Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The haunted amusement park

First, you have to go read this. No, it isn't fun. Or funny. Or even remotely sane. But you have to. It's by a best selling science fiction author, so, you know, stop looking at me like that. Go read it.

Back? Okay. Now here's this:

The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my living room on New Year’s Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch. He had a large round pin on the front of his shirt that said, in bright red letters against a white background, THE WORLD IS MY OYSTER. Underneath, in smaller black type, I could just make out if I squinted, it also said But I hate seafood.

Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me about the future.

Being a wannabe science-fiction writer and a full time smart ass, I said, “Okay. So, does Hiro save the cute red headed waitress on Heroes, or what?”

The stranger looked baffled. Then enraged. Then perplexed. Then offended. Then bewildered. Then, well, frankly, a little bit tired, which I couldn't blame him for, having just put him through all that emotional turbulence. “Wait,” he started. “You’re supposed to… I’m supposed to… I... dammit, this is serious business here! Don't be such a geek.”

“Dude,” I reassured him, “Chill out. It's only a story. Sit ass down. Put feet up.”

Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”

“Heh,” I snickered. “This is so cool. See, this story is actually being written in 2006, but because it’s set in 2004, you throw out all that good topical shit and it’s, like, you know, all doo-DOO doo-DOO doo-DOO doo-DOO. I mean, seriously. I got goosebumps.”

He stared at me. “doo-DOO doo-DOO?” he asked, dubiously.

I spread my hands. “The Twilight Zone theme song,” I said, perhaps a tiny bit more insistently than was absolutely necessary.

“That didn’t sound anything like the Twilight Zone theme song,” he replied. “I mean, straight up.”

“Fuck you,” I retorted. Now I was pissed. People are always mocking the way I do the Twilight Zone theme song, and frankly, after a few years of it, you just get really tired of that shit. Like they do it so much better, right? Fuckers. “You wouldn’t know the Twilight Zone theme song if it bit you on the prickhead, you dipshit," I went on, maybe just a little bit shrilly. "What are you, you’re just some scrofulous Time Traveler I made up so I could make some labored, lame ass, completely contrived point about politics on my blog, anyway.”

“Still didn’t sound anything like the Twilight Zone theme song,” the Time Traveler insisted. “Plus, I don’t know how many times people have to tell you, the whole music thing? Doesn’t work well in text.”

“Fuck you,” I said again, even more truculently than before. “Where were we…?”

“I was proving I’m really a Time Traveler with topical references from your near future,” said the stranger. “And you were mocking me for it. Anyway. I’ll be back in a year to talk to you, once you see how all that stuff I told you pans out.”

“No, no, fuck that, I ain't waitin' no goddam year,” I snorted. “I accept that you're a Time Travler. Now sit your ass down and talk to me. C’mon. Let’s get the expository dialogue rolling, here. I ain’t got all damn day.”

He sighed. “Okay, whatever.” He sat down on the loveseat I keep trying to talk Tammy into ditching so we can get an actual sofa.

“Would you like something to drink?” I asked him. Note that I’m adding all this stuff after the first bit of dialogue by Simmons, because I think it’s bad writing to just leave dialogue hanging without something to attribute or further modify it.

“Scotch,” he said. “Single malt if you have it.”

I didn’t. I don’t drink. I know, I’m weird. “I think I’ve got some Pepsi,” I said.

The Time Traveler stared at me. “What are you,” he finally said, “some kind of pansy?”

“I like to keep as many of my brain cells alive at any given time as I can,” I advised him. I went to the fridge, came back, poured us both big plastic cups of Pepsi. “What, in your horrible post-Apocalypse future, all they have is Coke?” I shuddered. That would be a nightmare future indeed.

He sneered at me, then at the Pepsi, but finally, picked it up and took a big swig.

Our conversation ran over two hours, but the following is the gist of it. It’s not that I have a perfect memory or anything, but, you know, shit, I’m just making all this up anyway, so, what the fuck, right?

The Time Traveler wouldn’t tell me what year in the future he was from. Not even the decade or century. But the gray cord trousers and blue-gray wool tunic top he was wearing didn’t look very far-future science-fictiony or military, no Star Trekky boots or insignia, just wellworn clothes that looked like something a guy who worked with his hands a lot would wear. Although I should point out that when you’re trying to make it sound as if a character is wearing normal clothing because you're too lazy to try to make up something plausibly futuristic for a time traveler, you may want to avoid unconventional sounding words like ‘tunic’. But maybe that’s just me. Lord knows I’m not a big shot professional SF writer or anything.

“I know you can’t tell me details about the future because of time travel paradoxes,” I began. I hadn’t spent a lifetime reading and then writing SF for nothing. (Actually, come to think of it, I have. It’s been my experience that few people ever manage to get paid to read SF, and I myself have never yet managed to get paid to write it. Unless you count that CAVALIER story I sold as science fiction. Which I wouldn’t. )

“Oh, bugger time travel paradoxes,” said the Time Traveler. “They don’t exist. I could tell you anything I want to and it won’t change anything. I just choose not to tell you some things.”

I frowned at this. “I can’t believe I just wrote a nominally American character saying ‘bugger’ something. I mean, who talks like that?” It really bothered me.

“Maybe you’re trying to make me sound futuristic,” the Time Traveler offered, kind of lamely. "Maybe there's some kind of, you know, more internationally cosmopolitan flavor to the English language by the time I'm coming here from. Or something..."

“Yeah, maybe.” I shrugged. “Okay, back to the thing. Um… where were we… oh yeah. Time travel paradoxes don’t exist? But surely if I go back in time and kill my grandfather before he meets my grandmother ...”

The Time Traveler sniffed and sipped his Pepsi. “First, don’t call me Shirley. Second, would you want to kill your grandfather?” he said.

I thought about it. “Well, my grandfather was kind of a jerk…”

The Time Traveler waved his hand airily. “No. You wouldn’t go back and kill your grandfather. It just wouldn’t happen. There are no paradoxes. Accept it and move on.”

I frowned. "So this is a point that's important to the plot and we shouldn't spend a lot of time on it, just get it down and move forward," I said, finally.

"Exactly," he said. "No paradoxes. Get over it."

I shook my head. “But surely anything you tell me now about the future will change the future,” I said.

“Okay, I already told you about the Shirley thing. Don't make me do it again. Second, I gave you a raft of facts about your future a year ago as my bona fides,” said the Time Traveler. “Did it change anything? Did you save New Orleans from drowning?”

"Well," I said, holding up one finger on my right hand. "First... no, before that. First, I'm sorry, you just look a lot like a girl I used to know named Shirley. Homely, homely woman. Sorry about that. Second, if you're a time traveler from the future, why are you talking like a Mark Twain character? 'A raft of facts'? Again, who talks like that?"

"It's... colorful," the Time Traveler offered doubtfully. "Look, I didn't actually come up with this dialogue..."

"I know, I know," I said. "Okay, moving on. What are we up to..." I counted on my fingers. "Third, right. Third, no, I didn't save New Orleans from drowning. You didn't say 'Hurricane Katrina is going to hit New Orleans and kill several thousand people and put most of the city underwater except for the rich neighborhoods'. And if you had, I probably wouldn't have been able to do anything with the knowledge, and even if I could have, I wouldn't have, because, you know, then your whole 'no paradoxes' thing would be obvious bullshit, and we couldn't be sitting here having this talk, and, anyway, we didn't do the whole 'you give me topical references to prove you're really real and then come back in a year thing' anyway. Remember? I accepted that you were a time traveler and you sat down and started guzzling my Perpsi. It's still the end of 2004 here. Come on. Keep up with the narrative."

He scowled. "You're confusing me," he said plaintively. "Well, anyway, there aren't any goddam paradoxes, okay? Can we just agree on that and go ahead with this damn thing?"

"Whatever," I said. "But, say, that reminds me. You're a time traveler, right? From not all that far in the future? I mean, later on we're talking about my grandkids as if they are your contemporaries, so, I'm thinking, what, maybe fifty or sixty years or so at most, right?"

"Well, I..." The Time Traveler looked uncomfortable.

"Never mind," I said. "But here's the thing. You insist there are no paradoxes. You tell me there's stuff you won't tell me just because, you know, you're an asshole. And yet, here you are, in my living room, and you say you came back to talk about the future with me, even though I can't possibly do anything about it, and I'm thinking, jesus, this must be some seriously advanced technology they've got 40 years in the future, and it must take a buttload of power to send someone back in time five decades or so. And you're doing it just to chat? I mean, dude, what the fuck?"

He stared at me. "Okay," he finally admitted, "I actually came back for the single malt Scotch."

I stared back. "I have no single malt Scotch," I said, finally.

"Yeah, I know that now," he said sarcastically, "but the guy who wrote the original story I'm supposed to be in is, like, this big conservative, and you know they all drink like fish. I'm supposed to be like, swimming in single malt Scotch at this point."

"Conservatives do all drink like fish," I mused, rubbing my mustache thoughtfully. "I mean, you're definitely correct there. I wonder what's up with that."

The Time Traveler shrugged. "Yeah, they got big porn stashes, too. They just feel really guilty about it and keep it all on floppy discs that they hide behind the top drawer in their desk, so their wives won't stumble across it."

"Yeah," I said, nodding, "but dude, conservative porn is really boring. I mean, even the ones who are desperately fighting their own homosexual inclinations have crappy porn collections. Photoshopped celebrity shit. Fake nude tits superimposed on Mariah Carey."

"Mariah Carey," he sighed, shaking his head. "Jesus, I can't believe that woman won't give us one goddam nude shot. Just one. With jugs like that... I mean, Christ, you could paper a mid sized office complex with Madonna's nude stuff, but Carey? Forget about it."

"I know," I agreed mournfully. "But, anyway... the conservative porn is all really boring shit. Now... let's see... so, you came back in time for some hootch...?"

"No hootch in the grim n gritty post Apocalypse Muslim ruled future," he said. "I'm telling you. It would have justified the trillions of dollars we spent building the whole time displacement apparatus in the first place if I could have brought back a single 5 gallon jug of Ripple."

"Well, that's more plausible," I said. “Sorry about the whole Pepsi thing. So what do you want to talk about?”

“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between ... France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it ...”

“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.” He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, got another hit of Pepsi, and sat again. I didn't know how far in the future he was from, but apparently, people there are really, really rude. Or else he was just raised in a barn, or something.

He went on, “It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”

"Now hold on there, skippy," I said. "First, you're sitting there on my couch drinking my Pepsi, so you can try to keep a fucking civil tongue in your head. Second, you don't seem to be having any difficulty speaking about how unspeakably blind we all are. Third, we've already established, you spent a few trillion bucks coming back in time so you could scarf up some free booze, and, frankly, alcoholic time travelers don't need to give themselves airs."

He glared at me. "You're supposed to say 'You mean the War on Terrorism'."

“Oh, sorry," I said. "Okay. Wait. Let me find my place... okay, here it is. You mean the War on Terrorism?” I finished, raising my voice a little bit at the end to do a kinda-sorta Li'l Rascals squeak-tone.

“I mean the Long War with Islam,” he said, ignoring my flawless Spanky impression. “The Century War. And it’s not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over.”

"Well," I said, "don't let me keep you, if you have to get back into the battle with the Islamic Century, or whatever..."

"No, no, NO," he said, clutching his temples. "You're supposed to say..."

“I know, I know," I sighed. "Here we go. You can’t have a war with Islam. You can’t go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a ... the ... religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean ... I mean ... the very word ‘Islam’ means ‘Peace.’”

“So you kept telling yourselves,” said the Time Traveler, his voice a rich and fruity sneer now. I could tell he was really getting into this part. “But the ‘peace’ in ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission.’ You’ll find that out soon enough.”

"Time out," I said. "Hold the phone. Is Christianity a peaceful religion?"

"Uh..." He narrowed his eyes at me. "Look, you're not supposed to..."

"Just answer me," I said. "We'll get back to the original text in a sec, I promise. Christ is commonly referred to as the Prince of Peace, right? Christians are supposed to be all peaceful and turn the other cheeky and shit, right? So if the 'peace' in Islam means 'submission', what does the 'peace' in Christianity mean? Hell, what does the 'peace' in any organized religion mean? For that matter, how do you have 'peace' at all, without the vast majority submitting to some sort of authority structure? The 'peace' in EVERYthing means 'submission', dude. There is no peace in anarchy."

"Well, it..." he stammered. "I... okay. That's not my point. Look, I'm giving out with all this grim, heavy, doom-laden dialogue, and you're... I don't know..."

"Fucking it up with facts?" I offered helpfully.

"No, not that," he said angrily. "You're... I don't know what you're doing. But let's get back to the original text."

I thought of quoting John Turturro's whole don't smart me mini-soliloquy from Miller's Crossing, but the Time Traveler seemed like too much of a lame-o to get it. "Okay," I said. "Um... After Nine-eleven, we’re fighting terrorism,” I began, “not ...”

He waved me into silence. What a rude asshole. But I let him get away with it... that time.

“You were a philosophy major or minor at that podunk little college you went to long ago,” said the Time Traveler. “Do you remember what Category Error is?”

I sighed. "Yes, dickhead," I told him, "in philosophy and formal logic, Category Error is the term for having stated or defined a problem so poorly that it becomes impossible to solve that problem, through dialectic or any other means.”

The Time Traveler looked irritated. "Wait," he said. "You're doing something. That's supposed to be my line..."

"Get over it," I said. "Move it along, old man."

He paused, obviously annoyed, then said, grudgingly, “Let me give you an analogy...”

God, I hated and distrusted analogies. I said nothing.

“Let’s imagine,” said the Time Traveler, “that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.”

“That’s absurd,” I said.

“Is it?” asked the Time Traveler.

"Yeah," I said. "Actually, that's totally beyond absurd. I mean, honestly, that's just about the most fucking retarded thing I've ever heard of. Seriously, I know you conservatives all hate FDR because he was like, Social Security and Welfare and Unemployment Insurance and Federal minimum wage guy, but declaring war on aviation after Pearl Harbor? Rush Limbaugh might do that if he'd taken a lot of Percoset and mixed them with Viagra, I guess. But FDR? How do you manage to talk at all with your head so far up your ass?"

The Time Traveler's visage visibly darkened. "That you would speak of The Great Orator with such contempt," he spluttered, starting to get off the loveseat.

"Siddown," I told him. "Original text. Let's go."

He sat back down and close his eyes. "Very well... The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation ... threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.”

"Right," I said. "And now I feed you the straight line about how... where is it... okay, here it is... The planes, the Japanese planes, were just a method of attack ... a means ... it wasn’t aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If we’d declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, we’d never have ...”

I stopped. And sighed. "And now you point out that declaring war on terror is just as stupid as that, because, you know, terrorism was just a means that our real enemy used to attack us, and our real enemy is Islam, and that's what we should really have declared war on, right?"

"Well," he said, "Er... I didn't actually point that out in the original text. The original author was trying to be a tiny bit more subtle than that. But, yeah... that's the point. Declaring war on terror was stupid, when the enemy was actually..."

"Every fucking towel head, camel jockey, dune coon, and sand nigger in the world," I said helpfully.

"I wasn't going to put it like that," he said, looking rather shocked. "I mean, yeah, the enemy is Islam, but, well..."

"So, we're too politically correct to declare war on Islam," I observed dryly, "and you, from your enlightened future perspective, you, who know the absolute truth, have nothing but contempt for that. But, still, you can't come out and say what you really think, which is, if we unspeakably blind weak ass politically correct early 21st Century American faggots had just had the gumption to turn everyone on the planet wearing a turban, burka, or keffiyeh into radioactive dust, well, the world would be a Utopia now. Right?"

"I didn't put it that way," he muttered.

"No," I said, "you don't have the balls to put it that way. None of you sad dim punk ass conservative mother fuckers ever have the balls to come out and say what you really mean. It's not racial profiling, you jackasses whine, America really did get attacked by Arabs... although, when you say 'Arabs' all you really mean is 'dark skinned foreigners with comical accents who dress funny', because you couldn't tell the different between, say, a Persian and a Berber if it meant the fucking firing squad at dawn."

The Time Traveler spluttered "Well, it's the Islamic religion... the whole religion is corrupt... they're a violent culture... Good God, man, the 'peace' in 'Islam' means 'submission'..!"

"Yeah, yeah," I said, ruthlessly overriding him. "Peace in Islam means submission, got it, shut up, you're a moron. AND you're all up in arms about the idea of some frickin' Moslems building a mosque 100 yards from a school or a public park, but you're okay with the fact that you can't throw a rock in a random direction in Tampa or St. Pete without hitting a goddam Christian church of some sort."

He snorted. "Well, that's obviously different..."

"Yeah, right," I said. "And now here you are telling me we're weak and blind and stupid to declare war on a frickin' emotion instead of recognizing the real enemy, which is an entire religion you don't happen to like, but, even you can't say what you really mean, which is essentially, you want to commit religiously driven genocide against Christianity's most successful offshoot because you're not wild about the competition."

The Time Traveler looked flustered. “It... I... you're not supposed... okay." He looked around the room, as if desperate to find some way to change the subject. "What do you know about Syracuse?” he asked suddenly.

"Oh, fuck that," I said. "Fuck all that 'Thucydides’ Syracuse, Syracuse circa 415 B.C. The Syracuse Athens invaded' bullshit. I know where you're going with this. We didn't make a mistake invading Iraq, we make a mistake being pussies about it. We should have razed the entire fucking Middle East down to the sand, turned everything south of Turkey and north of the Arabian Sea, including Egypt, into a giant radioactive parking lot. We should have gone balls out, used whatever we had to, nukes, chemical weapons, viruses tailored specifically to hit the raghead genome. We should have been ruthless and merciless and absolutely unflinching in our determination to completely wipe the camel jockey blight from the face of the planet."

The Time Traveler looked really pissed now. "Well... well... well... " He stopped. "Well, you should have," he said, finally, sounding sulky. "Iraq should only have been the beginning. You had the power. If you'd had the strength of will..."

I sighed. And now we were back to the original text again. Okay. I was sick of Iraq. Everyone was sick of Iraq on New Years Eve, 2005, both Bush supporters and Bush haters. It was just an ugly mess. “They just had an election,” I said. “The Iraqi people. They dipped their fingers in purple ink and ... ”

“Yes yes,” interrupted the Time Traveler as if recalling something further back in time, and much less important, than Athens versus Syracuse. “The free elections. Purple fingers. Democracy in the Mid-East. The Palestinians are voting as well. You will see in the coming year what will become of all that.”

"Wait," I said. "So, what you're saying is, you only like democracy when the votes come out the way you think they should, right? And you're pissed because the U.S. Supreme court couldn't throw the Palestinian election to your anointed figurehead, so, you know, all democracy sucks?"

The Time Traveler drank some more Pepsi, closed his eyes for a second, and said, in a world weary tone I suspected was at least slightly affected, “Sun Tzu writes – The side that knows when to fight and when not to will take the victory. There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked, walled cities not to be assaulted.”

"Yeah?" I said. "Well, A Brown Eyed Handsome Man writes, conservative ass munch motherfuckers who want to kill everything and everyone that makes them piss their little panties should at least have the balls to enlist in the fucking Army and go try to do it themselves, instead of sending other people's kids over to do it for them, or, worse, advocating that we do it by pushing buttons that fire missiles from safe bunkers on the other side of the planet. And he also says, when conservatives beat their chests and talk fancy shit about roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked, and walled cities not to be assaulted, they always speak with authority, because the only time they even come close to doing any of that shit is when they've got a goddam GameBoy controller in their hands."

The Time Traveler looked pissy. “You’ve understood nothing I’ve said. Nothing. Athens failed in Syracuse – and doomed their democracy – not because they fought in the wrong place and at the wrong time, but because they weren’t ruthless enough. They had grown soft since their slaughter of every combat-age man and boy on the island of Melos, the enslavement of every woman and girl there... ”

"Whoa," I interrupted. "Let me get this straight. The Athenians, who at one time slaughtered every man and boy and enslaved every woman and girl in a culture they didn't like, doomed their democracy because they weren't willing to do stuff like that any more? And, you know, you're holding this up as your big example of how America should behave, and what will happen to us if we don't?"

The Time Traveler looked very aggrieved. "Hell YEAH," he said. "They're the ENEMY."

"You are fucking crazy in hearts and spades," I told him. "Seriously. All you goddam chickenhawks are. How do we save America? We slaughter men and boys, we enslave women and girls. Except that's not what you want anymore, no, you want wholesale genocide. A couple dozen lunatics drive planes into a few of our buildings, and your response is, in order for us to survive as a people, we must show the resolute will to slaughter every single person on the planet who bears even the vaguest resemblance to those couple dozen dead fruitcakes. It's a fight for survival, so, you know, we should just become completely insane monsters ourselves, and wipe out millions if not billions, because, what, the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of innocents? Is that how it goes?"

"They aren't innocent," he snarled, "they're..."

"The ENEMY, I know," I said. I was tired of this shit. "They wear funny things on their heads and their holy book is different from yours and they have comical accents and they own all the gas stations and convenience stores and most of them have darker skin than you do and it just makes you crazy that we ever let these people into the U.S. in the first place, I know, I know. Do you know? How fucking nuts you sound, I mean?"

The Time Traveler rose so quickly that I flinched back in my chair, but he only refilled his Pepsi. This time he refilled my glass as well. “I'm not nuts at all," he said, sounding just a tiny bit whiney now. “In 2006, you’ll be ripping and tearing at yourselves so fiercely that your nation – the only one on Earth actually fighting against resurgent caliphate Islam in this long struggle over the very future of civilization – will become so preoccupied with criticizing yourselves and trying to gain short-term political advantage, that you’ll all forget that there’s actually a war for your survival going on."

"Wait wait wait," I said. "Hold on a minute there. Nice shootin', Tex. Lemme get a United Nations translator on the line... uh huh... uh huh... yeah, that's what I thought... yep, the judges rule that that entire passage basically translates as 'you dumb ass motherfuckers, you voted Democratic in the 2006 midterms, and you did it so overwhelmingly that even stealing the usual 2-3% of the vote wasn't enough to keep our boys in office where they belonged, and we hate you, we hate you, we hate you forever, oh, we wish you'd all just die'."

He pointed at me furiously. "Okay, now, look, that's not what I'm talking about, but Jesus Christ, if ever there was an election that showed just how fucking effete and self indulgent and decadent Americans had become, it was the 2006 mid terms. Goddam Defeatocrats... Dhimmicrats... I can't believe you fucking people voted for those idiots. But that isn't the point I'm trying to make. What I'm saying is, there's more important things than politics, and..."

"And Democrats and independents should have known that, and kept voting for Republicans like good little sheep, because we're at war, mister, and wartime is no time for dissent, and the President needs our support, yeah, yeah, I've already sat through this particular concert about 17 times, no THANK you," I said.

"You're a pain in my ass," the Time Traveler muttered. "Look. Twenty-five years from now, every man or woman in America who wishes to vote will be required to read Thucydides on this matter. And others as well. And there are tests. If you don’t know some history, you don’t vote ... much less run for office. America’s vacation from knowing history ends very soon now ... for you, I mean. And for those few others left alive in the world who are allowed to vote.”

"Wait," I said. "Aren't you going to start telling me pretty quick about how all the surviving Americans in your horrible Muslim dominated future have to live in ghettoes and wear armbands and live under Sharia law and their lives are worth half of what a good Moslem's life is and all that good shit? But, still, they get to vote? What's up with that?"

He paused. "Okay. Not everyone has to live under sharia law. There are a still a few of us... proud remnants of true America... an embattled, surrounded island nation of free Americans who will never give up... manly, manly Americans..."

"Who all badly, badly need to get laid," I interjected.

"You have no idea," he said fervently. "But, still, yes, in the future, most surviving non-Muslims have to live horribly tortured existences. They're slaves. Slaves, I tell you."

“What the hell are you talking about?" I asked him. "Has our government taken away all our civil liberties in this awful future of yours?”

He laughed then and this time it was a deep, hearty, truly amused laugh. “Oh, yes,” he said when the laughter abated a bit. He actually wiped away tears from his one good eye. “I had almost forgotten about your fears of your, our ... civil liberties ... being abridged by our own government back in these last stupidity-allowed years of 2005 and 2006 and 2007 . Where exactly do you see this repression coming from?”

I sighed. "Where? Well, let's see. Ever hear of the PATRIOT Act? Jose Padilla? Guantanamo? Abu Ghraib? Haliburton getting a multibillion dollar contract to build detainment camps on U.S. soil? Modeled after the ones where they will still be keeping Katrina survivors sequestered, a year after the storm hit, while Haliburton (again) rebuilds New Orleans as a vast gated community for the wealthy? Free speech zones? Illegal wiretapping? Legalized torture? A President and Vice President who consistently state, and act as if, they are completely above the law? Homeland Security deputies threatening to arrest library patrons for looking at pornography on public library computers? Any of this ringing a bell with you?"

The Time Traveler laughed again, but with more edge this time. “Yes, I know,” he said. “We all know ... up there in the future which some of you will survive to see as free people. Civil liberties." He said that last as if he were biting on tinfoil, with the same tone a sane person might say something like "diarrhea" in.

I held up my hand again. "Whoa. Time out. Can I get a flag on that play, ref? Advising me that some of us will survive to see your horrible future as a free people, and then sneering at the very notion of 'civil liberties', doesn't exactly help your credibility. You see what I'm saying? 'Free people' and 'civil liberties' kind of go together. If you don't think much of 'civil liberties', I'm going to assume you don't actually represent 'free people'."

He glared. "Well, you'll be more free than if you were under sharia law. I will tell you right now, and this is not a prediction but a history lesson, some of your grandchildren will live in dhimmitude.”

As I read Sadly No and Alicublog a lot, I'd heard of 'dhimmitude'. It's a scare word they throw around on the really nutball conservative blogs a lot, like 'Islamofascism'. "Just how often do you post on Little Green Footballs?" I wondered aloud.

“Not very often, and it's not important,” said the Time Traveler, his one working eye glinting with something like fury. “Dhimmitude. You can also look up the word dhimmi, because that’s what two of your three grandchildren will be called. Dhimmis. Dhimmitude is the system of separate and subordinate laws and rules they will live under. Look up the word sharia while you’re Googling dhimmi, because that is the only law they will answer to as dhimmis, the only justice they can hope for ... they and tens and hundreds of millions more now who are worried in your time about invisible abridgements of their ‘civil liberties’ by their ‘oppressive’ American and European democratically elected governments.” He audibly sneered this last part.

I rolled my eyes. "Okay," I said. "Let me get this straight. You're seriously telling me that, in the future, hundreds of millions of people who survive from the present day, will be living horribly oppressed, enslaved, nightmare existences as 'dhimmis', by which you mean, second class citizens, under an Islamic tyranny?"

"Yes," he said, his teeth set grimly. "That is it exactly."

"But," I said, "if we had all just relaxed, and let Bush and Cheney and Rumsfield and Ashcroft tap all our phone calls, read all our email, put troops on every street corner, declare curfews and set up internment camps and arrest anyone they wanted to and hold people indefinitely without trial or try them in secret courts on secret evidence and torture information out of them, or send them to do forced labor on a whim, restrict their movements, search their homes without warrants, seize their chattels, reinstitute a military draft and debtor's prison, steal elections or straight up suspend them... if we'd gone along with all that, then global Islam could have been exterminated and the horrors of 'dhimmitude' could have been avoided and we'd all be very very happy in our wonderfully free and tolerant non-Moslem future Utopia?"

He glared at me. "You're twisting things. That's not how I put it. It isn't like that. I mean, it wouldn't have been."

I shook my head. "Say, on your planet, do the Christians have Islamic slaves who live in, I don't know, 'heathenitude', and that's okay, because we all know that all Moslems are creepy subhuman monkeys and born suicide bombers anyway?"

"Urr!" He growled in exasperation. "Look, none of those... those necessary security measures... were being done to you. All that stuff... the wiretapping, the detainments without trial, the vigorous interrogations, the secret evidence... that was all stuff that was aimed at terrorists and Moslem spies and terrorist sympathizers and traitors and like that!"

"You left out 'liberals, queers, and pinkos'," I advised him.

"Yeah, them too, but you know what? Decent right thinking patriotic Americans would have all been free!" He looked honestly aggravated that I couldn't get this. "But now, they're all living in dhimmitude. Under fucking towelheads! I mean, Jesus! Don't you see how wrong that is?"

I stopped for a moment, bemused by the thought of 'decent, right thinking patriotic Americans' living 'under fucking towelheads'. I wondered if in the horrible future my visitor came from, Sean Hannity worked as a bath boy for some guy named Abdul. Nah. Sean would kill himself first. Although I'd heard Bill O'Reilly was hell with a loofah...

"I don't know," I said, finally. "The thought of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter 69ing for an audience of masturbating Moslem males in some covert harem somewhere in conquered Detroit has a certain poetic justice to it..."

"You're disgusting," he said, rather prudishly. "Anyway, like I said, there are no paradoxes and you can't change anything. What has begun, cannot be ended."

“Wasn’t the beginning on September 11, 2001?” I asked.

The one-eyed scarred man shook his head. “Historians in my time know that it began on June 5, 1968,” he said. “But it hasn’t really begun for you yet. For any of you.”

I thought – What on earth happened on the fifth of June, 1968? I’m old enough to remember. I was in college then. Working that summer and ... Kennedy. Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. “Now on to Chicago and the nomination!” Sirhan Sirhan.

"Oh, please," I said. "Are you sure it didn't start earlier? Maybe John Wilkes Booth was really Persian or a Berber or some shit, and he changed his name to blend in better."

"Mock me if you must," the Time Traveler sniffed at me.

"Thanks," I said.

"Here are some places that will be destroyed in the very near future by this so called 'war on terror'," the Time Traveler went on. "Galveston. The Space Needle. Bank of America Plaza in Dallas. Renaissance Tower in Dallas. Bank One Center in Dallas. The Indianapolis 500 – one hour and twenty-three minutes into the race. The Bell South Building in Atlanta. The TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco ...”

“Stop,” I said. “Just stop. I mean it. You're embarrassing yourself. Really.”

“The Golden Gate Bridge,” persisted the Time Traveler. “The Guggenheim in Bilbao. The New Reichstag in Berlin. Albert Hall. Saint Paul’s Cathedral ...”

“Duuuuude,” I said. “You've lost your mind. You're saying all this stuff gets blown up by crazy ass Moslem terrorists over the next century?”

“I didn’t say in the rest of your century,” said the Time Traveler, his torn voice almost a whisper now. “I’m talking about your next fifteen years. And I’ve barely begun.”

"All right," I said, finally. "Enough of this horse shit. Let me ask you a simple question. In this horrible future that you're from, where hundreds of millions of formerly free Americans live under dhimmitude, are your Islamic rulers primarily shia... or Sunni?"

The Time Traveler looked wary. "Well... I... what was the question again?"

I shook my head in disgust. "You fucking people. Can't tell a Persian from a Berber, couldn't distinguish a shia from a Sunni unless they wore signs around their necks, and yet, you're absolutely certain that Islam is a vicious religion of universal oppression for all non-Moslems, and everybody who carries a prayer rug is an evil terrorist bastard who should be killed on sight."

He leaned forward, hands spread. "Exactly! Who cares which pew they kneel in at the mosque? They're all evil, they're all the enemy, kill them all!"

I shook my head. "That long list of places you just reeled off, that's going to get blown up in the next fifteen months... who's going to do it? How are they going to get over here? Where are they getting their munitions from? Why are they bothering?"

He looked baffled. "Well, the evil global Islamic movement... I mean, the reborn Islamic international caliphate... jesus, they're everywhere, and they have endless resources..."

I snorted. "Bullshit. There are very few Islamic Americans, or, for that matter, Moslems living and working in America, who are willing to commit terrorist acts, and you know why? Because over here, they can get jobs, they can get dates, they can get laid, and nearly all of them do. And assuming you can find enough nutjob extremist jihad believing swarthy ass Muslims to go blow up dozens of high profile American targets, how does that help them? They can't conquer us, they certainly can't impose a religious tyranny on us; they're too busy killing each other."

I paused, and held up one finger. "Let me tell you a few home truths. One -- 9/11 happened because the coalition of thugs who stole the Presidency in 2000 let it happen, so they coulud declare 'War on Terror', because dimwit Dubya wanted to be a 'wartime President', and the people who actually run him knew a frightened electorate would hold still for a lot more bullshit than we would otherwise."

"It's... that's crazy talk," the Time Traveler said, somewhat frantically. "9/11 conspiracy theories... tin foil hat stuff..."

"Yeah, yeah," I said. "Go read this. And none of that changes the fact that global Islam couldn't find its collective ass with both hands if the hijacked American government hadn't held a flashlight for them. Your fucking 'dhimmitude' is never going to happen to anyone who doesn't have the bad luck to be born under it, because, again, there is no such thing as an organized, international Islamic conspiracy, or even a movement. Even the Islamic religious fanatics that you're crapping in your diapers about cannot conquer us. For the most part, they do not want to conquer us. They simply want us to get out of the Middle East and leave them alone so they can go about their business killing each other in the style to which they have become accustomed. Of course, we can't do that because we make so much money selling their oil for them, but, still, that's what they want."

I took a breath. "Two -- the only Islamic regions that breed crazy people who become suicide bombers are those that are actually ruled by sharia law, yes. That's because there is no normal sexual outlet in those countries, and there are no economic opportunities, and it drives people, especially the men, insane. In secular Middle Eastern countries like Iraq used to be, there are few if any suicide bombers, and most people just want to get a decent job, meet someone nice, settle down, and raise some kids. They may be Islamic, or not, but that doesn't mean any more, or less, to them than the average American's religion or lack thereof means to him or her. The 'peace' in 'Islam' may mean 'submission', just like submission to a code of laws is a condition present whenever humans live together in peace anywhere, but the vast majority of Islamic people in the world who are given a chance to live in decent, peaceful, civilized cultural conditions are not murderous, not vindictive, and do not want to kill anyone."

I took another breath. "Three -- the real threat to the American people is not a relatively small, entirely disorganized non-army of crazed religious zealots from the Middle East. It is from a rather larger, much better organized coalition of crazed religious zealots who live right here in America, and who, if allowed to, would enact and enforce a religious tyranny right here in America, and throughout the world, that would make Islamic dhimmitude look like a 12 year old being grounded off TV for a week."

The Time Traveler looked as if he badly wanted to interrupt me, but I ignored him and went right on.

"And in point of fact," I continued, "the real threat is not even really from them, the actual threat is from the corporate coalitions who use those religious crazies as political stooges and stalking horses, getting them out to the polls with chants of 'gay marriage' and 'illegal immigrants' while all the time slowly and carefully getting rid of just a little bit more freedom, just a tiny bit more individual liberty, until finally, assuming we're lucky enough to not be in a detainment camp ourselves, all we do is get up every day and go to work, except on Sunday when we go to church instead, and come home and watch something distracting on TV, and we buy things and pay our taxes and vote the way we're supposed to, and we don't even notice that we can't travel anywhere any more without permission, and we haven't seen that loudmouth from down the street lately, and the cancer rates are up and we all have to wear filter masks and sunburn cream whenever we go outside and we're all taking more and more over the counter and prescription medications and we've just gotten used to the random home and car searches and maybe next year we'll have elections again if only we can turn the corner in this lousy war on terror..."

I stopped, finally, and shook my head.

“Have you read the Qur’an and learned your Sunnah?” asked the Time Traveler, sounding rather feverish now. “It would behoove you to do so. Dhimmi means ‘protection.’ And your children and grandchildren will be protected ... like cattle.”

"Yeah, yeah," I told him. "I got your 'behoove' right down here."

“Your dhimmi poll tax will be called jizya,” he went on, his voice beginning to be very shrill.“Your land tax for being an infidel, even for fellow People of the Book – Christians and Jews – will be called kharaz. Both of these taxes will be in addition to your mandatory alms – the zakat. The punishment for failure to pay, or for paying late, a punishment meted out by your local qadi, religious judge, is death by stoning or beheading.”

I couldn't help it; I snorted laughter at him. "You guys," I said. "You kill me, honest to jesus. You come back in time to tell me that the future is a totalitarian nightmare and it's all my fault. My descendents are living under Muslim rule. It's horrible, horrible. And what's your money shot? The horror of horrors? The ultimate nightmare scenario? Those terrible terrible towelheads are actually going to make you pay taxes. And what's worse, if you try to cheat on your taxes, they'll actually punish you for it! I mean, Jesus, what the fuck is up with that, huh?"

He was really pissed at me now. "This isn't really about the taxes. Not very much, I mean. That's just, you know, one example. Never mind." He took a breath himself, and then went on: "Your enemies have gathered and struck and continue to strike and you, the innocents of 2006 and beyond, fight among yourselves, chew and rip at your own bellies, blame your brothers and yourselves and your institutions of the Enlightenment – law, tolerance, science, democracy – even while your enemies grow stronger.” His voice had a very audible whine to it now.

“Oh, please," I said. "All that comes down to is, there are bad men in the world who want to hurt you, and we can protect you, but you have to do what we tell you. Fuck that."

“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” insisted the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet – the majority of you fat, sleeping, smug, infinitely stupid Americans and Europeans.”

"Maybe not," I said. "But maybe my enemy is actually he who will let a couple of nutjobs kill thousands of my fellow citizens for political gain, so he can consolidate power and turn a free country into a subtle corporate and not so subtle religious dictatorship. Maybe those fanatics who sacrifice themselves to see me and my institutions destroyed would stop doing it if my country stopped blowing their shit up, or if they had a chance to go on a date with a hottie or get a decent job. Or maybe that's all just how it seems to me, in my fat, smug, infinitely stupid American and European slumber."

He stood, trying to look dignified, but mostly just seeming really frickin' annoyed with the whole scene. “How, we wonder in my time,” he blustered belligently, “can you ignore the better part of a billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children ... or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”

"How, I wonder in my time," I said, rolling my eyes in frustration and growing anger, "can you ascribe the rantings of maybe a dozen nutjob sect leaders, and the actions of a few thousand whacked out extremists, to 'the better part of a billion people', most of whom are more interested in where they're going to get their next meal from than they are in killing anyone, much less someone on the other side of the planet from them? And insist that all of these people aren't really people at all, just evil faceless subhuman menaces that should be nuked or gassed or bombed or burned or irradiated or shot so they can't bother us any more? I do understand you. I do. But frankly, you make me ill."

“The world, as it turns out,” continued the Time Traveler, obviously trying to pretend he hadn't heard me, “is not nearly so complex a place as your liberal and gentle minds sought to make it.”

"Yeah, you dipshits like to make things simple," I allowed. "We don't like those nasty people, they make us feel threatened by dressing strangely and worshipping strange gods and overcharging us for their oil, hully gee, they must be evil! Let's kill them all! If only the ancient Athenians had just killed everybody who wasn't like them, they'd still be a viable culture today!"

“What will bring you back from this vacation from history – from history’s responsibilities and history’s burdens – that you have all so generously gifted yourselves with?" the Time Traveler exhorted me. "You peaceloving Europeans. You civil-liberties loving Americans? You Athenian invertebrates with your love of your own exalted sensibilities and your willingness to enter into a global war for civilizational survival even while you are too timid, too fearful ... too decent ... to match the ruthlessness of your enemies.”

"Dude," I said, rubbing my closed eyelids in disgust. "Stop it. Seriously. You've read STARSHIP TROOPERS way too many times."

"STARSHIP TROOPERS was a book?" the Time Traveler said, momentarily knocked off his rhythm. "Man. I'll bet it wasn't as good as the movie, though."

I snorted.

He got back to his script. “Do you want more than words?” he hectored me. “I will give you more than words. I give you eight million Jews dead in Israel – incinerated – and many more dead Jews in Eurabia and around the world. I give you the continent of Europe cast back more than five hundred years into sad pools of warring civilizations.”

“Uh,” I said, indicating the corner of his mouth. "Listen, you've got a little saliva issue going on..."

“I give you an Asian world in chaos," he went on, spittle running down his chin. I hunched further back in my chair, hoping to avoid the spray. "A Pacific rim ruled by China after the vacuum of America’s withdrawal – this nation’s full resources devoted to fighting, and possibly losing, the Century War – a South America and Mexico lost to corruption and appeasement, a resurgent Russian Empire that has reclaimed its old dominated republics and more, and a Canada split into three hateful nations.”

I squinted at him. The longer he talked, the more familiar his voice sounded.

“We were speaking about ruthlessness,” the Time Traveler went on, apparently endlessly. “If you fail to understand it at first, you learn it quickly enough in a war like the one you are allowing to come. Would you like to hear the litany of Islamic shrines and cities that will blossom in nuclear retaliatory fire in the decades to come?”

Abruptly, my front door burst open. Four young adults and a huge dog came bounding in. They hurled themselves on the Time Traveler. Some sort of melee began; I couldn't follow it clearly. In the end, though, the Time Traveler was lying in the middle of my floor, somehow entangled in a huge pile of wet industrial laundry, several old tires around him pinning his arms to his torso. The oldest of the kids who had burst in, a blonde, good looking guy with broad shoulders in a cream colored jacket, strode up to the Time Traveler, grabbed his chin -- and apparently, yanked his face off!

No -- it was some kind of rubbery, flesh colored mask. And underneath it --

"Holy shit," I said. "You're Dick Cheney!"

"Fuck you, bitch," he snarled at me. "I would have gotten away with it, too -- if it weren't for those meddling kids!"


At 3:49 PM, Blogger SuperFiancee said...

Funny stuff. But, hey, don't be hatin' on my loveseat...

At 7:06 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Ok, I'll get back to this one, loved the ending...

At 3:31 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Ok, I'm back. Still loved the Scooby-Doo ending. Scooby-Doo endings always rock.

I agree with you completely that none of that shit from the first article will ever actually happen, not in the Americas, anyway. They'd love to do it, but the technological edge and entrenched, armed citizenry make it an impossibility.

And even if you took away the citizens' guns, and gave them our technology, it still wouldn't happen. Because we're neck-deep in Revelations, and false religion, (all of it, thank God, which includes large swaths of so-called Christianity) AKA Babylon the Great, is about to have a fat wet bite taken out of its hide by the Beast, AKA the world political system.

So I don't worry about stuff like that. Their time is nearing its end. So cheer up, you're right!

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, chief. It tastes sweet on its own, and sweeter when used to wash Simmons' bile out of one's mouth. Certainly sweeter than this dissection (the last of an eight-parter) from another blogger. (See also, if you haven't already his "clarification" of the following month, which completely misses most if not all of the points you raised.) And the GWOT has even infected his writing: his book Olympos, published in 2005 according to Wikipedia, has "semiorganic warrior robots developed by a future Global Caliphate as soldiers and sent forward in time as part of the Caliphate's last gambit to eradicate Jews." I wonder if his cruciform ever itches...


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