As in a tasty mix of talk

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vampire Angel Stands Her Ground

(Note: This short story was inspired by a post on my friend Laurie's blog.
it's a first draft, so I welcome critiques from writers. Most of all, I hope it strikes a chord...}

God will forgive me for choosing earth instead of heaven, but I don’t kid myself about becoming a vampire. He has no tolerance for angels who interfere with free will.

I miss heaven. But I didn’t know, when I volunteered to become a guardian angel, that loving a child can anchor a soul to earth, even one as full of light as mine used to be.

People have the wrong idea about angels. They envision us as mommies with wings, or as their own personal, cloned Virgin Marys. We’re more like data bytes, weightless and bloodless and moving to enact God’s will, not help teenagers lose weight in time for the prom or loved ones survive drive-by shootings. Although, once I did help Mikey find his dog when it dug a hole under the backyard fence so it could explore the neighborhood, and got lost three streets away. I smile every time I think of Mikey. I’m glad he’s in heaven now, although the way he died is the reason I became a vampire.

In heaven, the only emotion an angel feels is joy. You might think that, with no other emotion to counterbalance it, joy would fall victim to the law of diminishing returns and feel like nothing at all, the way the smell of orange blossoms in Florida is overwhelming when you step off the plane, but three days later is unnoticeable. That isn’t the case with celestial joy… it endures for all eternity, except for angels like me who volunteer to serve as earthly guardians.

When I arrived to look over Mikey I couldn’t feel anything at first. The absence of joy took a little getting used to. I thought he was cute, but I have to confess I wondered why he picked his nose so much. And what is it with little boys and guns? They can make them with their pointer fingers, even when they’ve never seen a real one.

It surprised me to realize that children suffer so differently from adults. They haven’t learned to judge or blame, so they assume that anything they suffer is part of them, like a finger or a knee or a daydream. Even when a child dies, it thinks the loss of life is its own doing. Mikey did.

When his father came home drunk he often beat Mikey’s mother. She was a well-meaning person, but after years of abuse from her own parents she didn’t feel any sense of outrage when her husband hit her. Still. How could she have hidden in the bedroom with a pillow over her head to muffle the sound of her son’s screams when he was beaten on the flimsiest of pretexts? His toys were on the floor. He didn’t want to eat his vegetables. He needed to toughen up because it’s a hard world with no room for loser crybabies. That’s how Mikey’s dad justified the beatings, just as his own father had justified similar abuse, and his grandfather and great-grandfather too, reducing the light of their immortal souls to the tiniest of pinpoints, leaving them at risk for slipping into a morass of antimatter. Or hell, if you prefer.

You might think I planted the idea in Mikey’s little mind that his dad didn’t really hate him, or that he was just acting out his own pain. No. There was no need for that. Mikey cried himself to sleep at night because he believed he wasn’t good enough for his dad to love him. He wondered what was wrong with him, and why he couldn’t figure out how to be better. So I only gave him comfort. I filled his little body with a sense of peace so he could fall asleep, and whispered that God loved him. After a while I began to whisper that I loved him too, because I did. I couldn’t help myself.

I knew the father hated himself more and more each time he beat his child. But not enough to stop doing it. Ironic, don’t you think, since Mikey loved his father with an innocence that would have healed him from the deprivation of his own loveless childhood, if only he hadn’t become too hardened to feel it?

Mikey was beaten to death with his father's leather belt.

Not even an angel can witness such a tragedy without succumbing to rage. I had forgotten what it felt like, actually. Heaven opened immediately to call me back before the rage possessed me, but I was already too heavy with it to ascend. It was another angel, not me, who lifted Mikey’s soul and guided him home. I kept seeing his frail ribs through the size 3T shirt he was wearing during the beating. I kept hearing his father lie that the beating was hurting him more than Mikey. I kept seeing his mother plead, “stop, stop,” without calling the police. I didn’t want to be an angel. I didn’t want to obey the will of a God who justified evil as integral to the process of free will. I wanted only to stop this child beater from hurting anyone else ever again.

While the ambulance was on its way, after Mikey had stopped breathing, I gathered my wings around Mikey’s father before he could pretend to himself that he hadn’t hit his son all that hard, or ask himself how else he could teach his son right from wrong, or claim it was an accident. I sucked all of his psychological defenses from him. Drained him dry. Feasted on them. With nothing to protect him from his past he remembered, for the first time in his adult life, how he felt when he was beaten as a child. He collapsed. By the time the paramedics reported his confession to the police, he was so broken I knew he would never again hurt a child.

See what I mean? I interfered with free will. The dad was supposed to grasp the futility of deflecting pain by imposing it on others, thereby healing his soul through his own efforts. I prevented that. I became a soul vampire.

There are many parents like Mikey’s. Men aren’t the only abusers… far from it. And for every parent who would steal a child’s capacity to love and be loved in return, who would destroy the trust that nourishes humanity, there is now a vampire angel who lays in wait. When I can, I drain away their numb ignorance in time to save the abusers as well as the children. But that isn’t always possible.

I wish I had faith that God won’t abandon me. But in a way, he abandons humans to their own free wills, don’t you think? Odd, when he could prevent so much pain by placing life within a more orderly paradigm. I just don’t get it. Meanwhile, as I stand my ground He keeps sending me the same message, over and over:

“On earth as it is in heaven.”

Right. Until then, I prey on parents who create hell on earth.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

You Put Your Left Foot In, You Put Your Right Foot Out...

“President Obama has moved alarmingly Right of Center, making decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan that render him little more than Bush Lite.” –The Disappointed Left


“President Obama has moved alarmingly Left of Center with his Economic Stimulus Plan, revealing himself as a Trojan Horse Socialist.” – The Hysterical Right

As Obama’s new administration moves forward, there is so much shouting about the Right, the Left, the In and the Out that one might think Washington politicos were doing that silly, 1940s dance, The Hokey Pokey.

It’s understandable when ultra-conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and his ditto-head minions kick and scream over every move Obama makes. He is the charismatic man of color who outmaneuvered their WASP candidate, persuading Americans to vote for a bold new direction that Rush can’t find with the help of Mapquest, much less understand or engage.

Neither is it surprising, albeit sad, that Republican denial over the extent of their defeat in the last two elections further alienates the electorate that rejected them.

Most of all, though, it is thrilling how much creative debate is generated when a President operates out in the open instead of behind locked doors marked, “Keep Out.” Putting our Left foot in and our Right foot out as we dance the political Hokey-Pokey is exactly what we should be doing… legitimate dissent, debate and compromise are pillars of our Democracy, on par with the Pursuit of Happiness, All Men are Created Equal, and Every Vote Counts.

What, then, is the Left’s objection to Obama?

We should not ignore the sincere anguish of anti-war antagonists who cannot abide one more wartime loss of life, nor accept silence from the White House in response to the absurd Pentagon claim that Guantánamo Bay meets humanitarian standards laid out in the Geneva Conventions. Neither should we deny permission to human rights groups such as the ACLU to independently review conditions at Guantánamo Bay. These and similar issues are valid, and should be heard and addressed.

But there are some members of the Left whose sense of unease over Obama’s Presidency borders on mysticism. A case in point is the blogosphere claim by Doug Page at Dissident Voice that “Obamamania,” or unexamined enthusiasm for and support of the President, is the result of “the false myth of redemptive violence.” Page goes on to explain that…

“Our childhood TV shows, our comic books, many of our movies and our foreign policy are all founded on the false myth of redemptive violence. It promises to redeem, to restore order, law, peace and democracy, but it never does. This myth appears in The Lone Ranger, Batman, Superman, Cowboy Westerns, James Bond movies, TV games, modern adult movies and popular TV shows, and in our foreign policy and CIA. (How Doug makes the leap from Batman to the CIA is unclear, at least to this reader.) He continues… “No cooperation, community effort on our part or democracy is required… The good guys always win.”

In other words, Doug doesn’t like it that we suspend criticism of Presidents we like, or who we think support our views, because it “doesn’t seem necessary” to hold good guys accountable.

OK, then, Doug. Articulate what you don’t like about Good-Guy Obama’s views and we will listen, evaluate, and decide if we agree or disagree with you. By the way, we don’t need complex theories to persuade us that this is a good thing to do.

Another disturbing aspect of dissent from the Left is the odd assertion that we are making too much of racism, that it no longer suppresses the upward mobility of blacks. On a recent broadcast of the Bill Moyers Journal, black political commentator and linguistics scholar John McWhorter said, “…the fact of the matter is that when you look at the problems that the black community has, tracing them to racism has gotten so abstract that really I don't see and maybe I'm missing something. But I don't see how we could convince a significant proportion of the American population that racism was the main issue anymore.”

Really? What neighborhood does John McWhorter live in? It certainly isn’t in Prospect, Kentucky or Pacoima, California, where racist views from both sides are as heavy a burden on progress and mobility as a “Colored Only” sign.

I wonder if Mr. McWhorter has heard of the false myth of redemptive violence. It sounds like he just doesn’t want to believe that bigotry still exists in good-guy America.

Or is it that, below the surface of squeaky-clean Liberalism there is a current of unacknowledged racial mistrust? Because, with no disrespect to Bill Moyers, I find it less interesting that a black social commentator dismisses the notion that racism remains an issue than that a white program host considers it "thought provoking" to feature his views.

Meanwhile, as feet and hands and hips and elbows are put in and taken out in that dance of the Right and Left known as the Hokey-Pokey, there is one thing about Obama on which we can agree: he does, indeed, do it with “style and grace.”

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Go Johnny Go!

Our friend Johnny, who helped many readers of this blog understand the feelings of gay neighbors, co-workers and loved ones during the Prop 8 debate, has been awarded a unique honor:

He will sing “It’s About Love,” the song he composed to express his feelings about discrimination, at the Eve of Justice candlelight vigil on the courthouse steps in San Francisco. The vigil will be held on Wednesday, March 4… the day before the California Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the validity of Prop 8. Johnny’s performance will follow a speech by Gloria Allred, discrimination attorney and feminist lawyer, and is likely to be televised on C-Span.

There will be similar Eve of Justice events throughout California (visit their website for locations). The purpose of these events is: “… to stand together and send a unified message to our fellow Californians, including the Supreme Court Justices, that individual liberties like the right to marry are guaranteed by the Constitution to everyone and cannot be stripped away at the ballot box by a bare majority. Just as important, we will give our love and support to all the families headed by same-sex couples who are threatened by the recent electoral outcome, as well as same-sex couples whose hopes and dreams of marriage and family have been frustrated by enactment of Prop 8.”

Congratulations, Johnny… You go!