Article Overview:   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?"


Sunday--November 16, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 795
A Conversation With God About Iraq, Withdrawal and Tootsie Rolls
Cliff McKenzie
   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.

Wind raged 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 boroughs.
       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 Gates.

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.
       "Welcome, Cliff!"

An angel 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.
      "Hello, Sir."
      "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.
       "Tootsie Roll?"
       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 Tootsie Roll.
       "Thank you, 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 here?"
         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 recall..."
         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 wrong thing.
         "Your doubt, Boy....your doubt.   It always brings you."
         "Doubt,!"  I wanted to bite my tongue off.    I dug my fingers in the oak.
         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 the wind?"

The angels 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 seat.
          God laughed. "Relax, Boy...I'm just trying to get to the 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, 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 arrest.
          "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 throat."      

God helped Himself to more Tootsie Rolls

         "Oh, 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 that arena."
          God laughed.  "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 even mentioned."
        "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 forward.
        "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, antsy.  
          "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 other day?"
          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?"

God reminded me that my grandson asked me how many people are murdered each year (16,000)

           I shifted my thoughts back to Matt, my seven-year-old grandson.   "Yes, I remember."
          "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 Tootsie Roll.
           "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?"
            "That's not 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.
            "Perhaps you're right, Sir...Father...Dad..."
            "It's not whose right,'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 Vigilance

          I sat 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 I did.
         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.

Nov. 15--Jessica Lynch's Father Of Vigilance Vision

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