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Sunday, Oct. 15, 2006

COUNTERPOINT

Article of faith draws ire at the highest level


Special to The Japan Times

I wish to report a miracle.

It occurred as I was wandering, for God-knows-how-long, the infinities of the Net.

It appeared when I innocently stumbled upon an amazing site. The screen of my computer flashed brightly, as if in recognition of a revelation, literally out of the blue.

The site, which I now record on these less-hallowed pages, is www.AngelsInCyberspace.com. (Don't dare go there, trusting reader, lest you become as hopelessly lost as I found myself.)

It is often fiendishly difficult to trace a site to any country or specific location. But it is crystal clear where AngelsInCyberspace originates -- or should I say, "radiates" -- from. That place is primordial cyberspace, no less, where people play the harp instead of video games, and where even the most lowly survive not on a wing and a prayer but on two wings and a lot of prayer.

One thing about AngelsInCyberspace: Their security is hopeless, gossamer-thin, and they don't have a hope in hell of keeping their secrets secret. Not that they wish to, of course. The keepers of the site have, to give them their due, always been big on full revelation.

But let me tell you the whole story.

At AngelsInCyberspace, as sweet and lofty music soothed my soul, I blinked over and over until my eyes became accustomed to awesome images on my screen. There were two little boxes to click on. One said, "Contact us." Well, I wasn't quite ready to get into contact, so I clicked instead on the second little box: "Your Prayers Answered." It's not that I wanted my prayers answered. To tell the truth, I've always considered it better for everyone if prayers are left unanswered, especially my own.

The click brought the image to my screen of a glorious crimson sunset amidst puffy clouds, over which were written the words, "Please enter your credit card details and password." I figured, sure, it makes sense. If prayers could be answered for free, then everyone and their dog would be praying night and day. I was happy to provide my credit card details (though the phrase "Expiry Date" gave me a fright); but I didn't know what to do about the password. I naturally didn't have one. So I typed in "Barney Bush." I just did it for a lark: Barney Bush is the name of the American president's dog.

Dumbstruck peek

The computer screen then flashed even more brightly, and I had to cover my eyes with my palms. When I peeked through my fingers, I was dumbstruck by what I saw. I had gained access to the answers sent by AngelsInCyberspace to the prayers of none other than President George W. Bush. Jesus, I thought, what if I'm pinpointed, like the FBI does in the movies when they trace where a call is coming from? But in the movies that takes a minute or two; so I decided to read those cherubic missives sent from Heaven to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., United States of America.

A notice in Gothic script read: Welcome Barney Bush (Scottish Terrier, First Dog, USA).

I herewith faithfully record the answers to the presidential prayers.

To Geo. W. Bush

Re: Prayer #16 on night of Oct. 1, 2006

Our reference: MMVIXIXVI

As per the entreaties and pleas in above prayer, We have decided to grant you the following:

One genuine threat to America on cassette tape, with static, by Osama bin Laden prior to upcoming midterm Congressional elections. Please recall that We granted your plea for "a deadly disease" to be inflicted on said personage. Subsequently, he came down with typhus. We fully appreciate that you did not really want him truly dead, so he could be brought forth on call in support of your claim that civilisation is under constant threat. End of missive.

To Geo. W. Bush

Re: Prayer #102 on night of Oct. 1, 2006

Our reference: MMVIXICII

We grant the following:

No prizes at any recognized film festival for "An Inconvenient Truth" (starring Al Gore, ex-Next President of the United States).

One major marital argument (or, to use the phrase in your holy prayer, "Get their dirty linen out in the public eye!") between former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Clinton (Democrat, New York).

Severe and chronic laryngitis to afflict Hugo Chavez (President, Republic of Venezuela).

Listing of Halliburton Energy Services on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

In addition, hurricanes to be deflected from Florida in the runup to Congressional midterm elections: Granted. Toothache in right canine of Condoleezza Rice (U.S. Secretary of State) to "get right the hell outta her mouth": Granted. Case of mild temporary laryngitis for Donald Rumsfeld (U.S. Secretary of Defence): Granted. However, regarding your fervent prayer for Dick Cheney (U.S. Vice President) to get a new shotgun for Christmas: Absolutely Not Granted. As We have reminded you on many occasions of past prayer, We do not -- repeat do not -- recognize St. Nicholas as a saint. In words you might understand: "No, Mr. President, there is no Santa Claus." End of missive.

Screen died

And then there appeared an answer to the very latest presidential prayer. Fortunately I was able to read it before my computer froze and the screen went black and died on me.

Here's what was written there:

To Geo. W. Bush

Re: Prayer #1 on night of Oct. 14, 2006

Our reference: MMVIXXIVI

We must confess that We were all moved by this prayer up here, so moved in fact that We made a point of conveying your admirable entreaties Upstairs (yes, even Paradise has an Upstairs; there is no end to it). It is not often that a world leader prays for the welfare, happiness and prosperity of other world leaders. Consequently, We are pleased to grant the following:

To Tony Blair (U.K. PM), honorary citizenship of the United States of America and a fighting chance to win a seat in the U.S. Senate (Our political analysts are canvassing recently deceased focus groups as We speak).

To Silvio Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch (both so-called OMMs, or Omnipotent Media Moguls), boosted ratings for their television news programs, in particular the latter's rightwing Fox Broadcasting Company (please bear in mind that Up Here there are only two wings, the left and the right; there is no middle wing).

However, re: your prayers for revisions to Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan to allow that country to have a real army . . .

We regret to inform you that Our answer is in the negative. Our rules specifically disallow the granting of any benefit to Japanese prime ministers. To quote Our CEO (Chief Eternity Officer, who must remain invisible): "Just clapping your hands and throwing some coins into a box at a shrine will get you nowhere."

My computer screen, in the throes of death, flashed for the last time, and I was able to glimpse the comment that Geo. W. Bush sent back to his cyber angels.

"Dear Angels," it read. "Your site has been deemed a threat to national security and you are warned that henceforth you are under surveillance. You are either with us or against us, but not above us. And we are watching you constantly. We have turned our spy satellites upward. You cannot escape us. We now judge that the threat to the world comes from on high, not from down low.

"Clip your wings and tread softly. And, in the meantime: Good Night and Good Luck."



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