Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Jesus and the Dead Presidents

He reflected on his father’s orders as he walked down the billowy path.

“Things are out of control down there,” his Father boomed. “Go, choose one to return and straighten things out.”

He absolutely hated going to that room. Some of the occupants were pleasant. Others were enlightened and wise. But most were just so, so … full of themselves. Even here, in this perfect place.

The atmosphere in that place was not at all like his favorite spot, the room of “Peace and Philosophy.” The many years he’d spent there, discussing everything (and nothing) with Plato, Sojourner, Confucius, Gandhi, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Einstein, Curie, King, Teresa and the other “Wise Ones” passed like hours.

Even the crude “Room of Comedy” was far better than that other room, Jesus thought to himself, recalling how the room had livened since Pryor’s arrival. Why, just the other night, he’d helplessly spit a mouthful of wine on Peter and Paul while laughing at Foxx, Hope, Belushi, Skelton, Bruce and Pryor as they engaged in something they kept calling “the Dozens.”

He could already hear quarreling despite the fact that he was yards from the dreaded room. No doubt, some of them were engaged in their usual debate over the same meaningless matters.

He had begged his father not to give these souls their own quarters. After all, on Earth, they were of the same hue and from the same country. How could they possibly attain a higher, more enlightened status if they mingled just amongst themselves? Jesus had asked his Father.

But, no, Yahweh, still very much in favor of “free will” (despite the whole Adam and Eve fiasco), didn’t interfere. When the boisterous ones of the group pleaded for special quarters, his Father granted their wishes.

“Perhaps they’ll learn from each other’s mistakes,” God had told Jesus.

Jesus looked up at the sign hanging above their garish door:

“The White House II,” they’d named it.

“As if that matters here,” Jesus muttered, shaking his head.

“It makes ‘em feel important,” a quiet voice responded. “That’s all that matters to them.”

Jesus, smiled, instantly recognizing the voice of a frequent visitor to the room of “Peace and Philosophy.” He was relieved to find his old friend outside, playfully arranging and rearranging stars.

Perhaps he wouldn’t have to step foot into the ghastly “White House” room after all, Jesus thought with relief.

“Abe,” he gushed. “So good to see you. I need you. Things are in total disarray down below. Allah asked me to choose the most qualified to straighten things out. You’re the perfect ….”

“No,” Lincoln interrupted. “I did my best, Jesus. Really, I did. But things are still the same. One party thinking they’re better than the other. Whites thinking they’re better than blacks and countrymen thinking they’re better than the whole darn world. It’ll take a better man than me to fix what’s going on down there …

“Please, choose someone else,” the lanky, bearded gentleman exclaimed.

“I understand,” Jesus answered, placing his hand on Abe’s shoulder before turning toward the door, which obediently swung open.

The bickering was even louder and more chaotic inside the room. These souls argued daily and loudly about who had had the best, strongest, most expansive, most effective foreign policy, war strategy, domestic agenda or social reform policies. They hadn’t even noticed the Son of God in their midst … until he shouted.

“I NEED ONE OF YOU TO GO BACK AND STRAIGHTEN OUT YOUR COUNTRY!” Jesus yelled through cupped hands.

All heads turned first toward Jesus, then to the balding, pudgy statesman who stood, grabbed his feathered hat and sword and strode slowly toward Jesus.

“I’ve been awaiting your orders, Commander,” Washington said, saluting.

“Once we climbed back in bed with the Brits, chaos was sure to follow. It’s not our fault, you know,” Washington whispered. “It’s the Brits – you can’t trust them.”

America’s first president paused to fasten his red battle vest.

“It’s all part of that Cheshire cat Tony Blair’s little plan to get his grubby little paws around the throats of our broken and battle-tired country. It won’t happen, I tell you. I won’t allow it!”

Teddy Roosevelt pushed Washington aside like a rag doll. “Balderdash,” he shouted. The other presidents parted as Teddy lunged through the crowd, swinging a big wooden stick.

“I’ll go. The world needs a real rough rider, not a mumbling, illiterate pretend cowboy,” Roosevelt thundered. “Give me another swing at it, Jesus. I’ll straighten it out. Real quick like.”

“No, that’s okay … really,” Jesus replied, scanning the room of souls. His eyes rested on a shivering ghost, crouched in a far off corner, cramming jellybeans in his mouth.

“You, there, Ronald. Won’t you go?”

The former actor’s eyes widened. His skin grew pale. “Well … uh … I… c-can’t,” Reagan stammered. “Those, those men … Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Baker … they scared the bejeebies out of me when I was there. Their empire is even stronger now. Please don’t make me … I -I just can’t face them again. I - I won’t go back, not now … n-not now.”

Richard Nixon stepped up.

“I’m your man, Jesus!” he said dressing his hair with a spit-soaked comb.

“My old party is in control. And GOD … oops … oh … I’m sorry … but haven’t you heard? They’ve LEGALIZED wire-tapping. I was just before my time, you know. Today’s scene is my scene. Please, Lord, send me. Send me.”

“Err ... No,” Jesus replied curtly, turning his back on Nixon.

He briefly glanced at Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. Both souls dropped their eyes. Jesus knew their hearts. Both were sickened by the acts of man. His Apostles Matthew, Luke and John had told him of the men’s anguished pleas for forgiveness. Truman’s nightmares of the atomic bombs and those charred bodies haunted him still, even now … even in heaven.

Andrew Jackson sat shuffling a deck of cards at a nearby table. When their eyes met, Jackson gave the Son of God a knowing smile. Jesus read his silent thoughts. They angered him.

“No, Andrew! It is out of the question!” Jesus bellowed.

“My Lord, forgive me,” Jackson whispered, “but … but, who else?”

“No, Andrew,” Jesus protested weakly, anticipating the seventh president’s thoughts.

“Great One,” Jackson continued gingerly, “some of us have learned many things here. We know the folly of war and the foolishness of greed and power. But the weapon used now … the tool that motivates the madness, manipulates their fears, unites the uninformed and inspires this chaos is much greater than all of us who call this room home.”

“And what is this all-powerful weapon?” Jesus snapped, already knowing the answer.

“It is You, Great One. They use … YOU … as their weapon,” Jackson replied.

“ENOUGH!” Jesus shouted, rushing out of the room.

How desperately he wanted to dwell quietly in the room of “Peace and Philosophy.” He longed to detour to the “Room of Comedy” – if only to blot out his memories with laughter.

Instead, he walked into the House of Jehovah.

“Well?” God asked his son.

“These men in the White House … Father … They are of no use to us …”

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