I wanted to call this column "And A Little Child Will Lead Them," because every time I see a photo of Bill Clinton I have to look twice to make sure I'm not seeing one of those overgrown, unshaven adolescents in calf-length baggy shorts that pack skateboards around resort towns. That led me to the idea that we've been electing boys, not men, to the presidency ever since Jimmy Carter told us to act like adults in our lives and in the world. Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes are examples of men who never became adults. Alcoholism—their own or in their families—is the likely reason.
But something else came up. The House of Yahweh, a Texas cult headed by a guy named Yisrayl Hawkins, says nuclear war will begin near the Euphrates River on Sept. 12, 2006. As per "Revelation," a third of humankind will perish. Surviving won't be a picnic, either. A spokeswoman for the Kenyan branch of the House of Yahweh has said nuclear winter will freeze the earth and only Believers will survive. I assume she means Believers in Polypropylene.
Anyway, even if a sub-adult is our president, emotional maturity is no longer a factor. .223 ammunition might be. After the war, 13 more months of slaughter will kill another four-fifths of us. Yisrayl Hawkins quotes from the Old-Testament prophet Isaiah for heavy-duty street cred.
Yisrayl Hawkins was a policeman known as Buffalo Bill Hawkins before he changed his name and became a cult leader. Big mistake, because the kind of world he prophesies after 9/12 will require somebody a lot like Buffalo Bill to lead any survivors hiding out in the Central Idaho mountains.
Which makes me think Christianity, which also started out as a cult, could have used a Buffalo Bill or two early on. Our lives would probably be better if Jesus had had a 13th disciple named Buffalo Bill. It's hard to imagine Herod washing his hands if he knew he was going to have to deal with Buffalo Bill, or Judas thinking that the 30 pieces of silver would be worth a Buffalo Bill knuckle sandwich.
Jesus could have stuck around for another 33 years or so, explaining what he really meant by, "It is harder to lead a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into Heaven," (Luke 18:25) or "Woe unto you, lawyers! For you give men terrible burdens that you yourselves never touch." (Luke 11:46) He could have explained the parables to generations of Christians too literal-minded to understand them. It would have been a better world, and we likely wouldn't have ended up with all hell about to break loose in Iraq and a lot of Americans being raptured the hard way.
But while we're thinking of things that might have been, imagine if the real Buffalo Bill had understood that his Wild West Show had all the makings of a full-on religion. After all, even European royalty flocked to see former enemies re-enacting a great battle between civilizations, shooting arrows, firing guns, riding horses, performing sacred ceremonies and chants and dances, all of it while wearing great costumes. In the middle of it all was Buffalo Bill, Congressional Medal of Honor winner, saving the day again and again, until the show was over. Then all of the performers would sit down to dinner in the mess tent as friends, breaking bread in a group that celebrated cultural differences even as it included everyone.
It's a cinch that if the European kings and queens had listened to Black Elk, one of Buffalo Bill's performers who really was a spiritual leader, World War I wouldn't have happened. If Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm had worshipped at the Altar of Buffalo Bill, they might have come to a larger vision than European imperialism allowed, and Hitler wouldn't have had his satanic conversion experience in post-war Germany. Lenin wouldn't have made the trip to Finland Station. And George W. Bush would have been content to stay in charge of a losing baseball franchise, instead of running a whole country like a losing baseball franchise.
So I'm thinking that it's not too late for Yisrayl Hawkins to change his name back to Buffalo Bill and start quoting Black Elk instead of Isaiah. It's still not cheery stuff, but the underlying message is kinder, and if enough people listen, there's the chance that Sept. 12 might start out like any other day, full of hope and possibility.