An Audience With The King

"Why do I feel now," Everyman said, "like I knew it was going to happen?"

P. David Hornik

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"God knows, if we did possess [a chemical bomb], we wouldn't hesitate one second to hit Israeli cities such as Eilat and Tel Aviv." -- From an internet recording of a voice purported to be Al-Qaida operative Abu-Musab Al-Zarqawi, April 2004.

Everyman entered the office of the King, his feet shuffling, and sat down, his eyes averted and glum.

"So," he said, "it happened."

The King watched him stolidly.

"Why do I feel now," Everyman said, "like I knew it was going to happen?"

The King said, finally: "And what did you do with the knowledge?"

Everyman made a faint, abject gesture. Nothing.

The King sat watching him.

"No," Everyman said, "I did worse than nothing."

The King sat silent, waiting.

"I harried them at every turn," said Everyman. "I told them not to attack, not to defend, not to build a fence, not to assassinate, not to have checkpoints, not to retaliate, not to preempt."

Everyman went on: "I never accepted that they had an enemy. I always told them that their enemies were really friends, who were just angry and upst, that they themselves were the cause of their enemies' deeds. I never allowed the possibility that their enemies could just be aggressive, could be evil. I always made it sound like a game, where everyone had the same goal and wanted good results."

"And what about yourself?" said the King.


"Did you tell those things to yourself?"

Everyman sighed, "No. I never told myself that my enemies weren't really enemies; I knew that there was such a phenomenon as enemies and sometimes there was no choice but to fight them. I never told myself that if I was attacked, I myself was always the cause of the attack, and that the people attacking me had goodwill and had the same goals as mine, and all I needed to do was talk to them."

The King watched him.

Everyman gazed toward the floor, "I always encouraged them to retreat. For myself, I knew that when I was being attacked by enemies, retreat wasn't the right thing to do. But I always told them - retreat, withdraw, retrench, shrink, contract. When they resisted doing so, I harried and threatened them. When they went along with it, I warmly encouraged them. But I never applied the principle to myself, because I knew it wasn't wise. I knew that, if I had an enemy, just handing him one advantage after another wasn't smart if I wanted to stay alive."

The King sat silent and Everyman stared glumly.

"And I made them make monthly payments to their enemy, to the people who were killing them, killing their women and children. I would never, never have done that to myself. I would never have made payments to people who were preaching my destruction and sending people to kill me. But with them, it was different. I told myself their war wasn't really a war, their enemies were friends, war was peace, black was white, up was down, murder was dialogue, hatred was friendship."

The King and Everyman both sat silent.

"And now," Everyman said, "there is nothing to be done. Its too late. I cannot repent, because there is no undoing what has happened. I see the truth now, but it's much too late for it to do any good. I wish I could have understood then. But... I did understand then."

"You understood then?"

"Yes. I understood then, and... I did what I did."

The King said, after a time, "Don't worry, you wont feel this way for long. It's a passing mood."