HUMINT: Worth Fighting

INTRODUCTION: This is a short story called “Worth Fighting”. It relates to America’s Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If this piece works, it will not need further explanation. If it doesn’t work, I’ll try a different approach. The point being, America’s wars in the Middle East are justified and should therefore be popular among Americans and Middle Easterners. What appears to be lacking in America today is the appropriate context to defend any military conflict under any circumstances. While I can understand anti-War emotion, Americans should not be paralyzed by it. Pacifism belies a universal truth. Some causes are worth fighting for.

WORTH FIGHTING: Today, you’re attending a local county fair in a small town in rural America. It’s a beautiful clear day with the sun shining brightly. You’ve parked your car in a makeshift parking lot located in a farmer’s recently mowed hay field. Everyone with you is ready to explore attractions. The fair grounds are busy with a variety of attractions but something near the fair’s center stands out. In the middle of the fair grounds is a colorful tent. Its pronounced presence is highlighted like no other attraction at the fair. Pyrotechnics boom, flashing lights dazzle and swirling dry ice smoke confuses all of your senses at once. The tent is big. It looks Bedouin and the un-watered tan grass field where it’s pitched could easily be mistaken for the Arabian Desert. A dark figure dressed like Lawrence of Arabia is standing outside the tent in the sun. For your reference, you silently name him Lawrence of Arabia. It works because it fits the stereo type he plays professionally. He looks disheveled and hot. His presence is as offensive as it is entertaining. Smelling of stale cigarettes and sweating, you can see he’s been exchanging tickets for cash all day long. About every minute or so, with an unidentifiable accent, his voice is heard loud and low throughout the fair grounds exclaiming, “Tickets Here – See Show before TOO LATE!”

A sign next to Mr. Arabia claims you can “volunteer to be in the show or remain an anonymous member of the audience”. “YOU CHOOOZ” it facetiously asserts. Participating in something as mysteriously inviting as this feels irresistible. You approach Lawrence with cautious optimism. Reaching into your wallet, you pull out enough cash for your family and friends to join you. “Seven tickets please,” you say to Lawrence with a polite but business like demeanor. A wide grin breaks free from Lawrence’s thick mustache and beard. He appears genuinely happy that you’re there to see his show. Without any regard to your personal space, a big sweaty hand grabs your cash with one quick swipe. Shocked, you do not move before his hand returns to grab yours. Without an ounce of protest from you, Lawrence has oriented your hand to receive the seven tickets you ordered. Slapping the tickets into the center of your palm with his other hand, you realize the show started and you’re already part of it.

Distributing the tickets to your friends and family, they all seem to huddle together with nervous excitement. You’re ready to enter the tent. The tarp door is covered by a pattern that resembles a chess board. You lift it to enter the tent. It’s hotter in the tent than out. It’s dark and smells of earth and hay. A figure in a full burka takes your ticket. You assume the ticket taker is a woman but you have no indication other than a seemingly feminine nod of recognition. She does not invite conversation when you meet her and you aren’t inclined to start one. Moving towards the center of the tent, you pass through rows of empty folding chairs that point like a ghost audience at a stage. Items on the stage are shrouded by a curtain. Cool smoke rises up from buckets of dry ice and water to obscure your view and heighten the drama. Your curiosity has gotten the better of you. Unaware of them, members of your American tribe have moved into the tent behind you. Following your lead as closely as they could, experiencing an equal dose of curiosity, they forfeited their tickets one by one to the woman in the burka guarding the tent flap door.

Claiming the front row, you sit with your tribe and begin talking with them about the heat. Waiting for the show to start, you wonder out loud together what life would be like growing up in the Middle East. Your wife mentions the mosque in your neighborhood near your supermarket. She says “it’s always busy on Fridays”. - “That’s a mosque?” you say. For some reason, you thought your neighborhood mosque was a library or a community center. Unsure how you missed such an important aspect of your own community, the show starts. On stage, the curtain lifts to reveal your ticket selling friend Mr. Lawrence Arabia.

“My friends!” he says with a barrel laugh. “In this theater we have a show to remember! My name is Ali Kirubi and I am the King of this land – I have conquered it, subjugated its people and rule it with an iron fist! As my guests you will receive the most decadent hospitality a king can afford…” he boasts to you and your family with unparalleled confidence. His laughter trails off as he looks to the side of the stage and sighs. At that moment, a teenage boy enters from stage left, running to meet Ali Kirubi. When he arrives, he wraps his little arms around the man you named Lawrence… Ali Kirubi– BANG, a military flash grenade detonates. You and your family are stunned as manikin arms and legs are thrown over your heads, clanging into the empty metal chairs behind you. When you recover your composure, and realize the stage is empty, a young boy enters from stage right and says, “I am from Kurdistan. My family and I were murdered by Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons. He coughs twice and lays down on the stage. Another boy walks onto the stage with a plastic key and two manikin legs. He shouts, “This key opened heaven’s gates to me. I cleared a land mine for Allah and my Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini.” He then throws the key on the stage and drops his two manikin legs off the stage in front of you. He says “Ouch” and lays down on the stage next to the Kurdish actor. From behind your seats, the ticket taking woman begins to scream hysterically. She shouts – “I was shot in the head by the Taliban in a soccer stadium in Afghanistan.”

Your wife is in tears at this point… your children are scared and nothing is making sense to you. When you entered the tent, you expected to be entertained; possibly belly dancing, but not this. You remember that you were invited to participate in the show. HOW? You ask yourself… this is insanity. You want no part of it as you stand to gather your tribe and leave. Just then, the actors and actresses make there way onto the stage for what looks like a finale. They all hug and start laughing with each other. Mr. Kirubi says, “We are the Kirubi family from Iraq. We wanted to bring the good, bad and ugly of the Middle East to America, in a play. You know… Hollywood! Emreka loves violence. No really… We’re all excited about the future of our two countries but nervous about the past. You are Americans and your country is waging a war against terrorists in mine. Americans and Iraqis are forever married now, by blood and by destiny. We invite you to come onto the stage, while we sit as your audience. Act out Western history for us, the good, bad and the ugly – if you have the spirit worth fighting.”

Do you have the spirit?

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