Chair took the
fear away as the angel's wings beat through the eye of the windstorm,
bursting through to the somnolent silence that drenches Heaven's
I used to be
afraid to visit God's Big Chair
Anyone who has ever
visited Heaven knows that jaw-dropping experience as one approaches the fluffy
white clouded entrance, guarded by Angels of Vigilance, their wings at rest,
eyes appearing to not notice yet watching every pore on one's body,
ready to swoop down and intervene against any act that might upset the
"perfect balance" of Paradise.
I'd been swept up to God's "interrogation"
chair, as I call it, a number of times since September 11, 2001.
I was always nervous, always frightened by thought I might say or do
something to stir the Almighty's wrath.
I sucked in a deep breath as the stars
glistened, dripping down like sprinkles on my grandkids' ice cream
cone. I was sure God understood my trepidations and wanted
me to feel "at home," but I wasn't quite ready to want to live in the
clouds. I preferred the gravity of earth, the struggles of
humanity, even if I was perplexed by them, confused, and often
saddened by my own ineptitude to understand myself, let alone the 6
billion other brothers and sisters of the globe.
deposited me into a seat facing God
The angel swooped down and deposited me
feather-like into the seat of the great oak chair facing God's simple
throne. The chair hadn't changed much since my last visit.
It was like the one my first grade teacher sat in at Oakley-Green
Elementary in Portland, Oregon. It was old, with its grain
aching outward, forming dark vertical lines like Morse Code, slivers
of dots and dashes that probably carried some Da Vinci Code about the
meaning of the universe.
It could contain perhaps four of five men my
size, maybe more. Its back rose at least six feet above my
head and its giant arms felt like the railings of the Titanic, or at
least that far apart. My six-foot, four-inch,
275-pound frame dwarfed in its hollow. My legs dangled
over the front like a small child's might. I wondered if God
made the biggest human feel like a midget, a way in which he might
remind all visitors that he was the Father and we, the
biggest-smallest of us, were the children.
"So officious, Cliff. Call me Dad today.
Make it easy on yourself."
God offered me
a Tootsie Roll
God, who often ate peanuts when I visited, was sitting in his throne,
a simple wicker chair that creaked when he leaned forward. Its
legs were buried in the fluff of one of the whitest clouds I had ever
seen, as were the legs of the oak visitor's chair I was frozen within.
God had a jar of Tootsie Rolls,
the small, individually wrapped ones. He twisted both ends at
once, one clockwise the other counterclockwise and exposed a piece of
chewy candy that he offered to me.
I had learned on previous visits not to
deny God's offerings even though my mouth was parched and I had no
desire to eat before the Almighty, especially something as sticky as a
"Thank you, Sir....er...I mean, Dad!"
God's eyebrows began to scrunch when the
sibilating sound of the "s" hissed over my lips, but they relaxed
quickly as I corrected myself. On prior visits I had stumbled
and fought over calling God by the familiar names he requested, not
out of spite or reluctance, but simply out of respect.
Here before me was a being who could wave his hand and cause the earth
to erupt, to spew lava into the sky or freeze the earth like a
refrigerator turns cool, clear water into ice.
I had no doubt
God had more than a casual observational role in the world
He could cause pestilences to roam
the earth in a variety of forms, and shoot lightning from his
fingertips. Of course, he denied that he had such powers,
and claimed he was now only an observer of humanity and earth and the
great expanses of the universe, but I doubted him in that respect.
Anyone who can send an angel to sweep one from the streets of New York
City and bring them to the Pearly Gates had more than a casual
observational role in the world.
I chewed fast on the Tootsie
Roll, trying to remove it from my mouth as quickly as possible.
I didn't want my teeth to stick together in the middle of a question
or answer with the Almighty.
"May I ask why you brought me
I reached up and clutched the
arm of the oak chair, worn by the grips of many before me whom I
assumed used it as I over the eons, to brace themselves for God's
answer. I had been before Him when his eyes slatted and
his face scrunched up as though he had transformed into a sun-baked
prune. One walked on eggshells around God. I
tried to tip-toe.
"It is you, my son, who
requested this visit."
"I'm sorry....I don't
God leaned forward. He
pushed he face close. The white beard swayed like a
pendulum as the angels roosting nearby flapped their wings like
heartbeats in the heavens, shoving the air to and fro as a ceiling fan
on low might swirl the air to comfort those sweating, as I was, not
from the heat, but from the anxiety within that I might say or do the
"Your doubt, Boy....your doubt.
It always brings you."
I wanted to bite my tongue off. I dug my fingers in
God leaned back as though he
realized by pushing himself toward me I would instinctively recoil.
"Yes, your doubt. I
understand you have been thinking about stopping your Vigilance
writings, angered over the fact nobody reads them, frustrated that you
are..." he paused and raised his eyebrow mischievously...."pissing in
beat their wings ever faster hearing God's mundane statements
I felt the flush surging
over my face. The angels beat their fanning wings faster. It was
so odd to hear God, the Almighty, speak in such common terms.
His mundane statements caught me off guard. I wriggled in the
God laughed. "Relax,
Boy...I'm just trying to get to the point...to cut through this
'I'm-God-You're-Nobody' crap that separates us. I'm here
to talk to you about why you need to keep your nose to the
grindstone...." he paused, lifted his finger to his cheek and pressed
inward as though searching for the right word..."Ah, yes...to not
'bail out' on your mission.' That's the expression, isn't it?"
I squirmed in the hard
seat. I sometimes forgot that God had this perspicacious
radar that captured every thought, recorded it, and stored it.
Even though I was a non-believer in many ways, I couldn't deny the
logic that all the universe had such incredible order, had some Great
Design that frustrated guys like me who tried to refute the concept
that some force greater than anyone's imagination kept his hand on the
heartbeat of time and massaged it even when it seemed in cardiac
"I've had my moments of
doubt, yes..." I chose not to use the word "Dad." It
seemed far to familiar.
"You're worried the world
won't become Parents of Vigilance, won't take the Pledge of Vigilance,
won't fall to their knees before you in great thanks that you've saved
them from Fear, Intimidation and Complacency. Is
that the issue, Son."
I felt my body tighten.
The word "son" seemed sacrilegious. I had been in a
Christian-Judeo world, taught that God only had one son.
And here I was being called by a name that symbolized an image I could
never imagine myself likened to. I was, at best, the Prodigal
Son, the one who wallowed in the pigsty of life's flaws and defects,
ragged and torn by my doubts and fears, ravaged by my selfishness, by
egotism, my human frailties that seemed to distance me daily from any
of salvation's warmth.
"That could be part of
it," I said. "I'm never sure of what I think.
I am aware the Beast of Terror likes to jam my thoughts down my
Himself to more Tootsie Rolls
yes," God said, digging into the Tootsie Roll jar and twisting open another piece.
"He loves to choke us all on our thinking. He's a real gagger in
"Gagger...get it, Cliff?"
God slapped his knee and
roared. The angels fluttered wildly. Feathers rocked down,
see-sawing their way into the cotton colored clouds.
I missed the humor and forced a smile.
"You see a pullout from
Iraq. You see the USA running from another fight, ducking
and weaving from the Beast. You think the end is near."
"I've had my worries about
it...yes...Father..." I thought I'd try that word instead of
"Dad." I didn't choke on Father as I did "Dad."
God let it pass. He
licked his fingers and leaned forward again, only slowly this time so
that I didn't recoil. His eyes swept around rather than
through me, as though they were a great hand scooping me up, holding
me captive in a gentle but firm way.
"Terrorism will never be a
matter of borders, Cliff," He said. "You don't have to go
to Iraq to find the Beast of Terror. And, if you leave
Iraq, the Beast of Terror will follow you wherever you go.
He is as much a part of life as your shadow, always there, always
waiting to grow longer when the sunlight fades. When Faith
slips, when Courage, Conviction and Right Actions are words of
rhetoric rather than principles of daily action.
You'll never be out of a job, Cliff. You're stuck."
I relaxed my grip on the chair.
"But, what good is it to promote something that the world is not
interested in doing? I don't see people walking around
with Semper Vigilante logos on their shirts, or hear the world leaders
crying for Parents of Vigilance to rise up and take control of the
Beast of Terror. In fact, I don't hear the Beast of Terror
"And you may never hear that, Cliff,
Son, Boy. You speak of Vigilance as being Courage,
Conviction and Right Action for the Children's Children's Children.
What if you were talking to the third generation today? What if
the first two generations didn't even care about what you had to say,
but the third generation did? Who are you to say or think
Cliff that the world is blind-eyed to what you're suggesting?
You are frustrated because in just over two little years, two
miniscule grains of sand in time, the world hasn't beat a path to your
doorstep. That's a little self-centered, a little
vainglorious of you, don't you think?"
I felt as
though my soul had a great hole in it
He spoke in gentle terms, not
brass knuckles. Still, I felt the punch. I felt the
hole in my gut, the empty circle through which the winds seemed to
blow, as though my soul had a great rip in it, like a sail shredded by
the wind upon a ship, its ragged edges flapping harshly in the wind,
unable to capture the power of the wind, unable to move the ship
"What if America retreats from Iraq?
What if the Terrorists grow stronger and bolder? Does that
mean the end of the world, Cliff? Or, is that just more reason
for you to continue your quest, to keep fighting for what is right for
your grandchildren's grandchildren? You're just worried
about wasting your time, your life as it exists today.
You're worried that no one will immortalize you in this lifetime, or
slap you on the back, or carve your name in granite. It's a
common human quality. I think its called hubris.
Yes, that's it. One of my great gifts to human beings."
God leaned back in his wicker
chair and sighed. His eyes drifted up toward the Heaven's
Ceiling. He seemed to drift back to Creation Day when he mixed
up all the conflicting ingredients that created human experience--the
good, the bad, the ugly--the things he called "free will," the ability
he gave all humans to "choose" between "right" and "wrong," between
"Terrorism" and "Vigilance," between "Fear" and "Courage," between
"Conviction" and "Intimidation," between "Complacency" and "Right
Actions For Future Generations."
"Perhaps you're right...
May I have a Tootsie Roll?"
I was getting nervous,
"Of course!" God
flashed his eyes my way, as though he had been waiting for my
response. "Do you remember your grandson's question the
I looked up from Tootsie
Pop wrapper. "I'm not sure. He asks many of them."
"He asked you how many
people are murdered each year. Do you remember that?"
me that my grandson asked me how many people are murdered each
I shifted my thoughts
back to Matt, my seven-year-old grandson. "Yes, I
"You didn't have an
answer, did you?"
"No, I wasn't up to speed
on those numbers. I told him I'd look it up."
"In your country alone,
America, there were sixteen-thousand murders last year, forty-three a
day. Drunk drivers killed another seventeen thousand.
Today, sixteen soldiers were killed when two Blackhawk helicopters
collided in Iraq. More people have died from murders in
America and drunk drivers in less than week than since the war in Iraq
began. So where's the Terrorism, Cliff? Is it
in Iraq or at home?"
I bit down on the
"There were 23
million crimes in America last year, and 5.3 million of them were
reported as violent crimes. That's not included the crimes
against the children--the crimes when a parent tells a child to 'shut
up,' or uses violence against a child that turns a child into a piece
of emotional stone, Cliff. There are millions of people
looking in the mirror this minute seeing the reflection of a loser, a
failure, a person with no hope in life except to be nail as the world
hammers them into the ground--people who have lost faith in themselves
and the future, and spread that Terrorism like fertilizer to all who
are close to them. And, you feel upset that the War
on Terrorism may be lost? Come on, Cliff? Grow
up. Are you a Sentinel of Vigilance or an opportunist?
Are you really concerned with reminding the world that we must fight
Terrorism in our thoughts and actions, or, do you think we can rid the
world of the Beast in the battlefields of foreign lands, and then
revel at home thinking we have achieved some incredible feat?"
"Do you think
we should retreat, walk away from Iraq?"
what I'm saying. I'm reminding you that Terrorism is a far
more vast enemy than some guerrilla shooting down Blackhawk
helicopters. And, you need to look at the challenge from
within not just without. We should never give up the
battle, but the battle is at home as well as abroad. I
think you've gotten bitten by the Beast of Terror. I think
you're letting him slip between your fingers, and you're making his
home farther and farther away from you. If you want to see
the Beast, look in the mirror. Fight him from within. Iraq
is only a symbol not a host."
I felt God's
hand touching me
I began to
cough and splutter. The Tootsie Roll juice went down the wrong
windpipe. God reached over and patted my back. I felt his
huge hand touching me as I hacked. There was a warm sensation
coursing through me as I regained my composure, as much as I could in
the presence of the Almighty.
you're right, Sir...Father...Dad..."
whose right, Cliff...it's what's right. The battle against
Terrorism is an eternal conflict, won a Fear at a time, an
Intimidation at a time, a Complacency at a time. Imagine a
headline that ran in major papers in America that said:
Thirty-Three Thousand People Murdered Today By American Terrorists!
That's your combined annual murders and deaths by drunk drivers lumped
into one day. Its more than half of all the deaths in
Vietnam. And, those are the worst of crimes.
There are many others, Cliff. The majority of which can be
limited by Vigilance from within. So, where is your
battlefield? When is your duty to fight it over? How will
you measure your success?" God paused and leaned forward..."By
how many people take your Pledge today, or how many might long after
you're dead?" He smiled at me, lifted up the Tootsie Roll
bag and said: "One for the road?"
On the wings
of the angel, I could view earth's beauty...and see its Vision of
in silence on the back of the angel. It dived downward,
opening its wings on occasion so I could see the beauty of the
approaching earth below. She set me down on First Avenue, near
7th Street where we lived.
"God likes you, Cliff,"
the angel said, brushing the celestial dust off me. "So do
we. Keep up the good work."
Then, in a gust of wild
November wind, the angel vanished into a leaf, clattering down the
crowded avenue, end-over-end as though enjoying the sense of gravity,
the pleasure of being on earth if but for a brief moment.
I walked slowly up the
fifty-nine steps leading to my fifth-floor apartment. The
more I climbed, the more I realized that Vigilance had more to do with
me and my attitude than it did with what everyone else thought of what
Vigilance, I guess, starts at
home. And, if that was God's message to me, wrapped in
left-over Halloween Tootsie Rolls, it was good enough me.