Patty and I were standing outside church after this morning’s service, chatting with the Mitchells. “What have you heard from Sheena?” asked Patty. “Is she doing okay?” (Sheena is the Mitchell’s daughter, a twenty-four year old who is in the Army Reserve and doing her second tour in Iraq.)
“We got a letter from her yesterday,” said Eloise. “She sounded cheerful, but I know she always tries to sound cheerful so we won’t worry. And all that does is make me worry more. I just wish she could come home.”
“The president said yesterday that we have to resist the temptation to pull out of Iraq,” I reminded them. “Have you been tempted?”
She flushed. “The Devil whispered in my ear that we should leave,” she admitted. “But I wouldn’t listen to him.”
“What did he say?” asked Patty.
Eloise looked troubled. “He said that Sheena might … might get killed, and … that it’s all a waste!” she blurted out. “He said that over two thousand of our soldiers have died, and probably a hundred thousand Iraqi civilians, and the situation keeps getting worse and worse, while the president keeps saying it’s getting better and better.”
We all stood awkwardly silent for a minute. “Satan just knows how to worm his way into your heart,” Patty said finally. “He’s getting at you through your love for your daughter and your sympathy for other human beings.”
“I know,” said Eloise unhappily, “but it’s hard. I feel so alone.”
Patty looked uneasy. “The Devil has been tempting me too,” she confessed. “He whispers that we went to war because the president claimed the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction, and because they were linked with al Qaeda’s attack on September 11. The Devil tells me that since there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction, and since there wasn’t any link with al Qaeda, there wasn’t any reason for us to be there in the first place, and so there’s no reason for us to be there now.”
“The devil is tempting you with logic,” Eloise said.
Paul looked at the three of us. “I’ve been tempted too,” he said.
“How does the Devil try to get at you?” I asked.
“He tells me that we’re squandering hundreds of billions of dollars to achieve nothing but death and destruction,” said Paul. “He claims that there are millions of people who will never get the education or the health care or the child care or the housing they could have because we’re just pouring money out like water onto the desert sand.”
“That’s the way the Devil works,” I said. “He knows your weakness. See, he knows you’re vulnerable to being a good steward with money. He plays on that.”
“Well, has he been tempting you?” countered Paul. “Do you have a weakness he’s exploiting?”
I could feel my face turning red. “Okay,” I admitted. “He does come and whisper in my ear once in a while—especially at night, when I’m having trouble sleeping.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Patty, with some surprise. “What does he tell you?”
“I don’t really want to say.”
“Ace, that’s not fair!” said Patty indignantly. “Everybody else admitted they were tempted, and shared what the Devil said to them.”
They all just stared at me. “All right, all right,” I said finally. “But it’s not very nice. He told me that the war was turning us into the very thing we said we were fighting. He said that we not only use brutality and torture, but actually claim that it’s okay. That we’re holding prisoners without charge, even though it’s against the Constitution. That we’re kidnapping people and sending them to secret prisons abroad. That the government is eavesdropping on anyone it wants, even though it’s against the Constitution. That we blow up women and kids and dismiss it as ‘collateral damage.’ That we ignore corruption on a gigantic scale. That we’re betraying everything we ever said we stood for. ”
“Ace!” said Eloise, shocked. “How could you!?”
“It wasn’t me,” I said defensively. “That’s the Devil’s work. I wouldn’t say those things on my own.”
“He just played on your patriotism,” said Paul. “He knew you were vulnerable there.”
“Gosh, the Devil has sure been busy,” said Eloise. “It sounds as if the president spoke out just in time.”
© Tony Russell, 2006