Article Overview:    What does God think about what's happening in the prisons in Iraq?   Is He happy, mad, glad or sad?  Find out.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004—Ground Zero Plus 980
A Conversation With God Re: Torture, Maiming et al

Cliff McKenzie

 GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--May 19-18, 2004 -- I didn't expect to talk to God today.  He was the last person on my mind.
         It's always like that.   When I least expect His counsel, His wisdom, I am suddenly scooped off the bursting flood of humans pouring to and from their busy schedules who move east, west, north and south upon the miles of concrete ribbons called the New York Streets.    

The Angel Taxi picks me up and deposits me at God's doorstep

       Unfortunately, no one sees it happen.   The Angel Taxi dives from aloft, usually behind me, lifting me feather-like above the towering concrete castles whose boxes form the compartmentalization of modern humanity, fitted with all the amenities of peace and prosperity, far removed from the battlefields of the impoverished where people scrape to earn $500 a year in income, and flies feast on the blistering sores erupting from their bodies because they have little access to medicine or health care.
        Even our "street bums" eat like kings in relation, for they feast upon the left-overs of the richest nation on earth whose poverty level is $14,000 while the vast majority of the world is lucky to earn a bit more than a dollar a day.
        But those things were not on my mind when God's angel snatched me from the cacophony of the City.   I was walking with my head down, scribing words in my mind, trying to figure out the mess in Iraq. I was wondering how the Beast of Terror had managed to foul our mission, to fling his feces upon the image of our attempts to liberate the 23 million people from tyranny and oppression through the acts of the few who immortalized in video and photos the horrible example that we may be the Beasts we claim to fight.
        This was on my mind.

I am awed by the deep warmth of space

        The Angel Taxi says nothing as he/she swoops me Heavenward.   There is rarely any communication for I am awed by the clarity of the stars and the deep warmth of space, wondering why I can breath and feel the soft feathers beneath me when I think I should be floating in zero gravity, tumbling on an endless journey through time with no sense of reality.
         I never speak about these journeys, except here, in the privacy of my own journal, for who would believe that God would want to talk to me, or that He might even be interested in answering my questions.
         I was frightened the first time I was taken, then less frightened the next, and less each time, but never totally void of the fact God has the power of life and death, or that He is the Creator and thus the Destroyer who can, with the flick of a finger, cause the earth to rip apart, or a huge meteor to turn a few degrees off its passing course and strike the earth, pulverizing our atmosphere into an Ice Age that would, except for the cockroaches and sprigs of wheat, eradicate all that was in favor of all that can be.
          He knows I am not a religious person, and that I fight accepting His dominance over Nature, and ultimately humans.   Yet I respect His genius, His engineering of the most minute details that balance the earth and create harmony between almost all living things except those who defy His mission of keeping the earth a place of peace.    He knows He made a mistake when He gave humans free will, for they violate all Nature's laws by rearranging everything and killing without conscience or the need to eat their victims.  They leave the soil scarred with senseless blood, waste that only sickens His mission of evolution, for while we humans may have advanced our technologies, the smart bomb is still a club bashing Abel's head.  Its texture might have changed, but its purpose hasn't.     

Perhaps God read my story "Body Bag Catholic" in the June issue of Penthouse

          I am wondering why He called me.    Perhaps he read my article in the June issue of               Penthouse, "Body Bag Catholic," about my experiences on my first combat mission in Vietnam with frozen body bags that melted before my eyes, forcing me to shift from a No Preference on my dog tags to a Catholic so that I might be the first and not last in line for a body bag if I were killed.
          Maybe He was mad at me for being one of the great skeptics.
          It had been many months since we talked, or, better, since I listened.  So I was anxious and nervous.  Who wouldn't be?
          Heaven is a place of cotton candy.   All the clouds have an incredible incandescent whiteness to them, often blushed by pinks as though the rising sun was kissing the purity of their rolling, convoluted shapes.    I stepped off the back of the Angel onto the softness and made my way to the great oak chair, similar in size to the one hanging in the Vatican Basilica that represents God's Throne.
          Despite all the rumors, God's guests sit in this great chair while He sits where he pleases, and often that is a simple folding chair He brings with him, as He did the last two times I was taken to Him.
          The grips of the chair are worn.   Deep indentions have been carved on the arms by those, like myself, who grip it with Fear and Awe, as though it were a lifeline.  Sometimes His Voice booms so loudly that the chair is shoved back, similar to a wind tunnel, and the grips become one's seat belt.
          I have always wanted to ask Him who sat there before me, over all the eons of time, but that question, while rattling like a B.B. in my mind, never finds its way to my lips.
          "Ah, Cliffie!  Glad you could make it."

God appears as a farmer

          Abruptly, I turn to the left.  Out of a cloud wall God approaches.   I try not to smile.   Instead of the white robes He is wearing bib overalls and a straw hat, ripped in the front so that pieces of the weaving stick out like rectangular toothpicks, aiming themselves at me.
          He is barefoot, and his long beard forms a "V" about at his waist.   His hands are dirty, and he carries a trowel in one.
         "Been doing some gardening.  I love cherry tomatoes.   I planted too many, of course, since we don't have weeds here.   But they will be marvelous.   You just pick 'em and pop 'em into your mouth.  They explode with flavor.  Next time you're here, I'll have you try them."

I asked God "Why do we turn into Beasts"?

        He carries the folding chair in his free hand.   He has huge hands, and his fingers seem like telescopes.  I think of the Sistine Chapel and the picture of Creation where he touches Adam's finger with his, as though to charge him with some special mission, or to convey to him some secret that only the two know, and we, the children, must discover along our own journeys.
          "So, this Iraq torture problem is making your teeth grind, huh?"
          "Yes sir."
          "Call me Farmer God today."
          Over my visits I have learned He likes to be called different names, colloquial handles that I believe make those speaking with Him feel more familiar, somewhat equal if that is possible with an omnipotent being who has the power of the universe in His grasp.
          "Want a sunflower seed?"
          He offers me an open bag.    Between is teeth is a seed.  He splits it deftly with his teeth and turns and spits the husk out.  As he does, one of the twelve angels roosting around us swoops down and plucks it before it hits the cloud rug upon which we sit.
          I take a few, knowing that God doesn't like it if you refuse his hospitality.
          "So, go ahead.   Get it off your chest.   Ask me about the torture."
          He throws me off guard.  Usually He is coy.  Today He is right to the point, no molly coddling.
          "Okay, Farmer God.   So why do we do it.   Why do we turn into Beasts.  Into animals.  Into creatures with no moral sense, no balance between our conscience and our thirst to power over others?"
          God laughs.  "You know that answer, Boy.   For God's sake...ha, for My Sake, I should say....why are you asking such a mundane question.  You've been there.  You've held the stick of torture in your hand.  You've felt your humanity ooze out of you and turn you into moral stone as people were tortured and killed in front of you.  Why ask me that question?"
          God's thick unruly eyebrows scrunched.   His eyes slotted, accusingly.    I squirmed in my chair.

"Redemption, Cliff"?

         "Maybe I want to know about myself more than I want to know about the kids in Iraq.  Maybe I am ashamed of what I saw, witnessed, participated in, and want to understand it so I can draw some moral lines against those kids.   But I can't.   I've tried.   Here they are, untrained, undisciplined kids with the power of God in their hands, and they abuse that right, they pervert it.     I guess I want to know how to protect my grandchildren from that kind of behavior, because I failed to protect myself when I faced it."
          God rocked back in the folding chair.  "Ah, now we're getting somewhere.  Redemption, Cliff?   Redeem your sins by stopping others from sinning as you sinned?   Is that the goal?"
         He handed me a sunflower seed.  It dwarfed in his huge fingers.    I thought about my own experiences in Vietnam, and then flashed my thoughts to Nine Eleven when I witnessed at Ground Zero the burning bodies leaping from the Twin Towers.
         Torture was everywhere in war, the worst of all the torture of the mind.   I could hear the screams of the people on September 11, 2001, as they watched the bodies plummet to the ground, as though they knew the horror of waiting for their turn to be trapped in the flaming gut of the Beast of Terror, and would do whatever to avoid it, even, perhaps, dehumanizing other human beings as the soldiers did in the prison.
         "You must remember that free will means you are imperfect, Cliff.   The crimes of those who violate the sanctuary of others humanity only remind us all of our imperfections, of our need to be wary of our will, of our need to strengthen our own moral fibers."
        I leaned back in the chair.  It was cool.   The wood smelled old, ancient, earthy.   The angels were flapping their wings, causing a soft breeze to undulate over me, as though they could feel the flush of blood coursing through my veins as my thoughts struggled to understand what Farmer God was saying.
        "Are you suggesting you are imperfect, Farmer God?"
        God hooked his thumbs in his suspenders and rocked back on the folding chair.  He guffawed so loud the clouds rumbled.  I grabbed the arms of the chair fiercely.

God made us in His image and likeness

        "You are my image, Cliff.   Perfection is a goal not a fact.     We all walk on a thin line between the Beast and the Sentinel of Vigilance.    It takes only a nudge sometimes to slip.     How many times have I been accused of terrorism, or torture, of maiming others?   So many that all the feathers of all the angels cannot account for the accusations against me.   A child whose life is snubbed by the violence of disease or acts of inhumanity turns ultimately to me, and I am blamed for negligence, or, sometimes the cause.   To many, I am Saddam Hussein, Adolph Hitler, Genghis Khan.   When pestilence or war ravages the earth, the people look up to the sky and say:  Why God?  Why did you let this happen?    My imperfection is in not making you perfect, pure.   Had I not given you thought and free will, you would be perfect.  You would not sin, as you call it, you would not be immoral, you would not be inhumane.    My imperfection is in allowing you, and all humanity to be imperfect.  That's why you must not cry over what you're not, and seek to be what you can be---stronger than the crimes you commit, bigger than the crimes of others."
           "I....I don't understand.  How this applies to torture and maiming others?"        

For many, many years America strove to be the world's moral benchmark

          "What is going on is a moral reckoning, Cliff.   The world is looking at pictures of Americans as being imperfect.    For many years America has been the world's moral benchmark, or has attempted to be, and the pictures and videos of the prison torture in Iraq is leveling America to a state of equality among nations so that it isn't the moral leader.    This is also sad, for America protects and preserves the right of free will to such extremes that it borders on the immoral.   There is a point when anarchy of the self takes over, and the moral responsibility to others becomes second to the sating of self-interests.   Abortion is one example, gay marriage is another.   These are chinks in America's moral armor, but like any hole in a dike, they weaken the whole structure.    The American guards got a message that inhumanity is right, just, authorized.    They acted with impunity to themselves, for their moral borders were lowered by a society of self-interests.    Torturing others is the most selfish act a human can impose on another, for it assumes the other person is not human, an animal with no rights.     The dehumanization of the prisoners is nothing more than a great warning about the dehumanization of America.   It is a dangerous place to be, for it suggests the crumbling of moral order."
          Farmer God had two sunflower seeds in His teeth.  He bit down and spit out their husks.
          "So what should we do?  What's the solution?"
         "No!  No!  It's what YOU should do.  See this?"  God held up a sunflower husk.  It was shiny with his saliva, gleaming in the bright light that filled the Heavens.   "What does it look like?"
           "A sunflower seed," I replied feebly.
          God laughed.  The chair shook.  The angels fluttered.  "It's a Shield of Vigilance.  Look!"  He turned it sideways and then upright.   I focused hard on it.  It was shaped like a shield, a Spartan shield.   "You keep writing about Vigilance.  You keep convincing yourself and others that our moral authority can be restored, and that this horrible example of moral slippage is a warning to us all that our imperfections can consume us, make us think we are above the laws of humanity.  We are not.    We must never elevate ourselves to such a height that we dehumanize those who are not like us, for then we see through the eyes of the Beast, and they, the dehumanized, become fodder for our most primal instincts.     Fight for Vigilance, Cliff.    That will be your redemption.   And the redemption of America and the world.   I have to go back to the garden now.   See you when the tomatoes are ripe."
           Suddenly, He rose, closed the folding chair and walked into a cloud.

"The sunflower seeds are your reminders of the Shield of Vigilance"

           I heard his Voice calling.  "I left the sunflower seeds for you.  Take them with you.   They are your reminders of the Shield of Vigilance."
           Then the angel fluttered down and beckoned me to climb aboard.  I rode down through the sky, unaware of its awesome beauty.  I was thinking of the sunflower seeds, of the imperfection of us all.
            The angel set me down on the sidewalk, looked at me softly and whispered:  
"Vigilance is the absence of Terrorism, within and without."    Then the angel rose up and up until I could see only the sun.     A feather see-sawed down, it brushed against my cheek.   A tear formed in my eye.   And I thought about cherry tomatoes.

May 17--War Is The Absence Of Vigilance

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