Conversations With God About The Terrorism Of Democracy
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Conversations With God About The Terrorism Of Democracy
“So, you’re back so soon!” God gave me that knowing look of his as I settled down in the wooden chair. It wasn’t comfortable, but what was when you talked with God.
“Yes, Sir...I mean, Buddy.”
“Hmmmm...you're a quick study, Cliff. That’s good. I like that. What’s on your mind..." He leaned forward and gave me a goading smile..."or do you think I know every thought you think?”
God chuckled, leaned back and popped a can of Diet Pepsi. I thought it strange, but then who was I to ask God why he was drinking a soda, or, why lemmings jumped off cliff’s, or how long I had to live before I died?
“You want a Diet Pepsi, Cliff?”
“No thank you....” I bit my tongue on the word “Sir,” finding it hard to use the word “Buddy” as God had requested of me during the last visit.
“You drink Diet Pepsi, Cliff?’
“Never tried it.” He gulped down the remainder of the can, his Adam’s apple jiggling as he consumed the last of the liquid. I thought it ironic I called God’s Adam’s Apple by that name--after all, he Created Adam and Apples. Strange word, “Adam’s Apple,” I thought. Maybe I would ask him where it came from as I had no idea of its source.
“What’s on your mind?”
“I was worried all day...don’t know why specifically...took my grandkids with my wife to the Columbus Day Parade....but I didn’t feel very patriotic.”
“Thinking about the senseless bombing of innocent people, huh, Cliff. Worrying about the world again?”
“Maybe...not so much worrying...just confused about how a little Voice like mine could be heard over the roar of government...over the acts of war we are carrying out without much authority...legal authority.”
“It’s not a legal war, Cliff. It’s a Holy War.”
God opened another Diet Pepsi. As he popped the tab, the Angels fluttered, swung their heads in quick alert, then, realizing it was nothing, went back to scanning the earth below.
“The U.S. is in a Holy War?”
“Of course.” God swigged hard on the can, draining it. He let out a large belch. I felt the rush of his breath shove me back against the chair, and echo of his burp thunder through the Heavens. His breath was sweet, fresh, like the smell of a bed of daisies.
“War gives me an incredible thirst, Cliff. Sorry about that belch. I love it. The feeling of a belch. It is so satisfying.”
“Holy War, sir.....er...Buddy....? Can you help me out on that one?”
“Well, perhaps. Your country was morally attacked. It was insulted, its security raped, beaten. The innocent murdered. The Terrorists shattered the glass house you live in. People in America are morally wounded. Six thousand deaths are so meager compared to so many other nation’s deaths--but America has magnified those deaths into a moral outrage. So they allow the government to attack on moral grounds, not true legal ones, ones representing your opinion. You didn’t expect Congress to ask the people to vote on war, or did you?”
God leaned forward and raised one of his silver eyebrows speculatively.
“I didn’t think we would just abdicate our right to see all the evidence first. It seems unjust to the principles of a democracy--a republic--to let its leaders engage in a full war without checks and balances.”
“Welcome to the real world, Cliff. You are now a dictatorship disguised as a democracy.”
‘I don’t understand that, God. Why would you be so harsh as to say that?” I gripped my chair. I hadn’t expected my question to be answered in such an extreme way as God using the word “dictatorship” to describe America’s government.
“Dictatorships don’t ask their people for permission to act. They act first and then, if they get around to it, maybe pretend to ask. Every life being taken or risked is being taken by a dictatorship of moral indignation. There is no strategic value in killing Terrorists. They own no land. They have no assets to conquer, no towns to rule, no fields to confiscate, no people to enslave or liberate. They are mere puffs of poison spitting venom on all the Principles of Democracy, shattering your Constitution. They are laughing now as the Constitution burns, only no one can see it or smell it, because you are full of hate and anger and revenge--and have given the power of dictatorship over to the government without a single whimper.”
I gripped the chair.
“You seem amused by it all.”
“My apologies, Cliff. I find nothing humorous about it. I find it so ironic. Your country’s principles are being Terrorized behind your back, and all the people can think about is killing bin Laden and all his friends, and all his children. To achieve his death, one man’s death, you are willing to sacrifice hundreds of years of rights and privileges for your blood. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth--but, the real revenge is the destruction of Freedom, the destruction of your children’s democracy. They now live in a despotic state that can attack any country with about any weapon in the guise of the Holy War. I think you call it the Presidential Emergency Act or something like that. You empower your President to kill in your name without representative permission. You've been doing it for a while. Korea. The Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution for Vietnam. The Gulf War. You've slipped away from having a Voice in use of your country's sword, Cliff. Of course, government, your leaders, all use the 'clear and present danger' threat, and the fact the President is the Commander-In-Chief. All they need to do is tell you--the citizens--that they have evidence that shows the Terrorists are acting in concert with X or Y or Z and you’ll just nod your heads and let American troops and equipment kill and ravage without checks and balances. And throw tons of money at it without blinking an eye, or seeking some other options. Did you sign off on the attacks, Cliff? Did anyone call you and ask your opinion?”
God's mouth twitched as he studied me, waiting my response.
“All the government did was poll opinion in the heat of the attack. They found a huge majority of people seeking revenge--and why not? Revenge is human nature. Reconciliation is God's nature." He pointed to Himself. "Your President went on national television and declared war. His authority was a television camera lens. Americans just sat in their homes and nodded. They gave up their rights right then. Or did I miss something? Did your Congress vote yea or nay for war, Cliff, and caught me flipping channels so I missed it?”
“I couldn’t say, Sir...I mean..” God cut me short.
“That’s Okay, Cliff. Call me ‘Sir,’ or ‘God,’ or ‘Your Majesty,’ or whatever you’re comfortable with. I get tired of correcting you...not irritated tired, just physically tired....I respect your respect, son. Okay?”
God looked quizzically for a minute, then slapped his knee. “George, after George Burns. Clever. I knew I liked something about you, Cliff. Quick wit. Yeah, let’s not let these talks get too serious. It put too much weight on everyone’s shoulders.”
“I agree, Sir. But, I’m a little shaken by this dictatorship statement. It seems...so...harsh...so foreign to me.”
“Just follow the money, Cliff. Isn’t that how you find the seat of power? Where is the money. It’s in the military’s pocket today. And will be tomorrow. When you fund the guns and starve the butter production, you have a dictatorship. Here’s your President....ruling the world with America’s military might....terrorizing all the third-world, and the second world, and the first world. You have amassed this huge wave of world sympathy that has allowed your national leaders to become Kings, Monarchs, taking it upon themselves, without due recourse to the people, to act in the name of indignation--pure, unadulterated, indignation. All bin Laden did was urinate on America. He lifted his leg and, pardon this expression, he pissed all over your Constitution...Unfortunately, he killed six-thousand innocent people in the process. That was indeed a tragedy. I do not mean to limit my sadness or pain regarding their deaths in this example, Cliff. Please do not think I minimize a single death. I don't. But your leaders fell for bin Laden's ploy. Hell, he wasn’t Terrorizing the World Trade Center, he was Terrorizing Democracy, Cliff. He went for the roots of your system of Freedom. He soiled them. He putrefied them by bringing down two buildings and killing six-thousand innocent people. That was a sham, Cliff. Think about it. His attack gave your government what they have always wanted--unprecedented power to wage war on anyone or anything without permission. Isn’t that the ultimate of dictatorship? Isn't it having unlimited power the people cannot question?”
My mouth went dry. I felt the hair on my neck stiffen. “May I have a Pepsi?”
“Sure.” God popped it open and handed it to me. His eyes softened. “Sorry, didn’t mean to hit you so hard in the gut with that one, Cliff. But maybe today you weren’t feeling so patriotic because you realized your flag--your symbol of democracy--was all blurred at the moment. That maybe the right to kill anyone and anything by your government wasn’t worth saluting today. Maybe you were realizing that every bomb and bullet that drives into the Middle East is another punctuation point that America is an Evil state, and that anyone who was riding the fence in those countries will now side with bin Laden, will agree that America is a giant monster, full of people who want to kill and murder their innocent, their helpless--as bin Laden claimed they would. Maybe you realize you are breeding more Terrorists in the wombs of mothers who will never forget the death and destruction rained upon them by America--who will kill far more than six-thousand in return for their losses. Was that kind of what was going on in your mind?”
“I’d hate to think that, Sir.”
“Well, you should. After all, aren’t you supposed to be the author of Semper Vigilantes?”
“I guess. Yes.”
“Well, here you are. Sitting before Almighty Powerful God, nervous because you don’t want to admit what’s happening. You’re feeling the pain of Complacency, Cliff. You know the people of America had no Voice in this action. You know the government pulled the trigger so fast no once could speak up--present other options--perhaps let the people of America send a plea from the mothers and fathers of the lost victims to the mothers and fathers of bin Laden's land. But that would take the power out of government's hand. It would have melted the bullets. It’s terrible, isn’t it, to know how wrong right can be?”
I gulped down a swig of the carbonated Pepsi. It soothed the burning in my throat.
“How wrong right can be? What do you mean?”
“The Holy War, Cliff. The sword of Justice being wielded now against a guy who, in some ways, only committed a minor traffic violation compared to guys like Hitler or Genghis Khan, or that Nkrumah fellow in Africa or Idi Amin, or a thousand other butchers I could rattle off if I could remember all their names. They took power and misused it in the name of righteousness. Even your hero, old Winston Churchill, let his ego get so swelled he sent English troops in World War I to attack the enemy as Napoleon had, just to show how powerful he was. All his troops got wiped out. And old Winnie had to write his apologies for the misuse of power, and how his arrogance killed so many. The people forgave him. They elected him Prime Minister in World War II--partly on the grounds he realized his mistakes. He learned how wrong right could be. Lyndon Johnson learned it the hard way. It killed him in the end.”
“So you think we’re wrong?”
“Despite all the bullcrap you hear, Cliff, I never judge anyone. I watch people exercise Free Will. I watch with great pain and sadness, as I am now. I watch with great tears in my eyes. It is always painful to see your children make such huge mistakes, veer off the path, crash headlong into brick walls. But, as a parent, I can only be there when MY children ask me for advice. As you are doing now. George W. hasn’t opted to sit in that chair. He hasn’t the foggiest what he’s doing. His mother knows though. She knows. Like bin Laden's mother knew. Hell, the creep called his mother and told her to stand by--he was about to drive the sword through the Constitution of the Unified States, about to set into motion the circumvention of Freedom. He was about to Terrorize democracy. Bin Laden's just a little boy with lots of terrible toys. But he had to brag to his mom about it. I doubt if President Bush's mother jumped up with joy about her son doing the same to bin Laden as bin Laden did to us. Seems that only adds fuel to the Terrorists' fires. I don't think George Double You--isn't that how they say it--realizes what he's doing.
“What is he doing?” I leaned over the, cupped my hands, and rested my chin in them.
“He’s destroying the Constitution of the Unified States. He’s embossing bin Laden’s face right in the middle of it. It was only time before it happened. He’s not at fault solely. Look at the freedoms that have been slipping here and there, over the years. Now, you have the government creating Home Militia forces. Remember the British. Taking housing in the colonist homes. Forcing communities to become more afraid to the guard at that the door than the enemy without? This Home Militia deal is bin Laden's prime treasure. It's like the Home Militia was bin Laden's idea, and he wanted to destroy your First and Fourth Amendment rights and privileges. God, Cliff, the government has painted on the wall the words--We’re Going To Take Your Rights Away And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It But Agree Or Become A Terrorist Sympathizer!” That's pretty heavy. And who did it? Bin Laden made it happen. He turned a nation of hard-working, productive people into citizens of internal Terrorism virtually overnight. Now, you are prisoners of your government, Cliff. They are marching into the communities of Amerce, taking over the policing of your rights--and more are to come. All over the blowing up of a building! Think about the devastation to your rights? Think how happy bin Laden is right now as Bush announced the Home Militia cabinet post. Why, he probably jumped with joy.
I drained the Pepsi. It all seemed so simple when God explained it. Yet so absurd. So far distant from anything I could imagine in a movie or novel.
“Go ahead and belch if you want, Cliff. It’s fine with me.”
“No, that’s Okay.”
“I’ve seen people rise to glory and fall so many times, Cliff. Think of all the great civilizations I’ve seen reach their peaks of glory and then watched them crumble into rubble as your World Trade Center symbol of power and might did. Rome. Greece. Egypt. Africa. Asia. China. The Incas. So many great powers rising and falling for so long a time. I had hoped America would prove to be the stabilizing force of peace in the world, Cliff. Frankly, I didn't want to accept that history would repeat itself as it has. What seem so unfathomable and surprising to you--is just another page in history to me. So if I seem indolent about it all, it’s not that I don’t care....I do...I really do...but I can’t stop it...you can...others like you can...but not ME....I hope you didn’t come here to ask ME to stop anything, because I can’t. I told you before I locked out the program to change human beings’ Free Will, and to change Lucifer, the Evil one who is bin Laden incarnate.”
“Then you agree bin Laden is Evil!”
“Of course. He’s just as evil as the parent who abuses his child, no more, or no less. The parents who beat children physically, or emotionally destroy them. Some do it with hateful words, or or by molestation, or some just depreciate them, use them as tools of their propaganda and hatred. Bin Laden is just as Evil as they, Cliff. No more and no less. I’ve always been amazed at how human beings try to rank Evil, as greater or lesser. All greater Evil is, is the sum of lesser Evils. Why should the parent who abuses a child, who kills the child's sense of Good and Trust and Hope and Faith, be any less guilty of Terrorist acts against America's future security than bin Laden. But you don't send F-14's or B-52's after these people. In fact, you try and protect them, at least their rights, and give them every chance of restoring their goodness.
"Such abusers, Terrorists of children, have rights in America. Even though they are maiming and destroying America's single greatest asset--a child--no one runs out and slams them up against the wall and kills them. An indictment must be issued, a trial set, a jury or judge appointed to provide protection for the Evil one’s rights. And then evidence must be presented within the scope of the law, and the law must be Constitutionally sound or it will be stricken down on appeal. And then the jury deliberates to the rule of law, upon which your Democracy is based. And its verdict is issued. And such verdict can nullify an unjust law, as your famous trial with Peter Zenger proved when he fought for the right to print anything he wanted in his newspaper against the government back just before the Revolutionary War.
"And then, and only then, depending on that verdict, punishment is meted out. Or, an acquittal granted. Under your democracy, you give everyone the right to present their One Percent Good, to see if it will overpower the Minus One Percent in the indictment. If it does, you set them free. If it doesn’t, you justly punish them. But if you take a quick look at what is going on, Evil is being judged and juried and convicted by your President--one man, in concert with other men and a couple of women, wield the power of death over your Constitutional Rights. They have acted without a single Voice of dissent--at least, not one that anyone will listen to. Even Castro is applauding. He has held onto his dictatorship long enough to see America become one. Now, he can die in peace.”
I shook my head, dazed by it all. I tried to speak, but my lips trembled.
“Take it easy, Cliff. It’s not that bad. Yet. But it will get worse. Unless you and others take action. That’s what you came here for, isn’t it. A pep talk. Get old God to rah-rah you so you don't feel like some useless diet that doesn't work--only makes you want to eat more?” God patted his pouch, perhaps to lighten the air that hung heavily around me.
“I honestly don’t know, God. I really don’t. How could I possibly have any impact on the preservation of democracy, if what you say is true...if we are in the midst of losing our sense of Freedom, our rights. How could I possibly change anything?”
“You doubt God’s ability to coach you!”
God stood up and threw back his shoulders and thumped his chest like King Kong. His brows scrunched angrily. The Angels flapped their wings furiously overhead, glaring at me. Then God laughed uproariously, holding his belly as Santa might after pulling a joke on one of his elves.
“Just screwing around with you, Cliff. Like in that movie with that girl...'What's The Matter With...' Ah, I can't remember all those titles...Just screwing around with you, Cliff... Just seeing if you were alive.”
I loosened the death grip I had on the chair’s arms. “Got another Pepsi?” God sat down, still chuckling. Loose Angels’ feathers fluttered all about. He didn't respond right away to my request.
“I like to rile them--the Angels--they don’t get enough exercise.” He popped another can open for me and patted my shoulder as he placed the cool can in my shaking, sweating hand. “Cliff, just before you came to visit me you were typing away at Starbucks tonight on Astor Place, out in the cold, remember?”
“And this street person came up to you and asked you for a cigarette, and you gave him one, remember?”
“And he started to talk to you, and you listened to him, recall that?”
My head bobbed affirmatively.
“He told you his name was Paddy McGuire, and he said he had this calling to defend defenseless women and children on the streets. And he used to be with the Irish mafia. But now, he had seen the Light and he would die, give up his life on the streets, to fight anyone who tried to hurt the women and children-- remember that?”
“And he told you it was his cause, his mission, his act of reparation to do this...to make up for being a bad guy all his life. And that he had come to Christ--that he had been reborn to find this cause. He told you he wasn’t a bad guy any more. He was now a good guy--a street defender--Captain Right over Wrong--remember his conversation?”
“Yes, it was just before I came up here to see you. I recall it well. The guy was maybe forty, young for a street person. Something about him. Yes.”
“And he told you about how he drank booze, and that he was drunk right then, but he didn’t do drugs. Well, maybe a little joint now and then, he said, but no real drugs." I nodded again. "And he went on to say he could have been somebody important--a contender--like Stanley Kowalski in the Streetcar Named Desire. Remember the passion he spoke of as related to you what he could have been?”
“And he told about that girl he knew, right, who told him how proud she was of him that he could 'take a punch,' and how she admired him fighting for the rights of women and children on the streets. Then he told you about fighting people in the ring, prize fighting, and how hard it was to 'take the punch' as you fought your way inside an opponent...about how hard they hit you the closer you got. Recall that?"
“Yes. I boxed once. And I was tall. And I fought this short guy. And he got inside me and pounded me so hard. I won't forget. He knocked me out. I quit boxing after that.”
“I know. Well, then you related, didn't you? And remember Paddy's parting words to you as he leaned over the fence talking to you in the cold...he told you he liked you...and told you to not be afraid to take the punches...because he liked you...and wished you luck about taking them...and he told you to never to be afraid when they hit you harder and harder the closer you got inside them?”
“Yes. It was a strange conversation.”
“And at the end of the conversation Paddy McGuire challenged you...didn't he? He said he could answer any question you asked--deep personal questions--because he wasn’t like other people...he wasn't afraid to answer anything you asked from deep inside his private self--and he told you how most people were afraid to be honest with themselves--but he wasn’t--and he asked you to ask him any personal question....anything ...and he would answer it with Truth and Dignity...because he wasn’t afraid to take an 'emotional punch’--you remember that, Cliff?”
“I do...yes...very well...I remember it distinctly.”
“And do you recall what question you asked this stranger leaning over the fence at Starbucks on a cold night, smoking one of your nasty cigarettes?”
‘What was it?’
“I asked him nothing.”
“Because as he was talking to me, I saw the conviction in his eyes. I saw he believed deep down in what he was telling me. I believed he really would fight anyone to the death who was trying to hurt a woman or a child on the streets. So I looked at him hard and long, and told him I didn’t question his Truth. The Truth of his own self. I told him I didn’t have anything to ask because I believed he was Paddy McGuire, defender of Truth and Justice on the streets.”
“Did you really believe that?” God scrunched forward, folding his arms, his face so near mine I almost felt his nose touch my nose.
“Yes, Sir, I did.”
“Do you believe he was telling you to ‘take the punch,’ to help you not be afraid of your critics when they hammer their mighty fists into your gut and face--telling you you're a 'nobody,' a nothing but a belch in the wind? Just a feather floating in the sky. That you don't have any real credentials to fight for people's rights? That such fighting should best be left to the politicians and religious leaders--and to stay out of the ring where the professionals dance about in fancy robes of righteousness...while you're dressed in rags of the common folk, writing at Starbucks, talking to bums on the street, calling yourself the New York City Combat Correspondent like you're somebody when you're really nobody--just a fart in the wind? Do you believe that was his message to you?”
I didn’t have to think about the question. “Yes, I do.”
"And what makes you think you have that right, Cliff? To be a Voice in the wind?"
"I really don't know exactly. Just being a parent, a grandparent seems enough. Maybe I saw and participated in too much death and destruction in Vietnam. Maybe I'm sick of being Terrorized by the insanity of Complacency--of just standing by and watching the world go by--and not saying anything...not saying it to others...not beating my drum. Thomas Paine wasn't long on trusting the beltway in his day. Neither am I. And Winston Churchill said Stand For Something Or Be Nothing...I guess this is my time and place... Or, I guess I know I'm dying a little more each day, and I want to beat the drums of Freedom, maybe pound them all the way to the grave so my grandkids will know their grandfather wasn't just a bullshitter...that he was willing to risk his life--what he believes inside--for them. I guess maybe I needed to hear a drunk messenger tell me to not be a coward. To know the pain of what I'm doing, so I am not afraid when it hurts."
“Good answer, Cliff. Have you wondered who Paddy McGuire was?"
"Yes. It was like he came to me in my hour of need."
"Well, Paddy was ME, Cliff. I was just testing you. Just seeing if you were living up to your beliefs.”
“Are you kidding me?” The words just shot out.
God laughed, the kind of laugh that makes you wonder if you really believed what he just said.
“Want another Pepsi?”
“No, Sir, I have to go now. My wife has dinner waiting. Would you like to come?”
God slapped his knee. “Why, that’s the first invite I’ve had in millenniums. You tell your wife thanks, but I’ve got to keep Semper Vigilantes. I’m hoping old George W. will drop in and say hi soon. I’ve got a few things to tell him.”
“How about bin Laden? Would you let him sit here?”
“Of course,” God said. “But,” he added with a grin, “I wouldn’t offer him a Pepsi!”
As I left, I could hear God’s laugher echoing through the Heavens.... Then I thought I heard a sob...and then I felt the tears of sorrow raining on me as they cascaded toward earth, heading toward the souls of the pained, the dying, the forlorn, driving down toward the children huddled in the bottoms of their beds to hide from the bogeyman of the night, or huddled in caves in some far off land, snuggled in their parents' arms, cowering from the surgical attacks from U.S. warbirds who were unconstitutionally Terrorizing the Terrorists..
“Take The Punch!” I heard the words. “Take The Punch!” I felt the pain.