(Two) Scenes We'd Like To See

(Two) Scenes We'd Like To See….





Both George Bush and Osama Bin Laden are vilified in various cultures as inhuman heartless killers, while other cultures hero-worship them as charismatic and patriotic leaders whose just causes “force” them to manfully take up arms—whether by terrorism or military force—to achieve their political aims.


Popular media in all nations dehumanize public enemies, and often turn around and just as thoroughly and miraculously restore them to dignity and respectability during political détentes. I recall my astonishment, moral conflict, and deep embarrassment, when the evil Russians I’d been so carefully taught to indignantly and self-righteously hate and fear, magically became our homeboys overnight. The same thing happened, of course, with the “Krauts” and the “Japs,” who, just as we were assured by our government after a terrible war, turned out to be, really, just like us. I’d like to think the same thing will happen, sooner rather than later, between Islam and the West.


I wish these two particular men (Bush and Bin Laden) could learn to resolve their differences without violence. They remind me of unsocialized playground children, throwing sand in each others’ faces, playing with their war toys, acting like swaggering thugs and cowards in turn, always foolish and hurtful to all around them. I wish they <?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” />would grow up and solve their problems like civilized adults.


So many innocents have endured so much tragic death and destruction, on both sides, for so many years. For what…?!


Of course, both men have legitimate grievances which want airing and remedying…but nobody ever listens to anyone. Probably both sides were too proud or stupid or politically corrupt to listen before, and now everyone’s too mad to even think about the needs and sorrows of the other side. As the Buddha has said, “Hatred never ends through hatred. Hatred ends only through love.”


I do think President Bush is a patriot who means well. I also think he’s misled, misinformed, and dishonest with the American public. I think Bin Laden is also probably well-intentioned, although equally tragically violently-disposed. Both are a little crazy or they wouldn’t be acting like that.


Bin Laden repeatedly and clearly has stated his political aims  at every opportunity–he wants the empire-inclined U.S. out of Islam, not to return until invited, and then, only as well-behaved, courteous guests. Bin Laden certainly achieved an impressive political bang from his small PR buck (a handful of airborne terrorists, compared with our $500 billion spent in military retaliation) considering that his goal was to force the U.S. public to become informed about and reconsider its Middle East policies. But neither “price” begins to describe the total costs to both sides. There has to be a better way to resolve conflict….


I’m not exactly sure what President Bush has accomplished, his recent clumsy conversion to nation-building notwithstanding. Indeed he loves democracy and freedom, but he struggles with complexity (please read my other blogs on this and other related subjects at www.epharmony.com ….) Both men should have tried to understand one another’s culture before they started knocking heads and throwing weight around. For the future, we need to legislate some mechanisms that insure that seasoned statesmen and other experts inform and influence the foreign policy decisions of presidents and other popular politicians.


Can you imagine what all that wasted money might have bought, on both sides, if it had instead been earmarked for cherished goals dear to the hearts of citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States?


I hate politics.


Historians get to write the history books, so tend to salute bloody victors as heroes, while labeling bloody losers “crazed maniacs.” But shouldn’t we all be past all of that now? For goodness sake, it’s the 21st century and we should all know better by now. There are so much better ways to achieve political goals and solve differences than through violence. It’s time to put away childish things.


Mad Magazine's section called “Scenes We’d Like To See” inspired the frame of this satire. Although it is unlikely that these two particular men will overcome their personal and political differences and lead their followers to peace, it would sure be nice if they did. Someday, somebody will, you know. The only question is, how long will it take? And how many more ruined lives will it cost, on both sides, before that day comes?


Somehow we must get testosterone out of politics.


Only peaceful dialogue and patient listening can bring East and West together in mutual understanding, appreciation, and support.


Kipling’s “The Ballad of East and West” was a childhood favorite of mine. I first envisioned a satirical retelling of this poem set in the wild mountains bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India, substituting Bush for the Colonel’s son and Bin Laden for Kamal, the Border Thief, letting these two silly, self-important, reckless, macho guys go at it, chasing each other “up and over the tongue of Jagai as blown dustdevils go…” until Bush’s horse falls “at a watercourse, in a woful heap fell he, and (Bin Laden) has turned the red mare back and pulled the rider free.”


He has knocked the pistol out of his hand–small room was there to strive

“‘Twas only be favor of mine,” quoth he, “ye rode so long alive:

There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree

But covered a man of my own men, with his rifle cocked on his knee….”


 (But… no. I’ll let you read the original yourself, reprinted below.)


I decided, instead, to play with the idea of these two men generously agreeing to a campout retreat at Bush’s beloved ranch. One can always dream. I’ve always been deeply moved by the final courage evidenced by the Colonel’s son and Kamal, the Border Thief, in pledging to respect one another’s strengths and common humanity.


I didn’t mean to pick on the New York Times or AlJazeera, both wonderful, principled  newspapers; their names were just convenient symbols for media-in-general, and I apologize if this satire unintentionally insulted them.


I also abused the current popularity of Brokeback Mountain to make my political points. However, while I’m sure that a week of roughing it alone/together in the mountains would create dialogue, understanding, and maybe even camaraderie between these two men, I’m confident that they’re both firmly and happily set, by now, in their hetero ways. Although, to be sure, nothing surprises me anymore. Maybe someday we really will see these two happily mountain biking together in Afghanistan. As I said, nothing ever surprises me anymore.


You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….


Only deeply spiritual leadership can unify the planet’s five polarized cultures—Africans, South Americans, China, the Muslim world, and the West. Only idealistic leadership can inspire each of these cultures to achieve its own unique ideals, hopes, and dreams, while respecting and supporting the quality of human life everywhere. Only non-violent leadership can address the century’s most urgent problems—the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, greed, hunger, environmental degradation, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, crime, poverty, war, terrorism, and yes, violence, itself.


Reprinted below, as I promised, is the lovely original Rudyard Kipling adventure ballad….



The Ballad of East and West

By Rudyard Kipling



Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face,

tho' they come from the ends of the earth!


Kamal is out with twenty men to raise the Border-side,

And he has lifted the Colonel's mare that is the Colonel's pride:

He has lifted her out of the stable-door between the dawn and the day,

And turned the calkins upon her feet, and ridden her far away.

Then up and spoke the Colonel's son that led a troop of the Guides:

“Is there never a man of all my men can say where Kamal hides?”

Then up and spoke Mahommed Khan, the son of the Ressaldar:

“If ye know the track of the morning-mist, ye know where his pickets are.

At dusk he harries the Abazai—at dawn he is into Bonair,

But he must go by Fort Bukloh to his own place to fare,

So if ye gallop to Fort Bukloh as fast as a bird can fly,

By the favour of God ye may cut him off ere he win to the Tongue of Jagai.

But if he be past the Tongue of Jagai, right swiftly turn ye then,

For the length and the breadth of that grisly plain is sown with Kamal's men.

There is rock to the left, and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,

And ye may hear a breech-bolt snick where never a man is seen.”

The Colonel's son has taken a horse, and a raw rough dun was he,

With the mouth of a bell and the heart of Hell

and the head of the gallows-tree.

The Colonel's son to the Fort has won, they bid him stay to eat—

Who rides at the tail of a Border thief, he sits not long at his meat.

He 's up and away from Fort Bukloh as fast as he can fly,

Till he was aware of his father's mare in the gut of the Tongue of Jagai,

Till he was aware of his father's mare with Kamal upon her back,

And when he could spy the white of her eye, he made the pistol crack.

He has fired once, he has fired twice, but the whistling ball went wide.

“Ye shoot like a soldier,” Kamal said. “Show now if ye can ride.”

It 's up and over the Tongue of Jagai, as blown dustdevils go,

The dun he fled like a stag of ten, but the mare like a barren doe.

The dun he leaned against the bit and slugged his head above,

But the red mare played with the snaffle-bars, as a maiden plays with a glove.

There was rock to the left and rock to the right, and low lean thorn between,

And thrice he heard a breech-bolt snick tho' never a man was seen.

They have ridden the low moon out of the sky, their hoofs drum up the dawn,

The dun he went like a wounded bull, but the mare like a new-roused fawn.

The dun he fell at a water-course—in a woful heap fell he,

And Kamal has turned the red mare back, and pulled the rider free.

He has knocked the pistol out of his hand—small room was there to strive,

“'Twas only by favour of mine,” quoth he, “ye rode so long alive:

There was not a rock for twenty mile, there was not a clump of tree,

But covered a man of my own men with his rifle cocked on his knee.

If I had raised my bridle-hand, as I have held it low,

The little jackals that flee so fast were feasting all in a row:

If I had bowed my head on my breast, as I have held it high,

The kite that whistles above us now were gorged till she could not fly.”

Lightly answered the Colonel's son: “Do good to bird and beast,

But count who come for the broken meats before thou makest a feast.

If there should follow a thousand swords to carry my bones away,

Belike the price of a jackal's meal were more than a thief could pay.

They will feed their horse on the standing crop,

their men on the garnered grain,

The thatch of the byres will serve their fires when all the cattle are slain.

But if thou thinkest the price be fair,—thy brethren wait to sup,

The hound is kin to the jackal-spawn,—howl, dog, and call them up!

And if thou thinkest the price be high, in steer and gear and stack,

Give me my father's mare again, and I 'll fight my own way back!”

Kamal has gripped him by the hand and set him upon his feet.

“No talk shall be of dogs,” said he, “when wolf and gray wolf meet.

May I eat dirt if thou hast hurt of me in deed or breath;

What dam of lances brought thee forth to jest at the dawn with Death?”

Lightly answered the Colonel's son: “I hold by the blood of my clan:

Take up the mare for my father's gift—by God, she has carried a man!”

The red mare ran to the Colonel's son, and nuzzled against his breast;

“We be two strong men,” said Kamal then, “but she loveth the younger best.

So she shall go with a lifter's dower, my turquoise-studded rein,

My broidered saddle and saddle-cloth, and silver stirrups twain.”

The Colonel's son a pistol drew and held it muzzle-end,

“Ye have taken the one from a foe,” said he;

“will ye take the mate from a friend?”

“A gift for a gift,” said Kamal straight; “a limb for the risk of a limb.

Thy father has sent his son to me, I 'll send my son to him!”

With that he whistled his only son, that dropped from a mountain-crest—

He trod the ling like a buck in spring, and he looked like a lance in rest.

“Now here is thy master,” Kamal said, “who leads a troop of the Guides,

And thou must ride at his left side as shield on shoulder rides.

Till Death or I cut loose the tie, at camp and board and bed,

Thy life is his—thy fate it is to guard him with thy head.

So, thou must eat the White Queen's meat, and all her foes are thine,

And thou must harry thy father's hold for the peace of the Border-line,

And thou must make a trooper tough and hack thy way to power—

Belike they will raise thee to Ressaldar when I am hanged in Peshawur.”


They have looked each other between the eyes, and there they found no fault,

They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on leavened bread and salt:

They have taken the Oath of the Brother-in-Blood on fire and fresh-cut sod,

On the hilt and the haft of the Khyber knife, and the Wondrous Names of God.

The Colonel's son he rides the mare and Kamal's boy the dun,

And two have come back to Fort Bukloh where there went forth but one.

And when they drew to the Quarter-Guard, full twenty swords flew clear—

There was not a man but carried his feud with the blood of the mountaineer.

“Ha' done! ha' done!” said the Colonel's son.

“Put up the steel at your sides!

Last night ye had struck at a Border thief—

to-night 'tis a man of the Guides!”


Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,

Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face,

tho' they come from the ends of the earth!



Please send comments to epharmon@adelphia.net




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