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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
|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?"
"Call me Farmer God
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
"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.
"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
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."
understand. How this applies to torture and maiming others?"
For many, many
years America strove to be the world's moral benchmark
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
"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.
seeds are your reminders of the Shield of Vigilance"
heard his Voice calling. "I left the sunflower seeds for you.
Take them with you. They are your reminders of the Shield
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
May 17--War Is The
Absence Of Vigilance