The Quiet Before the... Holy War
Premiered 9/9/9 (9 September 2009)
The continuation of The Myth and Legend of D'PTah, an original novel by Dan Sewell Ward.
The Quiet Before the... Holy War
Byline: Paul Fox, for The World News
RAW NOTES: Hold for Written Release Authority Prior to Dissemination
As I approached the yacht lying in wait for me just off the coast of the Crimean peninsula, I had to smile as I remembered the famous song about the supposed main river in the region, Crimea River . Okay... so it was a bad joke.  But it gave hints as to my demeanor when I first spotted the yacht from the motor launch ferrying me to the sleek white ship designed for elitists. Everything was coming up roses!
Until, of course, I actually came aboard and discovered that I was late by a matter of hours. The idea that the big three had already been aboard that long dismayed me. Despite my having arrived at the appointed time, their discussions were apparently already underway. Like an argonaut who had missed the boat with Jason, I felt I might have been left in the lurch. Did they intend for me to arrive late? Did they have things to say that were off the record even from me?
From my perspective, of course, “off the record” had little binding influence, and accordingly, I wanted to hear everything. I could decide later what was and wasn't off the record.
More importantly, there was absolutely no reason for me to cool my heels in my appointed little stateroom. Of course, there was also no reason for me to intentionally offend my hosts. Still... I had not been told to cool it. Maybe I could get away with it. Or maybe not. Damn! I hate these dilemmas! Just a matter of guessing; maybe having a legitimate excuse; maybe I can wing it. I guess I'll know when I walk in and the conversation ends abruptly and everyone looks at me. Shit! Do I want to take the chance? Maybe a stroll around the deck instead. After all, my escort had departed; that I could get away with.
Once on deck, I quickly found the main saloon with little trouble, simply by heading toward the upper mid sections of the ship. All passageways ultimately lead to the main event, right? Now... Dare I just walk in?
When I finally did take the plunge, I caught them... as expected... in mid stride. Goldman had already leaped into the fray on the circumcision bit. The good news was that he hardly noticed me. Thank God!
“It cannot be clearer... It must be performed on the eighth day. And anyone, anyone...” Goldman was becoming increasingly agitated, “...who is not circumcised, shall be cut off from his people. The infant male shall have broken the Father's covenant. It cannot be condoned!” Goldman was actually red in the face. Apparently, the slight... or whatever... had been entirely too close to home.
Sefati, despite being something of a man of the world and experienced in diplomatic crises of every imaginable stripe, somehow failed to notice Goldman's intensity. Sefati instead took the moderate Iman view: a moderation not at all appreciated by its intended ear. “Both male and female circumcision violates the Holy Koran. For Allah, blessed be his name, perfected everything that He created. It's not man's issue to question His creation or to somehow make it more pleasing in his eyes.”
“Bullshit!” Goldman yelled. One of the advantages of cursing has always been the elimination of any necessity to answer a rational argument with something similarly credible in terms of intellectual honesty. Yelling eliminates any such need. It also had the desired effect on Sefati, who flinched.
“This is too fundamental of the unalienable right for a father and mother to honor their heavenly father. It is part of the most binding and sacred covenant between God and Abraham. Even Muslims and Christians honor Abraham... as they should. And if Muslims truly honor Abraham, should they not do as he did and circumcise as absolutely commanded by God?"
"As I have long said,” Sefati was quick to reply, "We do recognize Abraham as the father of our people... but through Ishmael... not Isaac. And while we honor your Old Testament, we must in all respects first honor the Holy Koran. There are, admittedly, many Muslims who circumcise their infants... but they do so by virtue of tradition... but contrary to the teachings of the Holy Koran."
Goldman was suddenly incredulous. "I know of no Muslim in Israel that does not practice circumcision!"
"What would you expect... in Israel?" Sefati waved his hand in quick dismissal. "However, there were no circumcisions in the Ukraine... or anywhere in the Soviet Union for that matter when I was born. Even Russian Jews under the Communists were spared the inglorious ritual... being treated more as an ethnic group than as a religion. Of course, once any of those same Jews immigrated to Israel... it was snip, snip! But that doesn't mean that true Muslims... those beyond tribal practices... do not now refrain from such... rituals. Khitan  has many forms in Islam, including there being no mandate to do it."
For several moments, Goldman seemed to glow bright red, causing Sefati to shrug his shoulders and Rosario to hurriedly intervene. In doing so, he seemed far less piqued, and more interested in diplomacy, “I would agree there is evidence to suggest that circumcision is also essential for better health.”
“Just as Josher foods are,” Goldman quickly added.
“But it kills the sensitivity of the penis,” Sefati quickly interjected. “After which only a smattering of sexual excitement can be had. Perhaps this is why Jews must have sex continually and have huge families; they never really get enough enjoyment out of any of their encounters. As for Christians...” Sefati was almost laughing as he added, “Of course, my deal Cardinal, I suppose it really makes no difference to you.”
Rosario seemed less inclined in getting into the argument which was, as Sefati was inclined to say, 'no skin off his... whatever'. And in fact, it was not an issue of great importance to Rosario, even if the health issue would normally have predominated his thinking. At the same time, he knew to avoid getting too personally involved. This was a splintering issue to which they must not succumb if they were to defeat the enemy du jour. He then leaned forward to emphasize his words. “Let us not divide our forces! These are the tactics to use against our enemies. Let us martial ourselves instead around more significant issues. The lack of an immediate pronouncement of anathema on the abortion issue is something of far greater concern to me. As well as the Regency's back of the hand comment on homosexuality.”
“And if we ignore the circumcision blasphemy?” Goldman was not to be so easily diverted.
“We do not ignore it,” Rosario quickly replied. “And yet we do not allow it to divide us. There are others who will leap to this challenge, take point, and then take the first return salvos. Let them fall upon their swords in their fanatical quests. We will keep our swords sheathed until the wave of the battle is at its most precarious peak. And then we will use them to best advantage, and thereby become the heroes rushing to finish off the enemy. We must never commit ourselves until it is clear that we can be the deciding factor and when victory is assured.”
Goldman was quiet for a moment, obviously pondering Rosario's point at length.
Sefati took the momentary hiatus in righteous indignation to say, “I agree we must remember the common threat, to defeat this enemy, and then divide the spoils...” The Mullah did not mention the plunder of people, resources, wealth, power and the like, but everyone in the room seemed to know what and who was at stake [pardon the pun]. Instead, Sefati seemed more interested on what exactly constituted “cruel and unusual”. He almost laughed. “Are beheadings a problem? Can we not use force upon others to do the bidding of the Imans? Blasphemous talk! No use of government to enforce Islamic law? Ridiculous!”
Rosario was becoming visibly weary – at least to my experienced eyes in dealing with the Cardinal in the past. I knew he would consider the Jewish/Muslim arguments pointless controversy, but there seemed to be something else. Rosario knew never to put dogma ahead of keeping power, so that in the final argument, one still had the power to enforce their views.
“Let us recall, friends," Rosario began, "that the Regency has made a serious strategic error in attempting to make the Ningish sound like gods. His philosophy is too deep and requires too much intelligence to be acceptable to the average person in the population. He has assumed too much of his audience. The Regent may have brilliant arguments on circumcision, abortion, and homosexuality – to mention only the most obvious flash points. But such argument fall on deaf and non-discriminating ears.”
“I will agree with that,” Goldman added. “The Regent assuming that the serpent who tempted Eve had been allowed to be in the garden by the Lord God... Far too esoteric for the great unwashed majority.”
“Exactly,” Rosario replied. “For our purposes, meanwhile, I believe homosexuality should be the first front.” Rosario smiled as the others began to shake their heads in a more positive fashion.. “Here we are all in agreement. Homosexuality is the abomination! We can probably even count on the Dalai Llama to compassionately lend his support to our cause. Wouldn't that be a riot!”
I could not help but marvel at Rosario taking 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' to such extremes! I do know that he thought the Buddhist monk had taken compassion to extremes... and therefore to a fault. But from the good Cardinal's position, the Buddhist monk could still be shamelessly used.
Sefati frowned. “But did he really imply acceptance of such practices? I for one do not believe that the Regent would waste political capital on such a marginal issue involving so few people.”
“It's all a waste,” Goldman finally said, his voice low and ominous. “We have very little meat from the Regency on which to feast. Except for circumcision. There the line has been drawn.”
“Then let us allow others to cross that line first,” Rosario insisted, even as he shifted in his soft chair, a wince of pain on his face. That's when it hit me! The pain in his legs had not been alleviated, either by medicine or by prayer. Obviously then, it would not be Rosario crossing any line to volunteer... at least without a crutch or two!
“And precisely who did you have in mind,” Goldman asked, looking at Rosario, but apparently missing the man's physical discomfort. “What martyrs are eager for their day in the sun, to stake their lives on the outcome?”
I had to smile; I knew the answer to that question. On this particular front, everything had been working according to plan. As a news commentator I had learned how to weave with the best of them. But the obtuse and acute angles that were employed by Rosario, Goldman, and Sefati were in another league all together. All of which made a lot of sense in that their entire careers were based on fraud and deception. When one learns to turn idiot's tales into holy writ, there are no limits to one's ability to capitalize (literally) upon the naivety of men.
Meanwhile, I had in fact already heard the reactionaries in their holier than thou responses. I really must find a way to get this information as quickly as possible to those who could use it... and could in return acknowledge me for my intelligence sources and access.
Norman Malestrom as sitting in his plush leather, wing backed chair, his mind intent upon his own musings. Barry Laurence was with him, but as someone who had learned when to speak and when to let the client hang themselves, he was keeping silent. Norman was clearly not in the mood to share his thoughts. And considering their nature, there was just about a zero chance in any unilateral sharing.
Norman's great secret was his covert support and enthusiasm for the philosophy – if you can call it that – of Dominionism. This relatively unknown philosophical wing was sometimes thought of as the extreme right wing, ultimately conservative branch of Opus Dei, the Catholic Church's collection of right wing philosophical bigots. In fact, Opus Dei had been the recipient of Norman's largess – although to be more accurate: Norman's ability to misdirect funds from various organizations to Opus Dei, never depleting Norman's own considerable wealth. In all cases, of course, Norman reaped all the benefits of having been the responsible donor. Norman smiled inwardly for just a moment, as he recalled his logic in ensuring that in the event of there being anything to the Opus Dei movement in terms of the hereafter, Norman would have his coins for journeying across the Styx.
Meanwhile, Norman rather enjoyed – even relished -- the basic tenet of Dominionism, where anything was allowed... provided only that some great cause was intended to be supported by such actions. Murder, genocide, horrific crimes of every imaginable kind... Okay! Fine. Just as long as the “Great Cause” was supported. Always... the ends justify the means, no matter how horrendous the means. And of course... Norman got to choose the particulars of the “Great Cause”. 'Yes, a philosophy by which the truly elite can bask in its glory. How delightful!'
Speaking of which... Norman turned to ask, "What's the status with the troika?”
“Primarily ineffectual plotting. Covert encouragement for those with death wishes.” Barry was notorious for all encompassing, generalized verdicts. It's the nature of criminal law... duality taken to an extreme.
“Perhaps we need to bring one of them into our little group; allow them to think themselves at our level while we probe their weaknesses.”
“I'll see that an invitation is issued immediately,” Barry replied
Norman smiled slightly. 'Barry's a good tool,' Norman thought. 'Sharp.' Then he turned and simply looked at Barry. Laurence smiled in return, rose, and quietly departed the room.
Norman was left alone, contemplating his choice of a deity to properly represent his philosophy. None came to mind, however. None had the unity of purpose, nor the combination of audacity and brilliant if not insightful thinking. It's hard to be an omniscience deity without some kind of morals. It was almost a contradiction in terms. Perhaps Norman could cast himself in bronze... no gold, and thereby become the idol for the idle rich and famous. Sure! Why not?
“Master, you have said that, 'From a Buddhist point of view, such activity is considered sexual misconduct.' Is that not true?”
“What I have written is that 'homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact.' Tibetan Buddhism prohibits oral, manual and anal sex for everyone – both homosexuals and heterosexuals. However, these restrictions refer only to members of the Buddhist faith. From society's viewpoint, same-sex relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless. I have consistently supported human rights, regardless of sexual orientation. I have also expressed a willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context. I have opposed violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, and I have urged respect, tolerance, compassion and the full recognition of human rights for all.”
“But Master, have you not while affirming the dignity and rights of gays and lesbians, also condemned homosexual acts as contrary to Buddhist ethics?” 
“I have said that nature arranged male and female organs 'in such a manner that is very suitable. Same-sex organs cannot manage well.' I have not condemned homosexual relationships altogether. If two people agree to enter a relationship that is not sexually abusive... 'then I don't know. It's difficult to say'.”
“And if you, Master, the spiritual and political leader of the world's six million Tibetan Buddhists cannot say... we are cast adrift upon your ocean of wisdom.” 
“I believe the purpose of sex is reproduction. That is wisdom.” 
“Have you not, Master, also said, 'if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.'?”
"I have written that 'a sexual act is deemed proper when the couples use the organs intended for sexual intercourse and nothing else.... Homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact. Is this clear?' The same is true for heterosexuals. 'Using one's mouth or the other hole is sexual misconduct. Using one's hand, that is sexual misconduct. The Buddha is our Teacher.”
“Master, where did Buddha teach that homosexual partners are inappropriate, that homosexual behavior is sexual misconduct?”
“I don't know. I have been able to trace the sexual misconduct teachings back to the Indian Buddhist scholar Ashvaghosha. Admittedly, these teachings may reflect the moral codes of India at the time, which stressed moral purity. It is possible that Buddhist tradition can change in response to science, modern social history, and discussions with various Buddhist sanghas. I am not unilaterally empowered to change tradition. 'Change can only come on a collective level.'
“Let us remember that 'the goal for all Buddhists is Nirvana – complete freedom of mind free of wrong perception, dualistic fixation, defilements and hindrances.” 
“Master,” another devotee inquired, “Can abortion be condoned?”
“I believe that life is sacred and abortion is wrong - though there may be special circumstances, such as saving the life of the mother, when it might be an option. 
“Remember, Buddha's way is not about the 'control' of suffering; it's about responding with open awareness to the whole display of our experience, including suffering. When science points to or proves a truth contrary to Buddhist teaching, then Buddhist teaching must change. However, changing Buddhist traditions will be much harder than advocating for human rights. 
The men in robes stared intently at their master, trying diligently to penetrate the fog and find the understanding in his august words. The fog was very thick this time of year.
In yet another part of the world Jerry Friendly's reaction had already been over the top. Screaming from his televised bully pulpit, he was already declaring a multitude of violations of Biblical laws by the Regency, including but not limited to the evils of abortion, circumcision being a holy duty, and homosexuality being the plague of the millennia. What great horror now, he wondered aloud, “Open marriages? Sodomy on demand?” [the reprise of:] “Texas has a whorehouse in it?”  Jerry had not even begun railing on about the many laws of Leviticus which would allow, among other things, the death of adulterers, the selling of daughters into slavery, and so forth and so on. Clearly he had not waited for the Regent to serve up the meat on which the righteously indignant could feast.
But the dark horse, the hidden powder keg under the bushel, was Johnny Ceal. Now there was a point man to appreciate. He would be the one to draw fire first because, unlike Friendly who only had, for the most part, the elderly, willfully ignorant tuning in, Johnny had sincerity and forth-righteousness written all over him. While Friendly was fleecing his flock, Jerry suspected in his heart that Johnny was accumulating stars in his crown and for his entourage. Johnny was real, gentle, the voice of quiet reason, the communicator of few words.
“My heart is indeed heavy today,” Johnny was saying to the students grouped around him in the university's common area – not to mention the nightly news of which his words would be very selectively used to parade an already developing theory of how best to sell newspapers, advertisers, and accumulate subscribers. The handlers of Johnny were always careful to promote his message broadly, in peaceful settings, and in ways which could not be questioned or criticized. There had been too many failed ministries -- failures due to a lack of control of the media and the focus personality. It's hard to sell anti-sodomy laws when the pastors are sodomizing most everything in sight.
With a heavy sigh, Johnny continued, “The words we heard today from the Regency are not those for which we might have prayed. Perhaps the planning of a Grand Ecumenical Council will ease our justifiable pain, and perhaps even provide us all with the opportunity to lead those astray into the light. But in all good people, all faiths, all traditions, there are common morals and underlying ethics. These include: NO abortion, NO homosexuality, NO variation of Biblical demands for circumcision, NO waivers on the fundamental doctrines, NO... NO... NO...” For a moment, Johnny seemed to tear up. Not weeping, all journalists please note, in that weeping might suggest a less than strong and stalwart leader of the true believers. But a tear, seen in close up, which showed sincere emotion. Hell! Johnny probably was saddened. He was not the cynic; only his handlers – me in particular – had excelled in that craft.
But then Johnny took a deep breath, smiled in a natural (for him) and enticing way, guaranteed to sway millions. There is perhaps no more effective administrator of justice and religious sincerity than the innocent, The Fool – particularly when his handlers are far and long from such limiting innocence. As the man behind Johnny, a 'reformed and saved political operative', I could smile in a way meant to mimic Johnny's engaging friendliness, but without the depth of actual feeling welling up inside.
“It has been said,” Johnny began again, “that one must render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. Let it be known far and wide that I will give unto the Regency what belongs to the Regency; I will not shirk such duties or engage others to do so. But know without question that I will most assuredly and primarily give unto God what is God's. My first allegiance will continue to be to God, and I pray the Regency will likewise worship at the altar of our true faiths.
“But such worship cannot be to allow the grievous sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, the murder of innocent infants in the wombs of their mothers, the anathema of homosexuality...” Again, Johnny hesitated. As his prime handler, Rob V. Carlson, I had to lean forward slightly, not comfortable with the break in the standard monologue. After a moment, Johnny continued, his voice lower and more conciliatory than normal, “Let us not talk of don'ts and should nots. Let us not dwell on those sins that all those with the grace of God inevitably acknowledge. Let us instead dwell on the promises of bliss for those who find their way to the true path, and who by their examples, serve as a beacon for others to follow and emulate.”
“Crap”, I said, angrily, under my breath. 'Come on, Johnny. Give us more of your Charmin'-soft, fire and brimstone! We're not going to make any nightly news with this wimp material.'
But Johnny was on a roll. "I know of the Regency's good heart. I sense it in my very being. I know also he wants to do what is best for those looking to him for peace, security, and the inalienable rights of following their hearts and mind in the pursuit of their faiths. I do not question his sincerity. I do not challenge his dreams of creating better lives for all of us.”
'Double crap! For God's sake, Johnny, don't give away the farm!'
“I do ask of him that he allow the visions of the faithful to manifest, to listen to our words and to seek our counsel. I do ask that he allow my words to reach his ears and give them heed.”
'Hot damn!' As Johnny's handler, I suddenly could cheer. 'Totally conciliatory, but just as quickly, he gives a challenge to meet with the Johnny himself. Stop the fuckin' presses! We have a new headline: “Johnny Ceal to meet with the Regency!” Damn! I couldn't have planned this one better!'
Johnny had again hesitated. “It is too early my friends to rush to judgment. We must carefully observe the actions of the coming days, state clearly in our minds and witness in our many ways to communicate, such that our lives will readily follow our faith. And in that, we will once again turn our hearts and minds to the supreme being for which we owe our lives. Let us bend our knees. Let us humbly and beseechingly pray.” With that he dropped his head, followed quickly by his listeners.
This was when it was essential that I ensure good coverage of the religious piety of the group, taking a broad, gentle and slow sweep of the clean cut individuals already pre-selected, and then ending, as always, on Johnny's features. The man's whole body was one of sublime supplication, a work of art in any media, but most especially in the field of PR. It had been a good day's effort. Damn, Rob V. Carlson, you old dog; you're good! If only I could have patted myself on my back, I would have. That kind of flexibility, however, had never been my strong point.
Lieutenant Colonel Giardino Laurenti was something of an anomaly. On the one hand... in his most recent incarnation of this particular lifetime at any rate... he was the ultimate soldier and disciplinarian. He was the man who with astounding efficiency could get things done quietly, secretively, and often with deadly dispatch. (Most often, with deadly dispatch, as it turns out.) Throughout his career, and most recently as the commanding officer of an exceptionally elite, highly secret, special forces unit... all the things in his world of duty were black or white, right or wrong, a duality not admitting to discussion, rationalization, or speculation. This allowed him a single-mindedness that translated to his being so good at his job that many of his superior officers were in awe (and sometimes trepidation) at this unique and singular military force under their alleged command. Even though they themselves were very single-minded in pursuit of their perceived duties, Laurenti appeared even to them as quite a bit over the top. A wag might suggest that his promotions were quickly made in order for his leaders to avoid retribution for any slight of being passed over. It's never a good idea to offend someone who is notorious for secretive deadliness.
The intriguing part... of which none of his commanders, fellow officers and/or subordinates ever even suspected... was that Giardino had been raised as something of an enterprising intellectual, a novice but free thinker in matters of philosophy and religion. He could, for example, quote bible and verse... not to mention a whole host of other ancient documents of the last two thousand years -- in making any argument that he might have cared to make. His linguistic ability was literally off the charts, an innate talent and developed skill that allowed him to delve into most of the ancient histories by reading the originals of many of the important tracts first hand. He was thus free from the yoke of more recent interpretations (and occasionally, misrepresentations). Giardino's intellect was such that the mere idea of being intellectually dependent upon some lesser mind was... well... an anathema.
In his quest of deeply validated knowledge, Giardino had in his youth become enamored with the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt. This included, in particular, the final destruction of the Library in AD 391 -- and with it the scrolls, papyrus and parchment texts, tapestries and other works of art -- the destruction representing to Laurenti that of one of the momentous pivots in history. The destruction -- the order to raze the library to the ground and destroy it altogether -- had been given by Emperor Theodosius of the Byzantine Empire centered in Constantinople. This fact and the circumstances surrounding it was a revelation to Giardino, one that was to change everything in his life. While Giardino would have relished spending years reading and studying everything that might have been in the ancient library, the more relevant issue to the young Laurenti was that the reason for the order of destruction was to once and for all eliminate the repository of Arian texts that might have been used to argue against the Emperor's own presumed right as the imperial godhead. Clearly, ancients documents could as easily be used for heresy as for championing the cause of the righteous.
The key element that so impressed itself upon Giardino Laurenti' mind was that in the pursuit of knowledge, learning, and true understanding (including the preservation of all of the true and accurate texts that might lead to validating a given philosophy)... a strong, unbending military force could be extremely handy. Might did not have to necessarily make right, so much as making certain that right had a fighting chance to preserve itself [pardon the pun]. Accordingly, Giardino was so moved by an event some 1600 years in the past, that he began to see what he was convinced was his manifest destiny. Giardino would become a force to protect his heritage, he would -- when and if necessary -- be the avenging angel against... any threat to the established order from whence he derived his strength.
This thereby dictated his career, that of rising through the ranks of the greatest fighting force (per capita) in the world. The competition for promotion in such an organization, typically thought of as fierce, was for Laurenti more like a minor inconvenience... particularly in light of his perceived destiny, his divinely ordained career path, and the astounding resolve of his goals and aspirations. The only real challenge to Laurenti (at least in his mind) was the military's imposed minimum number of years that any officer was required to serve before being promoted to the next higher rank. The Special Forces, of course, have their own rules and regulations, and thus Lieutenant Colonel Giardino Laurenti had been promoted to the rank and command in about 80% of the time required for such honors. Who, after all, was going to stand in his way?
All too often in military, professional, and even amateurish circles, politics often plays a role in the rise of individuals within the ranks... it was the classic who you know being more important than what you know. However, in this singular case, Laurenti's ascendancy was based largely on merit... and to some lesser degree on the idea that no one wanted to incur Laurenti's wrath by even hinting at the possibility of slowing his career to the top. Inasmuch as this circumstance was in full accord with Laurenti's fundamental philosophy that might makes right, Laurenti was never obligated to play politics or doing... basically anything other than serve as an example... in order to make the grade.
Which was very useful. It seems as if the light Colonel was a very private individual. He believed whole heartedly in knowledge being power, and thus of never letting anyone see your true nature. Thus, he was extremely capable of keeping secrets... specifically his own, and with such force that virtually no one ever even suspected that when in came to Giardino Laurenti there might be secrets worth knowing. Laurenti did not just keep his own counsel -- partly because there were few if any on his same intellectual level... and thus their counsel would be highly suspect -- but he did not counsel others. In poker, he kept his cards not just close to his chest, but in a maximum security facility at an undisclosed location... on another planet. This was a man whose life experiences, philosophies, and motivations were never apparent.
Any absolute devotion to a cause, of course, often has the disadvantage of being a distraction to keeping the specific ingredients of the cause in the forefront of one's mind. Such was the case for Colonel Laurenti. Equally typical was the fact that some event often occurs to remind the crusader of their primary reason for existence. Such an epiphany occurred for the Colonel at a critical juncture, just as he left his most recent duty station in the Middle East -- and obviously we cannot tell you any more details about that in that everything done there had been been classified Top Secret. The critical event was just prior to his arrival back home and taking command of his elite unit. The "stopover epiphany", an otherwise simple excursion to see the site of great historical moment, was one which made it blindingly clear to Colonel Laurenti that his new command would be the instrument of his power, to be used with discrimination and proper appreciation for his being on the right side of history. His mission had been rejuvenated... despite the veil of secrecy still being heavy on just exactly where and how the very deep mole would make his background self-evident. It became time for the Colonel to discern precisely what his destiny would now require of him.
And probably for the first time in a very long time, he would actually need some guidance from another source of absolute authority. It was then just a matter of finding out which one.
Within two months, he had seen the (green) light. Orders -- albeit not via the chain of command -- had been received. It was now a matter of intensive preparation and very specific training for his astoundingly loyal troops. This included of course several transfers and replacements of personnel that might have in some extreme circumstance been less than eager to pursue a particularly sensitive mission... but all good commanders must of necessity attend to such minute details. On site and in the midst of battle was no place to discover a weak link in the moral waywardness of the troops.
In any case, Lieutenant Colonel Giardino Laurenti and his elite battalion would be ready to launch on a moment's notice. History would then be made... of that there was no doubt.
When times are hard, scapegoatology becomes all the rage. The fact that many orthodox types make a point of identifying themselves with strange apparel is more of a death wish than an observance of ancient traditions. Those with robes, habits, funny little hats, and six pointed yellow stars have made it clear which side they've chosen to be on -- and thus have set themselves up for ready identification by the rest of us. Unfortunately for the blatantly obviously orthodox, the latter category including the crazies, the nuts who will use identifying symbols to efficiently decimate the ranks of the orthodox. If religion were private (as in Jesus' admonition to pray in private), the religious would likely be far less susceptible to the wrath of others. Those who achieve their status by wearing their religions on their sleeves (often literally) can also abruptly lose such status within the societal rankings. After which... guess who they will blame?
 Humor courtesy of P. D. Q. Bach (Peter Schickle).
 previously at: http://www.tibet.ca/en/wtnarchive/1993/7/1_7.html
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