This is a story that I have avoided telling for over four years. Finally, the guilt (and the approval ratings) have tortured me enough find the courage to speak up... and to exonerate the innocent parties -- George Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney, etc...
When I was just a wee lass, about seven or eight, I used to attend catechism classes at our local church. It was a great hulking white building up on top of a hill that looked out over the mountains and I spent most of the classes staring out of the west-facing windows towards Red Rocks. Already within me was the seed of apathy that would make one of my high school religion teachers burst into tears at conferences and tell my parents that she prayed every night for my damned, atheist soul.
That year, something very special was happening on the TV. People in tanks were riding around a vast desert. There were green shooting stars and lots of night vision goggles. American flags waved from every front porch. We were having a splendid little war. Democracy was on the march.
(Whatever "democracy" was. I didn't have much capacity for ideology back then. Still don't, I guess. But it was definitely marching. Or at least crunching? Not sure what sound tanks and hummers make on sand.)
That was also the year that I was really, really into the American Girls book series about Molly. Molly was a plucky, pigtailed ten year old who lived during World War II. She had crazy adventures: victory gardens and pranks and air raid practices and birthday parties.
Molly also had a cute little puppy. This was what I wanted most in the world. I asked for one every birthday and Christmas for six years, until just the sound of my little voice winding up to ask made my mother yell at me to shut up. See, Molly had gotten the puppy because her dad went off to fight on the front, and she missed him a lot, so her mother bought it for her. Well, my dad travelled a lot for business, but not in the dramatic way that Molly's dad did; for example, my dad didn't show up at the end of a book series, wounded, on Christmas Eve. Nor did he send us messages via the radio from Europe. It just wasn't fair; these characters in books got to have all the fun, not to mention all the puppies.
So there I was one day, sulking in catechism class, when our teacher mentioned the word "war". Boy, did I perk up. She was talking about how we were at war over there in the Middle East, liberating Kuwaitis from Saddam Hussein. Apparently Jesus wanted the war to end quickly so that the troops could come home and be with their families and innocent people wouldn't have to die, blah blah blah... And then she asked us to pray for the war to end.
This is where I fucked up big time.
Everyone bowed their heads obediently and got busy looking like they were speaking to Jesus in the silence of their hearts. Maybe they searched their souls, maybe they thought about dinner, maybe they wished they were back in the rec room with their little sister playing legos; all I know is that I prayed harder than all of those suckers combined.
I squeezed my eyes shut and clapped my hands together and I prayed and prayed that the war wouldn't end. I prayed that we would have to invade more foreign nations, that my dad would go off to be a hero on the front, that I would have victory gardens and pranks and air raid practices and birthday parties.
Most of all, I prayed that I would get that goddamned puppy, no matter how many dead Iraqi bodies I had to climb over to grab it by its furry little neck and hug it to my chest. It seemed like a foolproof plan: so long as the war went on, indefinitely into the future, war without end...
Imagine my horror now, when I realise that Jesus listened to me. He really did answer my prayer.
Maybe I should have been more specific. I still don't have a puppy.