“Do you think it will come to war?”
“Hmmm. Hard to say. A lot of random elements down there.”
Allah turned His head to look at God, who was dangling His feet over the edge of a cloud.
“You know, for an omniscient being, you’re pretty vague sometimes,” said Allah. “I wonder if you really do know what’s going to happen.”
God smiled serenely, and Allah laughed. “Okay, what? I know that look – spill.” God looked down at His toes and shrugged. “It’s not what you think. I know as much about the outcome of this whole thing as you do. I just don’t like to think about it, so I try not to.”
“I hear you. Every time I get word of some of my supposed followers slaughtering and destroying in my name, it just makes me nuts. How so many people can take a basic guidebook like the Quran and misread it so badly…if I hadn’t told them I’d never put out another revision, I’d put out another revision.”
“I haven’t had much better luck with the Bible. The way some of these people get it into their mean little heads that I’m telling them to commit all these atrocities – and it’s not just the big stuff either. They lie because of it, persecute each other because of it, shut themselves off from the world because of it…makes me think we should have found some better writers.”
Allah nodded, and He stared with God at the emerald globe spinning beneath them.
“Kind of makes me miss the old days, a little,” said God. “Simpler times. If they wanted to destroy each other, at least they really had to work at it – and I got to step in and smack them around when they got too rowdy. I haven’t done that in a really long time.”
“I loved your burning bush bit,” said Allah. “That was a classic.”
“I know!” said God. “That was my favorite bit, too. It’s a shame we can’t intervene any more, in some ways. For the best, I know, but when I hear some of these jokers – like that president fellow – going on about how I’m in his corner and all, it makes me want to give him some Divine Guidance to the head.”
“He is a little single-minded, isn’t he?” said Allah. “You’d think the people under him would stop sitting around and make him follow his own rules. But no, there they sit, wringing their hands and watching it happen. Some of them are even cheering him on, for goodness sake!”
“Don’t get me started on democracy,” said God. “It just doesn’t work when nobody pays any attention. This place is the most powerful nation around, for now anyway, but they’re content to just coast along. People figure their leaders are wise and far-sighted just because they were clever enough to get elected. They forget that cream and pond scum both rise to the top.”
“I’m not too happy with my people in the old Babylon area either,” said Allah. “I mean, how much oppression do you have to take from some small-minded power-hungry thugs before you band together and boot them out?”
“You know what really burns me up about this whole thing?” said God. “I mean, they’ve all had wars, right from the start. So you need to go to war, fine. Just have a good reason. Right a great wrong, dole out some mighty justice, you know? Protect yourselves from an actual aggressor, don’t create one to hassle your enemies then go after him when he gets bothersome. This guy is just taking every excuse he can find to start a fight, and when he can’t find enough he makes imaginary new ones. He’s pillaging his own country so he can go pillage your guy’s country.”
Allah held up His hands in mock defense. “Hey, hold on – he’s not my guy. I’d exile him myself if I could. Besides, your guy’s the one mounting another Crusade, except this time they’re going after resources instead of a Grail.”
“Another Crusade…hmm. You know what? I think you hit it on the head there. That’s exactly what this is, but without the religious relics. That is pretty sick, isn’t it?”
“You know that they’re eventually going to run out of that stuff. Why don’t you just give them fusion power and be done with it already?”
“Oh, there’s a good idea. Can you imagine how many clever new ways these little twerps would come up with to kill themselves if they had a cheap, clean, essentially unlimited source of energy? No thanks. If they figure it out on their own, so be it. Heck, I almost regret giving them fire.”
God and Allah both chuckled at that.
“So…” said Allah, “how would you handle this whole thing? What would you do differently?”
“You mean aside from sinking both continents and starting over?”
Allah smiled. “Yes, aside from that,” He said. “I mean, you and I and the others have so much time invested here…I really wouldn’t want to have to start over now, just when they’re starting to get interesting.”
“Interesting. I guess that’s one way of putting it. Self-destructive, greedy, short-sighted, zealously fixated on the mundane, willfully and belligerently ignorant of their own history…I guess that is interesting, in a gives-me-a-headache kind of way.”
“Now, now,” Allah chided, “I know you better than that. You love them as much as I do. Besides, they’re not all like that…well, okay, a lot of them are…probably more than I’d expect at this stage of development, but still. They’re curious and they’re inventive, and we both get millions of prayers every day from good-hearted people. It must be really hard to always keep one eye toward the future when you’re not sure if the world will be there tomorrow.”
God took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You’re right. All things considered, they are amazingly resilient. I just hope they’re resilient enough.”
Allah nodded. “Where were we?” asked God. “You were going to tell me what you’d do differently,” replied Allah.
“Well, the first thing I’d do is make them all learn a little history,” said God. “When they finally got their collective act together enough to start a permanent global forum, I was thrilled. It was a monumental thing. Timing couldn’t have been better, either. As soon as they realized, hey, we have the ability to destroy ourselves completely, they sobered up and set something in place to make sure that didn’t happen. In less than a century, they’ve brought nearly every country down there into their United Nations. They’ve managed to do a lot of good work with it, too.
“The ironic part, the part that makes me mad, is that they started this United Nations to make sure they’d all be protected from lone bullies – the assumption was that naturally, none of the founding members would ever be that lone bully. Now, I know, the Americans have a lot of reasons to start lashing out – they got hit hard recently, and the bad guys just disappeared. They didn’t even get a fair fight out of that one, and nobody likes that…but they act like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of the world, and they’re going to set aside everything good they’ve been building to go after shadows in the dark.”
“It doesn’t sound like you’ve got a lot of sympathy for them,” said Allah. “Remember that they’re suffering more on the inside than the outside, and that’s hard for any government to fix.”
“I do have sympathy for them – a lot of sympathy. The common man didn’t ask for this, didn’t do anything directly to provoke this, didn’t deserve this. I don’t like seeing people die before their time – never have.”
“I’m just saying,” said Allah, “because you sound pretty mad at them.”
“Let’s just say my sympathy is…measured,” said God. “You can’t live in a democracy and say ‘It’s not my fault’ when your government goes nuts and puts your whole country at risk. Ultimately, every single person down there let control of their government slip through their fingers because they stopped paying attention. The government, and by extension the people in general, created most of these problems themselves by meddling in other countries’ business. They dumped a box of asps in their neighbor’s back yard, and then they seem surprised when some of the asps come back and bite them. I don’t have any sympathy for that.”
“So you’re saying that the Americans are the lone bully in this scenario?” asked Allah.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. Not all Americans everywhere, but their leaders certainly. They agreed to follow the rules of the larger community, and now they’re breaking them. They got their pound of flesh after being attacked, and now they want five pounds, then ten, then twenty.
“Now this other guy, he’s not a good guy – but he’s not picking a fight with them. They’re picking a fight with him because they think he might pick a fight with them at some future point. ‘We’re going to give you a spanking the whole world can see,’ they say, ‘because we can tell you were thinking of doing something bad.’ How’s that for circular logic? If he wasn’t planning on doing something bad before, he will now. If he can’t, you know someone else will in his behalf. Good karma may take a while to come back around to you, but bad karma rebounds pretty quickly.
“The Americans put the whole situation in such black-and-white terms that they’ve virtually eliminated the possibility of a peaceful, diplomatic solution. They’ve broken their word to the global community, angered and confused their allies, and put their opponent’s back against the wall – all the things they accuse the other guy of doing, and they manage to keep a straight face the whole time. I bet they’ll even act surprised when they get attacked in retaliation.
“Back at home, while the wealthy few are slowly unraveling their entire economy and the social structure churns out more mind-numbing pabulum to keep the general population sedated, the leaders have managed to strip away half the rights and freedoms of their own citizens with one law – one – and the very fact that the people as a whole didn’t immediately rise up in outrage just underscores my point about not paying attention. In this scenario, the American leaders are being irrationally aggressive, toward their friends, their citizens, and their opponents. That – to me – is a bully.”
“Alright,” said Allah, “you make some very good points. I have to admit the Americans are more puzzling that usual lately. How anyone can think that less freedom makes you safer is beyond me. Less freedom means more tyranny – always has…but you still haven’t answered my question. What would you do?”
“I’d stop,” said God. “There are already people trying to solve the problems with this other country diplomatically. If the Americans truly want to help, they should take a deep breath, swallow some pride, and sit this one out until they calm down. Spend all those resources on helping the people who produced them, instead of using them to destroy thousands of lives and cause a global backlash.”
“Is that realistic, though?” asked Allah. “They’re just a few cubits away from starting the war right now – you’ve seen how many warriors they’ve taken over there. Have they passed the point of no return?”
“I suppose they might think so. Would a wise leader see a pit in the road in front of him, and lead his people into it because he was already walking that way? This leader seems to think the pit will move for him – scratch that, he thinks I’m going to move the pit for him.”
God sighed and leaned back on His hands. “I could go for some coffee. You want some coffee?”
“Sure,” said Allah. “Black, two sugars.”
An instant later, a winged seraph appeared with two large steaming mugs. The Deities each took one, and the seraph disappeared. God took a deep drink from His mug, and sighed contentedly. “Sometimes I think this is the best thing Earth has produced to date,” He said, setting the mug down beside Him. Allah blew gently on His mug, inhaled the rising steam, and nodded in agreement.
Site Contents © 2004 Robert M. Rowan